Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Unique DART pictures found

Thanks to Stef Wray, who rebuilt the one-off Mini based DART (for Dizzy Addicott Racing Team), some unique pictures that show the DART being built, have been unearthed from the collection of Desmond 'Dizzy' Addicott's family. Fighter pilot Addicott built the car in 1963 as a prototype to market fibreglass monocoque shells that could turn an old Mini into something far more sporty. Jem Marsh was contracted to do the shells, but when Addicott had a disagreement with Marsh over the quality of the first few fibreglass bodies he got so fed up with it that he sold the project to Jeremy Delmar-Morgan who turned it into the MiniJem in 1966. By that time Jem Marsh had allready launched his own take on the DART: the Mini Marcos. That means the DART is the spiritual father of both the Mini Jem as the Mini Marcos, as well as the Kingfisher Sprint that evolved from the Jem later.
Stef has been researching the DART ever since he bought the remains in 2008 but never knew pictures of the actual building existed. "I love them!" he writes. So do I.

The famous DART under construction in Addicott's workshop in 1963
Picture courtesy Jane Addicott-Jones


 Addicott preferred aluminium but the Morris Mini van based body is all steel
Picture courtesy Jane Addicott-Jones

DART was turned into Mini Jem when Addicott got fed up with the project...
Picture courtesy Jane Addicott-Jones

...while mould maker Jem Marsh developed the Mini Marcos from this base
Picture courtesy Jane Addicott-Jones

MiniSprint avant la lettre: the finished DART body next to an Austin Seven
Picture courtesy Jane Addicott-Jones

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Camber/Maya files: KOO589


So far, I have described five Camber GTs in our little Camber/Maya GT files series (click here for a list of the cars). Of the six Cambers that are presumably built I do not know the sixth and last car, so that makes it time to change to the Maya GT: the successor of the Camber that was born out of legislation due to the low headlights. 'KOO589' was built in 1967 and registered as a Maya GT, although it came with a Camber GT nose. The first owner was given a Maya nose with it to put on the vehicle and both nose sections remained with the car. In a typical 1970s metal flake blue colour it was abandoned in a field in 1980 where it spent several years without drivetrain.

Len Bossard rescued it from there in 1992 and undertook a big restoration on the car. According to him the longest job of the whole rebuild was to chip the badly crazed blue silver flake finish off the fibreglass body. Bossard fitted a replacement front subframe complete with brakes and kept the rear one. Also the windscreen was cracked an needed replacing and it took a while to find a company that could reproduce one. In the Summer of 1994 the Maya (with its Camber nose section) was on its wheels again in a new bright red paint.

Not much later, the restored Maya GT attracted the interest of well known Japanese Mini collector Kazuo Maruyama and the car found a new home in Tokyo where Maruyama added it to his Mini derivatives shrine. The registration number was sold and Maruyama parked it outside one of his warehouses. It was there that I photographed it some years ago. Unfortunately, it has hardly seen any use since its arrival in Japan, and the restored car will in fact need another restoration to become roadworthy once again.

The Maya GT under restoration in Len Bossard's workshop in 1992
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Just finished in a bright new coat of red paint. The restoration took over two years
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

And the Maya GT as it is now in Tokyo. The car has not been used since and is unregistered
Picture Jeroen Booij

Interior is pretty much neglected. Despite hot weather it does rain in Japan, too
Picture Jeroen Booij

There is a mysterious (chassis?) plate under the engine bay (top left) which says 'M/M 19746'
Picture Jeroen Booij

UPDATE 26 april 2012: the original owner has got in contact with me and sent over some pictures of when it was in his ownership. He also made the chassis plate. Click here for the story

Monday, 27 June 2011

Wanted: Alternative Cars no.1

Before I go to the binder's I need to complete my collection of Alternative Cars magazines. I am only looking for the first issue, dated Spring 1979, and would love to buy it from you or swap it for any other magazine that I have or even a signed copy of my book. Drop me a line at jeroen@jeroenbooij.com if you can help.
UPDATE 20 September 2011: I have not one, but two copies now! Who'd like to buy my spare?

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Prisoner Moke survives

It's been a while since I saw the television series of The Prisoner but Patrick McGoohan, as Number 6, made a crushing impression in his dark blue jacket with white edging driving a Lotus Seven. And then there was the groovy title song, the setting of the village (Portmeirion, Wales) and the funky Mini Mokes being used as taxis that seemed to go nowhere except for the village square. You may not qualify them as Mini derivatives, but in fact they are said to have been modified by Bill Wood and Les Pickett of Wood & Pickett fame. Yup, they were the guys who coachbuilt Minis with Mercedes Pullman headlights, onboard telephones and burr walnut headlinings.

