Wednesday 28 September 2022

Morris Bishop dies at 92

It's with great regret that I just heard of the passing of Morris Bishop on last Thursday, the 22nd of September, at the age of 92. Morris was the man behind MoBi-One - the Mini based car that proved to be virtually unbeatable in autotesting in the late 1960s due to its clever design with four-wheel steering.

Alastair Moffatt, who owns MoBi-One and is a multiple autotest champion himself, made me aware of Bishop's death. Morris lived both in the UK as in Spain, but was in England on Thursday, or so Alastair told me: "He went out for a walk with his wife and on return home sat down and fell asleep in front of the tv not to wake. Morris' son added: "He and mum had been out for a walk, and he had just settled down to watch telly, air high-fived mum (as they did) and died. Not a bad way to go."

Moffatt rediscovered MoBi-One some two-and-a-half years ago (click here) and reunited the car just in time with its creator last summer (click here). The car was based around the chassis' of a burnt-out BMC 1100 and built with the Flather Star championship in mind. Bishop told me: “The first few events were mainly to discover how to drive the beast. It quickly became clear that I was suffering from a lack of power, so I wrote Alec Issigonis at Longbridge to see if he had a spare Cooper ‘S’ engine laying around. And to my surprise and delight he organized one to be sent to me via their development facility Downton works! I converted this to run on propane, mainly because I was a manufacturer of gas calibration equipment, and it was a winner. I achieved a back-to-back win of the championships of 1969 & 1970. In 1975 I sold the vehicle to someone who used it for autocross.” I wish all the best to Bishop's family and friends with the loss of Morris.

Morris Bishop in MoBi-One in 1968. The car proved to be virtually unbeatable
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

A letter from Alec Issigonis, happy to supply Bishop with a special tuned engine
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Repainted in yellow and with Downton-engine running on propane, MoBi-One was even faster 
Picture Jeroen Booij archive 

Autotest champion Alastair Moffatt (left) reunited MoBi-One with its creator last Summer
Picture courtesy Alastair Moffatt

A picture taken at Morris' 90th birthday party in Spain, August 2020, his wife Dizzy on his side
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Morris' cup cabinet, all the silverware was won with his MoBi-One!
Picture Morris Bishop

Monday 26 September 2022

Summer's over but the pictures remain

That seemingly endless summer of 2022 has now really come to an end. These will probably be the last pictures of a lovely season, found on the web by myself or sent over to me by others. Enjoy.

Richard Ellis drove his Jimini to the south of France. The dog came along...
Picture Richard Ellis came the roof tent. That's clever camping
Picture Richard Ellis

Mini based three-wheeler spotted by reader Chris Clifford earlier in September
Picture Chris Clifford

It's a Skip, one of 4 or 5 made in Durham in the late 1980s
Picture Chris Clifford

Paul Blank wrote: "This specially converted Mini Van was used for hot dog sales 1980s and 1990 in Perth, Western Australia"
Picture via Paul Blank

Paul: "Traded as 'Dan The Hotdog Man'. I found these pictures on Perth Reflects page, with no useful information. I remember the van being in use outside night clubs"
Picture via Paul Blank

Meanwhile, a Ranger Pick Up needing lots of work was found by Mark Law in Canada
Picture Mark Law

This lovely Ogle SX1000 changed owners for the first time since 1963! 
Picture CCK Historic

New owner Jason Dalton brought it to the workshop of CCK Historic for some tuning 
Picture CCK Historic

And the last ice cream of the summer of 2022 comes from a Vendavans Ice Cream Van
Picture Steve Rendle

Friday 23 September 2022

More Mini Marcoses and Mini Jems bound for France

Quite a few Mini Marcoses and Mini Jems have found their way over to France in the last couple of years. Well, another truckload made it over to there! 

Roger Garland, the fantastic club secretary and treasurer of the Mini Marcos Owner's Club, wrote to me about a car transporter that had been spotted in Cumbria back in May of this year, but he added: "Photos not for publication please, here is a car transporter with an amazing collection of vehicles - including a Mini Bug - all on their way from the UK to France."

