Thursday, 21 September 2017

Odnik: Indeed based on a 1958 prototype Mini?

Two more pictures of 'Odnik' - the Irish built Mini special that was raced by Jack O'Donoghue in 1961 (more about it here), have come to the light thanks to Irishman Aidan Mc Grath. And I believe we can now almost surely say the car was based on a 1958 Mini prototype. The stamped grille of the car is the first giveaway, as there were only two Mini variants that had this feature: the 1958 prototypes and the Mini Van (announced in June 1960). Odnik could well have been based on an early Van, but the registration points towards something else. 'CZA333' was a Dublin registration from November 1959. Apart from prototypes, there were no vans at this time yet. 

What's more, judging from the old photograph that I found and the new ones that Aidan came up with, I don't believe this car to use the longer wheelbase of the van. It looks like a saloon to me, and the same goes for the rounded rear, with the filler cap on the left. This looks like it was converted from a saloon rather than from a Van to me. Or is it? '59 Mini Register man Bill Bell said of the first photograph: "Looking at the wheel base it looks like its a modified Van. I doubt very much it's a 58 prototype. They were all in such poor state after they had finished testing and as far as we know all were scrapped." 

I'm not so sure. Jack O’Donoghue worked for the Austin importers/assemblers in Dublin and may have been able to get hold of a '58 prototype Mini. Minis were built under a license in Ireland from as early as 1959. Fact is that O'Donoghue got rid of the car’s roof, modified its rear end in steel, cut the doors, lowered the handles and fitted a Sprite windscreen. He won his class during a Hewison Trophy qualifying trial in December 1961. Could the car survive? And be found? That would surely be sensational...

UPDATE 13:00: An avid reader drops me a line: "I spoke to the last known owner of the car and he can't recall what he did with it, but thinks he scrapped it. I am due to meet a previous owner next week, who used the car in the UK in '65/'66 before bringing it back to Ireland and selling it. I will ask him for his thoughts on the history of the car, as he would have known Jack."

Jack O'Donoghue in action in his Odnik in December 1961. This was the only known picture of it
Picture Jeroen Booij archive / Autosport magazine

But then Aidan Mc Grath came up with this. Stamped grille points towards 1958 Mini prototype, as does wheelbase? 'CZA 333' is a november 1959 registration
Picture via Aidan Mc Grath

Odnik's rear was modified quite heavily, too. Again, the round shape points towards a saloon to me, as does the filler cap that is positioned at the left hand side
Picture via Aidan Mc Grath

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

BBC footage of RTV found

It's always nice to receive a message from a manufacturer of Mini based cars, former or even current, and I was thrilled to hear from Scamp-man Andrew MacLean this week. He wrote: "Hi Jeroen, at very long last….we've managed to find a copy of the famous BBC Tomorrow's World and BBC Top Gear footage of the Robert Mandry Mini based RTV, dating back to 1983." You may remember the RTV as the go-anywhere Rough Terrain Vehicle seen in Maximum Mini 2 and on these pages.

In fact, we saw an RTV in moving images before as the vehicle to be driven to a most unusual record, but Andrew has to put some things straight on that one. Andrew: By the way, the 'Blind Run' RTV was not built by Robert Mandry. Robert sold the RTV manufacturing rights to Lawrence Hawgood, (not Spyder Sport as mentioned in Maximum Mini 2) who took it to the next level. The Blue RTV in the Blind Run video is Ford Escort based....It is badged as Ford...Perry's Ford. It mentions that it is Ford Escort based in the video as Ford were sponsoring the run as well. Please correct this on your website. Thanks. And please mention that a Robert Mandry RTV played a big part as well, in the run, as back up vehicle....It was painted the same colours and carried the British Gas and Perry's Ford logos. I still own this amazing Mini based vehicle and it still wears the same colours...undergoing a slow restoration. Thanks again. Andrew MacLean."