Four Prisoner Mokes are said to have been built and only one of them (registration CFC 916C) appeared to have survived in the hands of a Prisoner fan. So what a surprise to learn that another Prisoner Moke just came to the light in The Netherlands!

The car, registration HLT 709C - the number can be seen briefly in one ofthe episodes - has not been used for decades and comes with many of the original items such as the Surrey top, rear spats and even the penny farthing decal on its bonnet. Despite perhaps not being a proper Mini derivative I'd say (after last year's miracle) this is definitely a contender for best find of this year.

Update 27 June: Just went to have a look at the car and it certainly looks as if it is the real thing. More to follow.

'CFC 916C', here in Portmeirion in 1993, seemed to be the only Prisoner Moke surviving...

...until this one came to the light in The Netherlands. Surrey top seems original

Interior trim misses but rear mud flaps are a clear hint to car's originality. As is number

Friday, 24 June 2011

Mystery Mini derivative (12)

Yes, it's another Mystery Mini derivative, and, yes, it's another Mini Moke lookalike. But what is this one called? It comes with no clues at all. At first sight I believed it to be a modified ASD Hobo but I am not so sure about that anymore. The picture was sent to me by Roald Rakers, who has no idea either. Drop me a line if you do recognize it. Oh, and do have a look at the other Mystery Mini derivatives by clicking at the 'Mini Mystery derivative' label below (or here) if you like as there remain several nuts that need cracking.

Blunt styling and invisible number plate make this Moke pretender even more mysterious
Hat tip to Roald Rakers once again

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Minis at Le Mans: 1966


The Mini Marcos' finest hour? That has to be the 1966 Le Mans race that started on June, 19 that year on the hallowed circuit de la Sarthe with an unlikely French equipe.
It was former professional deep sea diver Jean-Claude Hrubon who had a garage in Levallois, a Paris suburb, where he focussed on Minis. When Hrubon paid a visit to the Racing Car Show in London in January 1966 he was struck by the Mini Marcos and decided to buy a very early shell with the idea to build it up as an endurance race car. Together with mechanic Claude Plisson he did just so and the car was shaken down at Montlhery on 2 April, where the engine blew. A new engine was hastily installed and the little racer made it to the Le Mans test day on 4 April where the engine blew once again due to overheating, but where it never the less was fast enough to qualify for the race in June, too. In between it did another race at Monza on the 23rd of May, too!

At the Le Mans 24 hours race the car (start number 50, as on test day) was driven by French rally driver and racer Claude Ballot-Lena and Accesory shop owner and Mini racer Jean-Louis Marnat, who both set constant lap times in the dry. Jem Marsh, who was at the race too, said to Motor Sport magazine later: "I had nothing to do with the preparation of the car and was horrified when I saw it. I didn't think it would last a lap. I went back to the Motor hospitality unit convinced that it wouldn't finish, and did my best to distance myself from it." (...) "I don't know if this is true, but I heard that Alec Issigonis was appalled at this funny little egg-shaped Mini and went home. Anyway, at 3am the car was still going and by this time I'd had a bit to drink so I changed my tune completely, saying how great the Mini Marcos was. In the early morning it started raining heavily and one of the drivers was really erratic: his lap times were all over the place. Off I went to the pits to beg him to slow him down in order to ensure that he ran the distance..."

Fortunately the French drivers did that and finished just in time to become 15th overall, and only British car (of only three) to finish. According to Marsh they should have won the Motor Trophy for that, "But we had French drivers, so weren't eligible, apparantly." It is said that the French team had nearly failed to qualify as every entry had to do a certain percentage of the winning's car distance (this system disqualified Chris Lawrence's Deep Sanderson three years earlier - click here for the complete story) and the Mini Marcos had only just managed to do so when it slowed down. It made an average of 89.7mph (143.5 km/h) and did 258 laps in 24 hours. Enough to become perhaps world's most legendary Mini derivative, but perhaps its mysterious disappearance (see here) helped a bit to achieve that status, too.

The Mini Marcos Le Mans car is built up here in Hrubon's workshop in Levallois 

On their way to shake down in April 1966. Note small wheel arches and Hrubon works van

Fill 'er up s'il vous plait! Famous Mini Marcos racer in the Le Mans paddock

Opposition was overwhelming with no less than 15 Fords and 14 Ferraris
Picture: l'Automobile

Mini Marcos did well between much bigger machines. It qualified 55th to finish 15th

The most famous of all Mini derivatives in the most famous of all bends?