I've asked Roger again if I could publish the pictures now, which was okay. And what a stash it is. There are 10 cars / shells on the transporter and I believe they are:

4 x Mini Marcos Mk2 or Mk3
2 x Mini Jem Mk2
1 x Mini Jem Mk3 unused shell
1 x Stimson Mini Bug
1 x Falcon Mk2 shell
1 x Lotus Elan shell

I only recognized the red Mini Jem on top at the back and the black one in the middle, with the first being the car that famously stood in a Suffolk front garden for ages - more here and the black one a car that was advertised on Ebay in October last year. But the rest of them..? You may recognize others perhaps? And what's more: who took them on and what's the idea? Where did they end up..? 

Roger added: "It is perhaps no coincidence that with so many cars / shells leaving the UK (which they have done for years) when 'the world's largest kit car show' comes around we can muster just three vehicles on the club stand."

UPDATE 24 September: Mike Brown writes: "The Mk3 Mini Jem shell is one I had. He contacted me claiming he wanted one for racing (unfortunately this was before I found out who he was). I'm still annoyed I got conned and it's leaving the country. Don't get me wrong I've no problem with genuine buyers from the UK or elsewhere. It's just the ones that are profiteering out of it." Thanks for that! Picture of the car at Mike's place added below.

A car transporter on its way from the UK to France, loaded with Mini based sports cars
Picture courtesy Roger Garland

Stimson Mini Bug jammed in between Jems and Marcoses... and a Lotus
Picture courtesy Roger Garland

This is one of the three Mini Jems, a Mk2 that was seen for sale last year
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

It came with an 1100 engine and was 'amazingly sound' to quote the seller
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Another Mk2 Mini Jem was the car that spent decades in a Suffolk front garden
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Many rang the door asking if it was for sale. It wasn't. And then it made it to Ebay after all
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

UPDATE: The unused Mini Jem shell is a Mk3 that was owned by Mike Brown previously
Picture courtesy Mike Brown

Thursday 22 September 2022

What could have been: 1965 BMC Mini Sprint GT

A wild MiniSprint replica is being built in a workshop named Hanbury Speed Shop, somewhere in the UK but with a window to the world on Instagram. That's pretty cool on it's own, but how about the builder's rendering for a Mini Sprint GT that he made? The only comment added: "1965 BMC Mini Sprint GT. Always been fascinated with the custom variations and Mini based kit cars that have been developed over the years. But what if BMC did their own back in the day?" Nice, isn't it?

It's only a rendering of what could have been a '1965 BMC Mini Sprint GT'
Picture Hanbury Speed Shop @ Instagram

Front or rear engined? I don't know, but I like the looks of this ultra-low Mini rendering
Picture Hanbury Speed Shop @ Instagram

Not just drawing: work on a wild Mini Sprint project takes place in Hanbury Speed Shop
Picture Hanbury Speed Shop @ Instagram

Monday 19 September 2022

Bill Needham dies at 85

Another legendary name that will be linked to Mini derivatives forever has left us: Bill Needham died on the 27th of August at the age of 85. 

Needham set up Coldwell Engineering Ltd. in 1961 and debuted in racing that same year. He entered his first race in a Mini two years later and developed a great and enduring passion for the small car. Bill was the first to develop and build a revolutionary 1000cc twin cam A-series engine for his own racing Mini in 1967, but it was the Coldwell GT that will appeal most to Maximum Mini readers. This rear engined and Mini powered car debuted at the Racing Car Show in January 1969 and had been fully designed and built in Needham's Sheffield's workshop on Coldwell Lane, hence the name.The GT’s chassis was built up from a multitude of round steel tubes and came with full independent suspension, using double wishbones and coil springs all round. Its fibreglass body was ultra light and ultra low, coming with tiny doors. At a certain stage the twin cam Mini-engine was fitted to Needham's personal GT racer, but it was later swapped for a more conventional Cooper 'S' engine. This GT was later sold to Singapore. Bill told me it may well still be there (more here). Just three more GT's followed. 