Thank you for letting me know this, Andrew. I have updated the Blind Run article now - see here. Andrew still owns two RTVs and tells me he took over all the spares and production rights from Lawrence Hawgood about 5 years ago, now having enough to build several new Mini based RTVs. Have a look here when interested. Andrew also shared some more information on another of his former Mini-based adventures, but I'll keep that for the next time. Enjoy the video for now.

VideoBBC Tomorrow's World / BBC Top Gear via Andrew MacLean

Monday, 18 September 2017

Finally: more on the Mini milk float

When you've read Maximum Mini 3 (still available here when not) you have come across some truly strange Mini based creations. Some were in fact so strange that finding out more information about them proved virtually impossible. No one knew about them and no-one wanted, or so it sometimes seemed. It went for the Mini based milk float. I knew it was from New-Zealand and I knew it dated back to the 1960s but that was about it.

Now. Thanks to Miguel Plano of Canada (again!) I have found out more. Miguel found a leaflet on the thing, showing the two photographs below plus some additional words. It turns out the Mini milk float was officially named the Minimilk-float and invented by dairyman Mr. Moore of Timaru in New-Zealand. "He tows his tiny little milk lorry behind a larger vehicle on long-range work, allowing it to operate independently on local deliveries, such as in congested housing schemes; he thus effects some worthwhile savings in his transport costs!"

The creature was built to Mister Moore's own design with a 5 ft. 6 in. high cab and was built up using an 850 Mini. I wonder if any of you remember it from the days he drove it around the streets of New Zealand?

cutaway bodywork for easy getting in and out. The Minimilk-float was, rem, different!
Picture via Miguel Plano

Mr. Moore added: "We know it's a queer looking thing but it is just great for the job it was built for!"
Picture via Miguel Plano

Friday, 15 September 2017

Market round up

Time for another market round-up (previous versions here and here and here). What Mini based cars are offered for sale at this moment? I have made a selection, the majority of these ads have been tipped-off by readers. Keep them coming! Oh - and some more cars here.

GTM coupe, built up to look like a Cox GTM.  Previously seen on these pages. See it for sale here

Mk4 Mini Marcos in France, built up in Belgium with 1275 power. See it for sale here

Magenta, also in France. 1979 car. Rare to see it in a state like this. See it for sale here

Riley Elf 'Jolly'. Very unusual take on the Elf, found in Missouri, USA. See it for sale here

The Wolseley Hornet based Willson Special has been for sale for quite some time now. See it here

Rare RTV, ready to work on any farm or do any (slow) expedition. See it for sale here

Nimrod, also seen for sale here previously. Who will give it some love? See it for sale here

Stimson Trek. Probably the best possible example of the species? See it for sale here

Stimson Mini Bug. Nice Mk2 car in great colour. It's in Northern Ireland. See it for sale here

Also in Northern Ireland: a flashy Foers Nomad. One of 175. See it for sale here

Hustler Six, restored and looking very good, in Norfolk. See it for sale here

Scamp Mk2 dressed up as a military mobile drinks bar..! See it for sale here

GTM Coupe. Looks superb and I think it could be the (a?) works demonstrator? See it for sale here

Foers Nomad built up with most unusual side skirts and spoilers. See it for sale here

Mini Marcos Mk4. This one is in Italy and registered as a 1976 car with 1340. See it for sale here

Andersen Cub. 1987 car with 998 power, in Suffolk. See it for sale here

AEM Scout. Purple with cream leather. Brilliant for Summer 2018 already! See it for sale here

Monday, 11 September 2017

For the love of a Unipower GT - the story of Dennis Tarkir

Some time ago, Danny Craig dropped me a line from Virginia, USA, writing that his father in law passed recently. "So we are dealing with all the stuff that comes with it." Among it, there is a 1967 Unipower GT. And there's no doubt I was eager to learn just a little bit more about that. Danny got back on it several times, writing "I didn't realize how much work it was going to be moving the cars and assosiated parts... plus all the tools and equipment. A little overwhelming! Gotta talk to his ex-wife and get his daughters to take a walk down memories lane…" And by now, he did just that. This is his full report:

"My father in law, Dennis Tarkir, purchased the Unipower from a dealer in Maryland. I'm pretty sure the city was Gaithersburg. I think I read that this dealer imported all of the Unipower that made it to the USA. From what I understand, Dennis found the car in 1971 and fell in love. At the time he was unable to afford it straight out, so he found a friend who was coming home from college break. They both went in on the Uni with the arrangement that his friend would drive it while home from school. This gave Dennis enough time to make the money to buy his friend out. Dennis is the original owner as far as paper work is concerned."

Dennis Tarkir with the Unipower GT in 2008. It was only finished last year
Picture through Danny Craig

"He would tell me stories about visiting his girlfriend at her apartment, having to park at the beginning of the complex because he was unable to get over the speed bumps in the Unipower. He constantly would get pulled over by the police. Not for doing anything wrong… 'What the he'll are you driving?', was normally the first question they would ask. I remember him telling me that he had a real hard time registering it in the state of Virginia due to the vin number being so short. The first time he tried, it had gotten to the managers manager to get approval. They finally approved the request for registration, mainly because they didn't known what else to do. He also said that this go around trying to get it registered this year was also a little trying. And being that Virginia issued the registration in the 70s it came down to the manager at the DMV saying... I guess we have to since they did it before. It now has Virginia antique tags and is legal to drive on the roads."

Dennis went through some issues to get it registered. It's on Antique plates now
Picture through Danny Craig

"There are chunks of time missing in this Unipower's history. From what I have gathered, some time in the early 80s, Dennis started the complete tear down restoration due to the common issues of the frame rott and the over heating issue. During this time the Uni was stored in a warehouse for a time, while Dennis lived in a couple different apartments. Once he purchased the house seen in the photos, he kept the Unipower in the garage. At some point he had it shipped to Florida to be painted. At the time in the Fairfax area, he was having a hard time finding a painter who was willing to touch it without charging an arm and a leg. He found a Corvette painter who was. And so it was shipped."

Painted in real American racing colours, this reflects a miniature GT40 rather then a 'Mini Miura'
Picture through Danny Craig

"When I met Megan, the oldest of Dennis' twin daughters, the body, lights and interior were pretty much done. The frame was redone, and the cooling system was changed to take care of the over heating issue. A small electric pump was added to the system to increase the flow at idle. At the time he was also restoring his dad's classic Mustang and also had an old XKE that he was working on. He would bounce from car to car depending on which parts came in."

Work is underway in Dennis Tarkir's garage, his father's Mustang in the background
Picture through Danny Craig

"Not long after Megan and I started dating, they moved to Manassas, Virginia. The mustang was sold, the Unipower engine was close to being put back together, and he towed a '71 Lotus Elan plus 2S home from Texas. Saved them from the Texas heat after 20 years of sitting in a field. The Uni was drivable in late 2016, but it still had some issues. He replaced the three master cylinders. The one closest to the drivers side door was too tall. One of the hardest parts about restoring this car is finding parts. In the end he had to cut a half inch out of that one master cylinder in order to get the hood to close. He was also having a hard time with finding carburetors that worked well. I remember that at least two needed replacing, both also on the drivers side."

Note closest master cylinder is shorter. Dennis had to cut it to get the hood closed
Picture through Danny Craig

"I also remember him being frustrated that he couldn't find any place where he could get the pedal pads. Frustrated to the point that he bought a 3D printer, and started making molds to try to duplicate the originals. In the end, they looked great, but the plastic became too hard over time and wore out once he started driving it on the road."