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Bitten by the Bison (4)

Don't think our handy man 'Buffalo Bill' has been drooling around lately. In fact, he has finally found a rare set of rear tyres for the Mini Lamborghini: the CJC Bison. He writes: "The back wheels and tyres look great, I just need to save up for some front tyres now. Note the polished edge on the rims, it took ages but makes the wheels look great! Also, bought a spray to try and touch in some of the worse areas - most I am going to leave - patina ain't it? I filled and painted the little bumper and it is a perfect colour match - Alfa Rosso red. I have also started trimming the dash, but rain stopped play."

Chunky tyres suit wide arches well. Note craftsmanship on polished edges!

The thread may look simple, but Avon rear tyres (245/50/13!) are not cheap 


Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Bulanti owner calls in

Wow! This is what I have set up this blog for. Kevin Boole, who sent me his lovely Bulanti story (see here) e-mailed me earlier today, writing: "It is amazing what the world wide web can do to aid research", only to receive another message from Australia two hours later that threw a new light on the case.

This time it came from Henry Draper. Henry wrote: "Hi Jeroen, I have just looked at your blog re Bulantis. I am the owner of two of them and also some body moulds. I have had the original alloy bodied one for a few years. It is the one shown in the youtube hillclimb shots (as here). I have never had that one running, it needs some work but is complete. The other I have only bought recently from Sydney. Unfortunately I got very little history with it as the owner was in a nursing home with Alzheimer and his wife and son could not tell me a lot. It did come with a spare Cooper S motor and a turbo set-up which perhaps indicates it is the car in your blog. It is painted purple now though! I did get this one running and have driven it a few hundred yards but no brakes and it had been unused for some time so it also needs some TLC."

"I don’t know when this will happen as there is quite a list of projects here. I have just bought a JCW Mini Challenge race car to play with (and a written off one for spares) and I also have 1964 Morris Cooper S historic racer, 1961 Morris Mini Minor tarmac rally car, Mini Marcos, Ex works (maybe) rally car and a brand new 1978 mini Pick-up shell - never used. When the weather is better down here and I have time I might be able to get the Bulantis out and take some pics for you if you are interested."

You bet I am! Thanks Henry, and Kevin once again!

One more historic picture of the Bulanti prototype. New pics are 
hopefully to follow from current owner Henry Draper

New derivative is a cross breed

It's not every day that a brand new Mini derivative is offered for sale, so when that does happen it surely deserves attention here. Well, there we go. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the Sprint GT by ABS Motorsport of Market Rasen. No, it's not a resurrected MiniSprint and neither a reborn Broadspeed GT. According to ABS "This Sprint GT GRP bodyshell is a sleek interpretation based on a mix of the MiniSprints and the Broadspeed GTs from the 1960's and 70's."
But you'd be foulish not to spot the real basis used for the new Sprint GT: it is the Peel Viking Minisport as designed by Peel Engineering on the Isle of Man in the mid 1960s. ABS started offering repro Viking shells some time ago, but very few were made. Perhaps it could do better with a new nose and a new name? The original Peel Viking Minisport's front section was swapped for that of a Mini Minus (not a MiniSprint), and there you have the basis for a Sprint GT. 

The GRP shell is bonded and laminated at the seams and has reinforcement around the subrame and component mounts. For 3,995 pounds you can buy one with doors (they are shorter than the standard Mini's doors), but it comes without a roll cage, which ABS advise you to fit. Click here to order yours.
Personally, I would prefer a repro Peel Viking MiniSport over a ABS Sprint GT, and in fact ABS is not the only company selling that. Andrew Carter of Nottingham, who took over the original Manx moulds in 2002 can build you one, too, for 3,685 pounds. Click here for more. What would you do?

A repro Peel Viking Minisport shell (left) is turned into the ABS Motorsport Sprint GT (right)

Original Peel Viking nose (left) is swapped for that of a repro Mini Minus (right) to form Sprint GT 

Monday, 20 June 2011

The tale of 'Bull Ant' the Bulanti

Over to Australia, from where news from one of only three built Bulantis has come to the light. Thanks to Kevin Boole, who read my request for information here, and sent in a great story and wonderful pics to tell me that the third car was registered 'CMI-495' and sold new to his friend Graham Jones, who sadly passed away in 2002. According to Kevin, who acted as a passenger regularly, the bright green Bulanti was a rather frightening machine despite its tiny size. This is the great story that he wrote, illustrated with some of the pictures he sent:

"Graham first came across Brain Rawlings and his garage at the entrance to Amaroo Park Raceway in 1970, a motor race track in the suburbs, north-west of Sydney, NSW, Australia. We were all mini owners, having just left school and now earning money. We had a variety of Mini models ranging from a Mini 850 sedan and panel van, Moke, 997 Mini Cooper, 998 Mini deluxe and 1275 Cooper S models filling the garages and street. We were intrigued by the Clubman's that Brian was building and one time we stopped to look at a new Chocolate car which he called a Bulanti. This car was registered BAL-551 for road use and based on the Mini. This one was also raced, setting quite quick lap times around the 1 minute mark at Amaroo Park."

