Friday 27 January 2023

John Lennon's Radford Mini: a replica is in the making

This posting about the Radford Mini De Ville of John Lennon keeps on drawing attention and comments since it was posted almost 10 years ago now. Meanwhile we know a little more about the car (click here) but it seems unlikely to ever resurface again. 

In that light Fred and Tony Waters of Nippy Cars in Somerset have been asked to build a replica of it, including the hatchback door, Aston Martin DB5 rear lights, pitch dark 'Shadolite' windows and all the other special (Radford) features it had.

Fred wrote the following: "We don't often speak about the cars we do but this one deserves an exception. In 2021 we were asked to do a replica of John Lennon's Radford Cooper 'S'. Not too much was known about the cars details and only a few grainy pictures and short cinefilm clips of it exist, many stories of the car existing and its demise float around. I'm proud to say my dad has done an amazing job making a steel tailgate for the car, Aston Martin style rear lamp clusters, all correct and original Radford parts are being used where possible. It wasn’t planned to announce the build just yet but things happen. I’d like to take the chance now to thank Chris for entrusting us with the build, he’s very excited about the progress and so are we. Pictures will follow but not just yet. Stay tuned, but here is one to wet the appetite."

It seems likely that the car will debut at the London Classic Car Show in Olympia next month when the three existing Beatles Minis are announced to be on display.

UPDATE 1 March 2023: The show is over and the three original cars were there looking splendid. Unfortunately they weren't joined by the Lennon replica for reasons known to those involved alone.

Aston Martin rear lights, hatchback, piano black paint: John Lennon's Mini will be replicated
Picture Nippy Cars

Thursday 26 January 2023

Stimson's stories (5)

I promised to write more about the late Barry Stimson after the news reached me that he had sadly died on one of the last days of the year (click here). There really is a lot of material in words and pictures so where to start? I once asked Barry how the original Mini Bug came about and he told me the story in some detail of how it happened. So here we go, over to Barry himself: 

“I was in Vancouver with my Mk1 wife where we lived in a house belonging to American hippies, provided by the father of one of the hippies. The house was in Horseshoe Bay, a really pretty place. ‘Hey man’, they said to me, and we joined them. I was designing houses over here in the UK but I was having a hard time as the houses I designed were quite radical looking and the council planning department were reluctant to pass them, as they looked different. I thought I could build them over in Canada. Then my Mk1 wife decided that one of the hippies was more of a hippie then I was, so I came back with two children to the UK, leaving her in Canada. I’d seen a Meyers Buggy in Vancouver and thought I could build something like that in the UK. In the plane back I made a very simple line drawing – it is still representable for the Mini Bug and looks very simple. The reason for doing a Mini based buggy was that the Mini had its engine, suspension and gearbox all in one subframe. It meant I didn’t have to reinvent all of it. But it was a really smart thing, too. All the stuff that I do is sort of radical but to be radical it doesn’t have to be complicated.” 

"Back in the UK I rented a Nissen hut on a derelict farm in Chichester and that’s where the work started in the winter of 1969/1970. It was bloody freezing. Coral and Sean, my children, were 6 and 4 at the time and we were living in a camper van, parked in the building itself. Looking back it probably wasn’t particularly good for the kids, but they liked it and have good memories of the time. To start with I designed some toys for them, all out of pinewood. It was for them to play with, but I decided to market them too. But by the time I got the toys made but the Mini Bug was underway and I had no time left for the toys. ‘HPO 69H’ was a £20 or £30 Mini Van that was used as a base vehicle. It took over a week to make the plug and another week to make the mould from the plug. The chassis was lofted on the floor in a lock up garage. I didn’t employ anybody whatsoever; although I understand a while ago a chap said he’d built the first 100 bugs. Well, we didn’t even build a hundred of them I believe! There was an up hand welder involved though, who’d worked for the navy dock and there was also a laminator who was working in the same laid down farm. The guy was probably one of them who worked three huts down and who I think gave me a hand. We made jigs and the navy guy did the chassis’. The first body which came straight out of the mould looked horrible with rough edges and I cut it off with scissors and then made the flare around it. It still looked ugly so I thought let’s dress it up a little more. We rounded the edges off, changed the screen and put on a Targa bar. Everything sort of grew, it evolved.” 

 “I was at the time always looking for the easiest way out to create shapes. If I could take a quick moulding of an existing shape to give me a curve or a shape. The scoops for the lights of that car were made from breadbin lids. It was all very low-tech but quick; I wasn’t using any modeling clay or anything. The windscreen was made of Perspex and to bend it I used an old electric fire to heat it. That was changed quickly from Mk1 to Mk2 with very little Mk1s built. I would be really surprised if there’s any Mk1 car left (one turned up last year - click here). I probably built just five or six. The difference was that the car’s body was now separate with the whole front of the Mk2 lifting off.”