But Needham was also involved in the development of the Biota, dreamt up by John Houghton in 1968 in nearby Rotherham. This is how Houghton Coldwell Ltd. came about - the name seen on Biota's badges, brochures, letterheads, chassis plates and advertising. Needham wasn't very keen on the whole Biota project "I never liked the idea", he told me in 2007. That year I met him for the first time in his Lincolnshire home. He didn't seem too keen on a journalist coming over and didn't think he had anything interesting to share when I walked into his workshop. But with the passing of the hours he became more and more enthused. He also told me he didn't have any old pictures or material left from his Coldwell Engineering days, but then his (second) wife remembered a shoebox in the attic. She found it, too, and with the snapshots and old paperwork the memories flooded back over lunch. We were just in time to copy it, too, as the mice had already started feeding themselves on them! 

Since a few years Bill's son Mark has been working on the restoration of the fourth and last Coldwell GT and he tells me he is getting started on the project again after a long period in mothballs, now from a new house with workshop. Mark: "The GT project will continue and I hope he would have been pleased with the result when it is finished. I also have the twin cam Mini, which I hope to run next year. I'll update you with some pictures soon." In the meantime I wish Mark and the rest of Bill's relatives and family all the best with their loss of a special man.

September 2007, Bill Needham in his workshop with his twin cam Mini racer
Picture Jeroen Booij

June 1968: Bill (left) with the same twin cam engined Mini at Shelsley Walsh
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

And the same engine in the same car once again some 40 years later
Picture Jeroen Booij

Winter 1968: Bill trying out the seating position of the first Coldwell GT
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

The company as well as the car were named after Coldwell Lane in Sheffield where it was built
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

The pretty Coldwell GT made it to the tracks in the late 1960s, early 1970s
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Just four of the ultra low GTs were made. This was Needham's personal racer
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Coldwell 1968 price list, found just in time before the rodents had eaten all of it!
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Houghton Coldwell Ltd. didn't last very long. Needham "never liked the idea"
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

The ultra rare Houghton Coldwell steering wheel center that was made for the Biota
Picture Jeroen Booij

Friday 16 September 2022

A McCoy (and Mini Jem) in France

I was surprised to learn of a McCoy in The Netherlands last month (click here), but it's not the only example of the species outside of the UK. Raynald Claudine has one in Brittany, France and recently took part in the car in the Florio Cup in it; a local hill climb in Saint-Brieuc. The newspaper Ouest-France wrote the following: "For almost forty years, Raynald Claudine has been passionate about the original Austin Mini, even to the point of setting up a veritable museum to its glory. During the Coupe Florio, which will be held from September 9 to 11, 2022 in Saint-Brieuc (Côtes-d'Armor), it will be possible to admire his latest acquisition: a car produced in only 83 copies and unique in France."

The McCoy wasn't the only Mini variant entered in the Coupe Florio as there was a Mk3 Mini Jem on Luxembourg plates also. I don't know how the cars did in the hill climb, but I understand both of them finished.

Raynard Claudine in his Brittany workshop with his McCoy GT
Picture Ouest-France 

The Mini based McCoy was born out of the Imp based Clan Crusader
Picture Marie-Paul Claudine

Rubbing shoulders with another Mini variant in Saint-Brieuc: a Mini Jem
Picture Marie-Paul Claudine

This is a Mk3 car on Luxembourg plates
Picture Marie-Paul Claudine

Tuesday 13 September 2022

The Prisoner Moke - unraveling its past

There was still a big gap in the history of the surviving Prisoner Mini Moke but a little bit of that gap is now cleared. You may remember that the car was found in 2011 in The Netherlands by fellow Dutchman Olivier Bos (story here). He found it a barn where it hadn't moved a wheel since the 1970s, or so he was told. It now turns out it was moved before though. 

The story is that after filming the series The Prisoner in 1967, the car was given to one of the film crew. And when this Englishman, supposedly a camera man, moved to Amsterdam he took the famous Moke with him. He hired a room in central Amsterdam, probably drove it for some time, only to store the car in the hallway of this canal house. From the 1970s up until 2004 it languished in this unlikely hallway storage, buried under more and more boxes and bikes. 