'BAL 551', the aluminium bodied Bulanti prototype was used on both road and track

"I do believe that this car eventually was damaged in an accident, but most likely would have been repaired. One of our associates Graham Jones decided from the outset that he would like to buy one of these cars and so set in place the process to buy one. Graham had only recently purchased an ex NSW Police highway patrol Mini Cooper S, which was always the fastest of all our street cars. But Graham, not satisfied, always wanted to go faster. The Bulanti was the vehicle for that. He traded his Cooper S plus extra money to become the proud owner of one 'Kermit Green' Bulanti which was given the name Bull Ant or The Frog because of its bright green and frog like appearance. I can’t remember if Graham was given a choice of colours as the third Bulanti was bright red. The colour for these two cars was inside the fibreglass gel coat, as opposed to the first aluminium car that was painted."

Graham Jones's bright green Bulanti became known as 'Bull Ant' or 'The Frog' 

That's Graham with his then-new Bulanti to give an impression of the car's size 

"You will note in some photos the Bulant Motors Logo that was place on the vehicles on the nose, steering wheel and wheel centres. This was Brian’s logo that was on his business and work van which is also in one photo. Graham’s garage was large enough for 3 to 4 cars and the Bulanti took pride of place, with his parent’s car often relegated to the street. Over many nights and weekend the car was fitted out with its mechanicals and things to make it worthy of registration. Much unregistered testing on the roads occurred on those late nights."

Graham discussing the car at Brian Rawlings'. Note superb Bulant Motors works van in background

"The only failing of the car was that Graham always wanted something more powerful than anybody else. The motor was bored out from 1275 to 1310 with dynamic balanced components and high compression head and a lumpy camshaft. Graham did not realise that a standard motor in such a light car would have been probably just as effective and more reliable. But the car performed extremely well on the road when it was being reliable. A bit of a firm ride and no suspension travel was overlooked as it manoeuvred in and out of traffic. The engine did have overheating problems but the addition of a front mounted almost horizontal radiator with electric fans overcame this problem. Reliability became a problem and Graham was always tinkering on something, especially the twin carburettors, to make it just right. As a passenger it could be quite frightening sometimes. Quick acceleration combined with low seating height, can made occupants feel vulnerable to other taller road users."

All very seventies: rear slats, matt black rear end plus colour codes wheel centres

"As we all moved away from minis and bought newer larger cars, Graham still held on to the Bulanti, but more as a second vehicle. His last effort to make the car even faster was to fit a turbocharger that was smuggled back in from the USA by one of us for Graham. This made the Bulanti quite potent on the road. It must be noted that Graham was quite often pulled over by the police just to look at the car and possibly issue some warnings as to speeding or excessive lane changing. The car languished in the garage from then on. After getting married, children, family life and cycling took preference. The Bulanti was eventually sold via a local newspaper advertisements and went locally to another owner in the 1980’s. The Kermit Green Bulanti has not been seen since then. One of the cars is still supposed to be in Melbourne with the moulds, but I was never able to make contact with anyone knowing anything about the Bulanti at the business mentioned."

Holes in the rear end dissappeared on 'production cars'. Engine was difficult to reach

The simple lay-out of the dashboard. Note wide sills, making interior even tinier

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Derivatives meet in Switzerland

Every year Mini owners gather around for the IMM: the International Mini Meeting that took place this year in Switzerland. I wasn't there last weekend, but collected some pictures from the web of the Mini derivatives that did make it to the event. Question is: where were the Swiss Stimsons?

You may recognize Aurelien Bini's lovely Mini Jem Mk2 from my book

The Gulf paint scheme remains popular. Here on a German Mk4 Mini Marcos

And another Mini Marcos Mk4 from Germany that made it to Switzerland

How about yellow with green on a Mini Marcos Mk3? It is from Switzerland

Clean lines, no opening tailgate. I would say this is a very desirable Marcos 

A nice Domino Pimlico on a sunny day. Why not open the roof top?

That's better. This Mini Mk2 seems nicely converted. A Crayford perhaps?