The original Stimson Mini Bug prototype 'HPO 69H' in a rare colour picture
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

And the original sketch, made by Barry in the plane from Canada back to the UK
"It is still representable for the Mini Bug and looks very simple"
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

This is the prototype's chassis with engine under construction in Chichester in '69 
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

And ready! That's a proud Barry behind the wheel, 29 years at the time
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

‘HPO 69H’ was built from a £20 or £30 Mini Van that was used as a base vehicle
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Next up: a photo shoot for Hot Car magazine. Note trim lines now added to body
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

And with some 'dolly birds' for some further PR shots. That's Stimson-style! 
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

First ad of the car seen in early 1970, looking for agents at the time
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

This is an early brochure, which I've seen only once. Who has a copy of it?
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Front cover of Hot Car magazine made the ball roll for the Mini Bug. 
Barry would later become art editor of the magazine also
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Wednesday 25 January 2023

Looking for the Aldon-Viper BMC

Your help is needed: I am looking for a picture of a racing car named the Aldon-Viper BMC. This car was built by Aldon Engineering and raced in 1970 and 1971 by a man named Pat Ryan from Halesowen in the Midlands. The car was described as 'A slender chassis design, powered by a BMC Mini engine and used for sprints and hill climbs". I did speak to Aldon-boss Alan Goodwin.

Who has ever laid his eyes on it - or knows of a picture?

Tuesday 24 January 2023

60 Years ago: pre-launch of the Deep Sanderson 301

These cool pictures have been in the Maximum Mini files for ages and I thought I'd share them with you now. They are unique photographs of the Deep Sanderson 301 production car's pre-launch - well, I believe it to be that. The 301 was of course officially launched at the Racing Car Show of January 1963, but these pictures are not taken there. And so I can only think of this being a private little party to celebrate the car getting ready for its first showing to the world, probably in Acton where it was built by LawrenceTune Engineering. I have never seen them anywhere else. Anyone who knows more is welcome to add any further information.


The Deep Sanderson 301 was unveiled at the Racing car Show in January 1963...
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

...But these photos were taken elsewhere. I think at a pre-launch party
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

They show the car having just been finished and probably days before the show
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

The engine was a 997 Cooper with LawrenceTune fettling good for 59.4bhp at 6,300rpm
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Friday 20 January 2023

Mystery Mini Derivative (85) UPDATED: not Mini based

Boy, is the first Mystery Mini Derivative for this year shrouded in - er - mystery! It's only believed to be Mini powered, but even that is not known for sure. The picture was provided by regular supplier Roald Rakers and was supposedly shot in 1969 during a race in Japan in what was known as the 'Golden Series Minicar Challenge'. 

That does indeed look like a Mini engine poking out of the front to me, with two carburetors standing in the right position, aren't they? And those wheels may very well be 10" Mini ones also. But then... the Japanese had some small cars on offer, too. So... who knows more about this intriguing little racer from Nippon?

UPDATE 21 January 2023: Not a Mini derivative! According to Noriyuki Karikomi this is a Honda N360 based Phantom Formula Junior car. Thank you very much.

Mystery racer in the Japanese 1969 Golden Series Minicar Challenge. Mini based?
Picture via Roald Rakers

Stop press! Not Mini-based but a Honda N360 based Phantom Formula Junior car. Another one here
Picture via Noriyuki Karikomi

Thursday 19 January 2023

New pictures of Nieuwenhuis Special

Four new pictures of the Nieuwenhuis Special turn up thanks to reader Michael van der Meij. Once again they were taken at the Trophy of the Dunes race at Zandvoort in 1968. When I first heard of the car a long time ago I was eager to find out more, which took several years. Eventually I found out it was built by Henk Nieuwenhuis of Geldrop in The Netherlands, who'd emigrated to the isle of Crete. I interviewed him back in 2013, when he told me he built the car in 1967 in the attic of his parental house. 

He said: “You could either watch other people race, or build something yourself on a shoestring. I decided to do the latter and started making some drawings. It was all pretty simple, I just wanted to race. Since I had some Mini engines lying around, one of them a Cooper, I simply had to use that. I was a graphical designer by trade and so wanted it to look nice, too. At first it was a roadster, later I closed the body with gullwing doors." 

Unfortunately the gull winged racer does not survive since Nieuwenhuis re-used most parts to built up other cars and ultimately binned the car's chassis frame, or so he told me. I have still never seen any picture of it in its initial roadster form, as Nieuwenhuis didn't have these either.

More pictures of the car - also in colour here.

Zandvoort 1968 - That's Henk Nieuwenhuis with his home-built Special
Picture through Michael van der Meij

Lightweight and rear engined it must have been easy to oversteer, as demonstrated here!
Picture through Michael van der Meij

Mini subframe plus Cooper engine with double SUs and massive end pipe well visible here
Picture through Michael van der Meij

Sneaking passed a Lotus 47 in a sharp corner..? (the Lotus came 2nd overall)
Picture through Michael van der Meij

Friday 13 January 2023

Ogles in Japan (3)

Right! Time for some more about the Ogles in Japan now. After chassis number 1 (click) let's move over to chassis number 2 as that found it's way to Japan also! The car is registered '174 MPG' and has been in Japan for almost 40 years now - since 1984.