"We found lots of papers for the car. Sale receipts, emails to different people all over the world. He was pretty good about keeping track of stuff like that. I will send you pictures of some of that stuff if you like. As of now they are still packed up. We haven't made it that far in our unpacking. Dennis was truly in love with this Unipower. I would say that he got it restored to 90% there are some things that need tweeted and adjusted. He did not reinstall the windows, as he saw it as a fair weather car. The cars and trucks here are so big in comparison that driving in the rain or snow would be kind of dangerous. The Uni would get lost in the road spray.We still have the door windows and rear plexiglass window. I remember reading an email conversation with a guy in England that had the mould for the rear window, I think. The one for this car is discolored and has some cracking. Frankly I think it looks better with out that installed."

"The cars here are so big in comparison that driving in the rain or snow would be kind of dangerous"
Picture through Danny Craig

Now that Dennis has passed, we had to drive it to Marshall, Virginia. Which was the longest single trip it has made. The actual mileage is still under the 40,000 miles. This car is a blast to drive. And a little scary at the same time. Being that I grew up in the time of power assisted brakes and steering. And with no experience with a rear engined and rear wheel drive set up. Not to mention having to lay down to drive it. I understand why Dennis loved this car so much."

The original rear window was never reinstalled. "Frankly, I think it looks better without", says Danny
Picture through Danny Craig

Friday, 8 September 2017

Autocrossing an early MiniJem (4)

I would never have thought the MiniJem to be a suitable contender for auto crossing but, hey, I was wrong! A single photograph of a Mk1 Jem doing just that (click here) proved it could be done not so long ago. And it even lead to former owners coming in and telling about the restoration of the car (here) or about flying it at high speeds over dirt tracks (here).

Now… these great photographs of another MiniJem doing the same thing were unearthed recently. And I'll be damned if this isn't another rare Mk1! The pictures were taken by Chris Higginbotham in the mid-1970s on a track named Warburton. But that's just about all that we know. Wouldn't it be nice if more info on this one followed, too..?

Action! Another MiniJem in a field. This was at Warburton and the car looks like another Mk1
Picture Chris Higginbotham

Added air holes and knobbly tyres. Could this MiniJem have survived the rough mid-1970s?
Picture Chris Higginbotham

Red paint is coming off, but that doesn't withhold this car from flying over the fields
Picture Chris Higginbotham

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Wanted: Sprinzel Rallye Two seat

I have been looking for what I believe to be the right seats for my project car for some time now: Sprinzel Rallye Two seats, made by Fibrepair Ltd. of London and sometimes also sold as the Speedwell Rally Seat. I found one, but need another. There should be more of them around as many were made and sold in the 1960s, but I haven't come across another as yet. Perhaps you know of something? Do not hesitate to contact me.

UPDATE 15 September 2017: beautiful second seat now found. Thank you for the help!

That's one. The Sprinzel Rallye Two seat that I have needs work. But I also need another!
Picture Jeroen Booij

That's a brochure showing all the ins and outs. Do you have a spare one?
Picture courtesy Mk1 Performance Conversions

Friday, 1 September 2017

Another good Unipower tale

I like tales from former car owners and Unipower owner Pete Flanagan sent in another nice one. While I was at the Euregio Meeting, he spent the weekend at the Oulton Park Gold Cup with his Unipower GT. Pete: "The car hasn't been back there since Graham Goodman and Gideon Lloyd raced it there in 1968. The funny story Gideon told me was this when they were last raced it at Oulton Park in '68. He said: 'Oulton Park was our last outing in the car at the end of 1968. The brilliantly crisp, cold, sunny Sunday was topped and tailed by incredibly dense fog. On our journey back down South, visibility was zero - at one point I was leaning out of the passenger side door feeling for the kern side. Eventually fog clearing, we made the motorway and Graham opened up the Jag. I seem to recall 100mph being indicated on the M1."

"Needless to say, trailer tyres blew (melted...) and I was 'volunteered' to be 'driven' in the Unipower behind the Jag. The primitive handbrake had iced up and with no way of communicating with the Jag I became aware of flickering flames behind my shoulders. Sure enough the discs were alight."