Not just a short Moke, this is a French Schmitt. Perfect for a hot day in Saint-Tropez 

Ideal for Swiss mountain roads? A Scamp Mk2 with picknick place at the rear

Monday, 13 June 2011

Minis at Le Mans: 1964


So Le Mans 2011 is finished with another Audi win. Not particularly exciting isn't it? Let's have a look at the French endurance race of 1964 when adventure rather then money ruled at the La Sarthe circuit. We have seen that 1963 brought plenty of troubles for the little Deep Sanderson team (click here if not), but Christopher Lawrence and his team were detemined to return the next year, and did just that. For 1964 there appear to have been cars with number 40, 42 and 66, but in fact the first one was the car that was entered for and driven by Lawrence on the Le Mans test day in April, where it did well. For the actual race on June 22, two cars were entered and they were both equiped with Downton tuned 1295cc engines that were finished much too late and had to be installed hastily just days before the race was to start in France.

One of them was to be driven by Lawrence himself with Morgan racer Hugh Braithwaite (No.42) and the other by Christopher Spender and Eamon 'Jim' Donnelly (No.66) with Gordon Spice as back-up for both cars. But things did not go to plan when Braithwaite gave up after only having driven the car in practise. Gordon Spice wrote: "The professional (Braithwaite-JB) did precisely one and a half laps, declared his passion for life greater than his love for Deep Sandersons, packed his bags and went home!" And that was not all. Disaster struck when Donnelly crashed the No.66 car in the evening preceeding the start.

Lawrence, about the practise in his autobiography: "It took me three pit stops before I was happy to hand the car over to my co-driver, Gordon Spice. I then made an understandable but never the less serious mistake. I called Jim Donnelly in so that I could re-set his engine to the same state as mine and sent him off again. With his engine now really pulling and the 1295cc's extra torque very much in evidence, the car's acceleration away from Arnage was truly sensational which resulted in Jim arriving at Whitehouse about 75mph (120kph) faster than on any previous occasion. Whitehouse, for us, if you got it dead right, was just about flat but on this, his first attampt, Jim did not get it quite right enough, and he went off the road and totalled the car. He himself was fine."

That left the Deep Sanderson team with just one car that was hardly run in properly. It was now decided that Lawrence and Spice should race the No.42 car. Gordon Spice, who made a great racing career, said many years later: "Forget about testing it before the race, we all knew that straight out of the box we had a winner on our hands. Just to be sure, however, I was voted to shake the new car down on the drive from Le Havre to Le Mans, followed by the rest of the team in a Mk VII Jaguar with trailer and spares. After the second spin, caused by pretty basic suspension problems (so I claimed), it was decided to pick up the pieces and put the car back on the trailer. The three-lined French roads were no place for our Le Mans contender! (...)" "Talk about luck. Here I was at the tender age of 24 with all of a dozen or so club races behind me, now with a confirmed drive at Le Mans in a class winning car! We managed to qualify the car during the last session of the second day's practise. And then the great day arrived. However, my joy turned to despair when, less then an hour into the race, Chris brought the car into the pits with a blown head gasket and out of water. I thought it was the end of the world: how little I knew about endurance racing!"

Lawrence writes in his autobiography that it took him longer than that: "About five or six minutes into my third hour - we could still do four hours - the water temperature, which had been dead steady on 88 degrees Celsius started to rise and quickly went off the clock, clearly caused by a blown head gasket, so I limped back to the pit. With over an hour and a half before we could put any more water in it, even if we had changed the head gasket, we were effectively out of the race. Altogether a pretty dismal eight days."

Le Mans test day on 19 April 1964: Chris Lawrence and his own car wearing No.40

No.40 Deep Sanderson in the pit street on test day. Despite rain the car behaved well

At the straight speeds were said to be even higher then in '63 due to bigger engine

Le Mans 24 hours 1964: No.66 on the weighbridge, it now came with 1295cc engine tuned
 by Downton but delivered far too late and thus not run in 
Picture: Beroul

And its sister car at the same day: Deep Sanderson No.42, to be driven by Lawrence and Spice
after racing driver Hugh Braithwaite had given up after a lap and a half

Disaster strikes when Donnelly crashes Deep Sanderson No.66 in the night preceding the race
in Whitehouse corner. Note aluminium body work: this is no fibreglass

Fortunately No.42 does make it to the start. Note next to tiny Deep Sanderson the big
Shelby Cobra coupe that came in fourth overall. David and Goliath? 

Le Mans, 22 June 1964, 16:00 hours. Lawrence runs towards his car. It did not finish
Picture: HagertyKnowsClassics