But then, in 2004, it was moved and brought over to the east of The Netherlands, or so it turns out now. Pictures of the move have emerged thanks to Jelle Blom, who flashed them over a while ago. Jelle: "It was given away for free, on the condition that the bikes were taken with it also." Good deal, I'd say. Olivier Bos believes it's right: "Yes, it was stored in a house on the canals since the 1970s when the owner's family moved it. I think this was a nephew of the owner of the canal house, in which this Englishman had his room." 

We know the rest of the story, well almost. Olivier sold the car in an auction in 2015 and Phil Caunt became the new owner. Phil lovingly restored the car, but decided to sell it last year, also in an auction. Where it went next? He doesn't know. Phil: "On the day of the auction, I did speak to a member of the auction team, who said they believe it was sold to a UK based buyer... After that I know nothing." Maybe you do?

Amsterdam. Narrow doors, cobblestones and lots of bikes. There really is a Moke behind them
Picture Maximum Mini archive via Jelle Blom

There you go. And it's not just any Moke, but one that made television history in the 1960s
Picture Maximum Mini archive via Jelle Blom

'HLT 709C' was used by The Prisoner. It ended up in Amsterdam with one crew member
Picture Maximum Mini archive via Jelle Blom

"It was given away for free, on the condition that the bikes were taken with it also."
Picture Maximum Mini archive via Jelle Blom

Fully restored and brought back to Portmeirion, where The Prisoner was filmed
Picture courtesy Phil Caunt

Restorer and arch Prisoner fan Phil Caunt sold the car last year. Where is it now?
Picture courtesy Phil Caunt

Friday 9 September 2022

The Queen's Mini derivative

Queen Elizabeth has died and the nation is in grief. You shall be missed by many Majesty.

Not quite the kind of posting for Maximum Mini you'd think, but amazingly the late-Queen did have a link to a Mini variant. She appeared in a number of paparazzi pictures taken 60 years ago at Windsor in the summer of 1962 with... a Mini Beach Car. 

From a newspaper clipping: "The Queen stands beside the most unusual of her stable of royal cars - a tiny beach Mini-car with cut-away sides and basket seats. Ideal for a sunny day in Windsor Great Park. The copper-coloured Mini is one of only three experimental cars built by the British Motor Corporation and has been lent to the Royal Family. The Queen, a knowledgable motorist, doubtless enjoys travelling in this unconventional little vehicle as much as she does in her Rolls."

The Beach Car was used on a few royal occasions, among them a state visit to Amsterdam in May 1965, when the car was shipped over to The Netherlands and driven by Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon in Amsterdam. It was never owned by the Royal family though, as they had it on loan from BMC. In 1968 the car was sold and it remains in the hands of the man who then became its lucky owner.

Windsor Castle, Summer 1962. The Queen and Prince Philip with the Mini Beach Car
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

"The Queen doubtless enjoys travelling in this unconventional little vehicle"
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

The very same Mini Beach Car, photographed in 2012 in front of the main gate of the old BMC factory in Longbridge where it was built. The factory is now gone as is the Queen, but the car remains
Picture Jeroen Booij

Thursday 8 September 2022

Zagato Mini Gatto in Jidéhem's Starter

Look what was sent to me! Another page from the old Belgian comic / motoring magazine Starter, which used to be so richly illustrated by the artist Jidéhem. I wrote about it before as some Mini based had made it to the magazine's motoring reports in the 1960s (Mini Jem, Ogle SX1000 and Quasar Unipower - click here). Somehow I'd missed out on the Zagato Mini Gatto, which was featured also in 1961. A great favourite car here and one I still regret not having bought many years ago. Thank you very much Frank Lannoye!

Spirou behind the wheel of the Zagato Mini Gatto as drawn by Jidéhem
Picture Jidéhem, via Frank Lannoye

It's named BMC 850 Zagato here. "While the design is well carried out, it can be accused for having an unusually long bonnet to house the famous small transverse engine"
Picture Jidéhem, via Frank Lannoye