It has some distinctive features, most notably the bonnet scoop that's been on it since a very early stage. I have a picture of the car made in 1962 which already shows this intake. The colours are also distinctive: a pretty metallic blue with red and black interior, although the paint colour was changed to a slightly lighter blue once in Japan. It is now owned by mister Maruyama of Delta Mini in Osaka there, who is not related to mister Maruyama of Mini Maruyama fame. He told us he carried out a full restoration on the car himself and it was he who changed the colour to a darker metallic blue also. Although the car originally came with an 850 engine, it had a 1310 cc Cooper ‘S’ when it came from the UK to Japan in 1984 and it still has that engine now.

'174 MPG' as it looks today in the showroom of garage Delta Mini in Osaka, Japan
Picture Delta Mini

And in its earlier lighter blue colour. This shot was taken upon its arrival in Japan in 1984
Picture courtesy Bunzo Yasuda

Much of the brightwork was painted in a satin black at the time. 1980s fashion I guess 
Picture courtesy Bunzo Yasuda

Lovely interior in red / black. Note Springall steering wheel and unusual gear lever
Picture courtesy Bunzo Yasuda

It took part in a Japanese rally at one stage, still with the blacked-out brightwork
Picture courtesy Bunzo Yasuda

Now restored, the car is owned by mister Maruyama of Osaka, who carried out the restoration 
Picture Delta Mini

The interior hasn't changed much over the years. It's still very pretty I think!
Picture Delta Mini

This was the last sighting of it in the UK - a 1983 advertisement
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Monday 9 January 2023

Schwarzenbach's Super Mini survives

About three years ago I wondered if anyone knew more about a coachbuilt Mini shorty from Switzerland. Click here for all the pics. It took two months for an answer to come in the shape of little 1970s French book, which mentions the car as the 'Schwarzenbach Super Mini', made in 1971 in Thalwil, Switzerland. Possibly by a multi millionaire named Urs Ernst Schwarzenbach, I thought, who owned a palace in Morocco, the Grand Hotel in Zürich and had his own polo team with 600 horses while he married a former Miss Australia. (Click here).

That is still not confirmed. But what about the car itself? I know by now that it's a survivor, as Alexis Ducrot contacted me about it a while ago. He wrote: "Hi Jeroen, I hope you are well! Your article reminded me of something that I wanted to share with you. Please see attached a picture of the same car, back in 2010, for sale at Classica Motors of Geneva, maybe it changed of owner since 2010 but maybe they can give details and info on such a rare car! Best Alexis Ducrot." Well, well, that was good! The interior looks fantastic, but what a pity the car was repainted at one stage in a much more ordinary metallic green with standard 1990s 12" alloy wheels and plastic arches! I haven't found out much more since, but who knows...

Schwarzenbach Super Mini of 1971 looks every bit the coachbuilt Mini inside
Picture Classica Motors Geneva, via Alexis Ducrot

The exterior, however, was given a revamp which didn't do it much good if you ask me
Picture Classica Motors Geneva, via Alexis Ducrot

Tuesday 3 January 2023

Happy 2023 - Unipower GT is Find of the Year

All of the best for the New Year to Maximum Mini readers world wide! 

This weblog is now in its 12th year and with almost 1,500 articles online an ever-growing source on anything about Mini based cars. 

With exactly 40% of the votes you chose the Unipower GT as the Best Find of 2022, so congratulations to the car's owner. I understand there has been a bit of an argument within the family about selling or keeping the car and they have decided to stay with it and give it the restoration it needs, which is nice and I hope to report about that soon. I also understand that it was another ex-demonstrator car for a Unipower distributor and it was originally owned by a man named Douglas Bruce, who supposedly sold it to a stuntman next. It would be lovely to hear more about that, too. 

This recently recovered Unipower GT was chosen as the Maximum Mini Best Find of 2022
Picture courtesy Matt Philips

The same car back in the days when it was almost new. It hasn't changed too much
Picture courtesy Tim Carpenter

Monday 2 January 2023

Tom Karen dies at 96

Like Barry Stimson, Tom Karen also died just before the end of the 2022. He was 96 years old and was probably identified more with Ogle Design than David Ogle himself, if only it was because he was in charge of the company's design department for no less than 37 years. Karen took over from the company's founder after his terrible death in 1962 (click here). I never met the man but have been been told he was a real gentleman. Although he was also an SX1000 owner and no doubt an enthusiast, he may also have been the man responsible for axing the model..? May he rest in peace never the less.

Tom Karen with his Ogle SX1000 in 1962 after he just took over as design director
Picture Jeroen Booij archive