"I promise you the next bit is true! A car overtook and flagged down the Jag. Then a guy came round to the Unipower, lifted the engine cover and fire extinguished both discs which were merrily aflame being fed by brake fluid. Somehow the magnesium wheels didn't ignite. He then disappeared into the night. That was the rather sad end to our relationship with the red devil. It was sold. Graham raced Formula 3 in Europe for 2 seasons and I got a job!"

That's another great Unipower GT tale, thanks for sharing Pete!

Lloyd and Goodman wanted to do endurance races with the car but it never got that far. Seen here in their hands in 1968. Note fat Brabham wheels at the back here, which did't help handling
Picture via Pete Flanagan

Back at Oulton Park last weekend after almost 50 years. Pete is thinking about road registering it now
Picture Pete Flanagan

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Euregio Meeting 2017

The Euregio meeting for Marcoses and Mini derivatives took place on the sunniest day of this year, last weekend. The location? The far south-west of The Netherlands, where the country rubs shoulders with the sea and with Belgium. And so a group of Maximum Minis crossed the border several times...

Joost van Dien organized the trip for this year. He currently owns three Mini Marcoses and this is the Mk3 he built up from scratch as a fast road car. I co-drove him during the ride and was much impressed
Picture Jeroen Booij

Keith Rose had come over from Somerset in his GTM Rossa. His latest buy is a Minus Maxi!
Picture Jeroen Booij

You may not see it at first sight, but this is one very rare and probably unique fiberglass bodied Mini derivative. I'll write a separate article on it here soon
Picture Jeroen Booij

What would a Mini Marcos meeting be without Richard Porter? He came over in his faithful Mini Jem
Picture Jeroen Booij

And flying the flag for Maximum Mini, too, just in colour with the car. Thank you Richard!
Picture Jeroen Booij

Aad van Beekum had his Mk3 Mini Marcos finished just in time for the event two years ago. And he was there this time. The car still looking immaculate
Picture Jeroen Booij

We were so close to the Belgium border that Bart van Reusel and his Schmitt had to be there…
Picture Jeroen Booij

Beach bunnies? Bart's Schmitt pairs up with co-organizer Rolf Roozeboom's Domino Pimlico
Picture Jeroen Booij

Another regular on the Euregio meetings: Ed 'the Hat' Darwinkel with his trusty Midas. He'd just fitted leds, which gave an impressive light show even during the day
Picture Jeroen Booij

Not a Mini, but Robin Hughes and his son Sam in the big Marcos are very enthusiastic about Mini Marcoses, too. Thanks for coming over chaps!
Picture Jeroen Booij

We missed several regulars with their Mini Marcoses this year, but not Raymond van der Klugt. He owns a Mini Marcos, too, but prefers to come in his lovely GTM Coupe
Picture Jeroen Booij

Take a couple of Brits to a field and they'll start a picnic!
Picture Jeroen Booij

Monday, 28 August 2017

Gyro-X wins Dean Batchelor Trophy

Now that the crazy Alex tremulis designed and Mini Cooper powered Gyro-X prototype is fully restored and presented at Pebble Beach, we'd like to see it in motion, don't we? Over to Wayne Hadfield who sent me a little video of the thing on the move, see below. It's great to see the gyroscope really working so well (more about the restoration here) and it looks like Jeff Lane and his team at the Lane Motor Museum have done a terrific job. The car didn't win its class of 'American Dream Cars of the 1960s' but did get home to Tennessee with the Dean Batchelor Trophy, named after the late American hot rodder and motoring journalist with the same name. Congratulations!

It works! Gyro-X in motion. The Mini engine makes it move, the gyroscope keeps it in balance
Video through Wayne Hadfield

The crazy car won the Dean Batchelor Trophy at the Pebble Beach concours d'elegance 

Seen here is an early sketch of the 1967 car by designer Alex Tremulis
Picture Lane Motor Museum