Friday, 30 March 2012

A rare Radford Traveller

Interesting cars keep on coming up lately. How about this one: an ultra rare Radford Mini Traveller? A couple of weeks ago I received a message from classic car dealer extraordinaire Adrian Hamilton, who wrote: "Dear Jeroen, I am sorry to bother you and I write at the suggestion of Mick Walsh at Classic and Sports Car Magazine here in the UK to ask if you could possibly help me in researching the history of a very rare Mini Countryman that I have recently bought. I just wondered if anybody has any Harold Radford records as to when it was built and to whom it was supplied to when new?" Attached with the message were pictures of a left hand drive car, registered in France since 2001 on Paris plates with date of build shown as 1/1/1967.

I decided to phone my friend Ray Innes who'd been working with Radford's in the 1960s to see if he remembered it. Ray told me he does remember they did some Countrymans/Travellers but unfortunately couldn't tell more then that. He mentioned that Radford's opened in branche in Luton, probably in 1965, where he was transfered to as his daily commute from Cambridgeshire to London didn't amuse him all too much. I then spoke to Naoki Ishizuka, who owns a similar car in Japan but couldn't tell more. And the same went for Nick Rogers, who restored Naoki's car. And French Mini authority Enguerand Lecesne either didn't know it... I nearly gave up.

But then I thought my last chance could be Steve Burkinshaw who has had several Radfords. Steve was the man I should have rung right from the beginning. He said he probably knew the car, thinking it has been in France most of its life. He believes it was light grey previously and was then registered '137 PW 39'. That last number indicates it was in the Jura departement in East France. According to Steve it was registered in the name 'Bonnet'. Steve also confirmed there are no records for the Radford Minis known, but said that, together with this car, he knows of 5 Radford Mini Travellers, and believes there may have been some 10 in total.

Still, that doesn't really crack this car's origins, undoubtly interesting. I am sure somebody else will be able to tell more about it though. Or to speak in Adrian Hamilton's words: "As to its history – there may well lye an interesting story deep down… only time will tell..!"

Radford Mini Traveller is rare. This lhd one must have been built in 1966
Picture courtesy Adrian Hamilton

It is registered in France, but unfortunately not much of its history is known
Picture courtesy Adrian Hamilton

For a Traveller the interior is rather splendid. Bespoke seats and dash; leather, wool, wood
Picture courtesy Adrian Hamilton

Who recognises these arm rests, unique to this Radford? Are they Jaguar perhaps?
Picture courtesy Adrian Hamilton

Typically rich on instruments. Note wiring to doors and dash switch for electric roof
Picture courtesy Adrian Hamilton

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Lost Maya GT found

Avid readers of this blog may remember this post (click) about a mystery Maya GT that was last seen in a field in Ashford, Kent in 2007. Back then it was offered for sale for 500 pounds to Simon Coleman who found that just a bit too much for what it was. Question was if it did get sold in the end or got scrapped perhaps, Simon couldn't tell. Fact was that it disappeared from the field shortly after he photographed it with no further information known whatsoever.

Well, the good news is that the car is still alive in Ashford. It was offered once again, this time to Josh Willis who lives in that same place and who wrote: "A chap from just 'round the corner came into the workshop today and said he's got a Mini Maya in his garage he wants to sell, and was I interested? Obviously I thought he meant a Mayfair but he swears he doesn't. He reckons it's some mini based creation like a Midas, Marcos et cetera. I'd never heard of it."

Unfortunately the GT hasn't become any better in the 5 years that have passed as it only seems to have been moved from the open field to another corner in another field. The rear screen (hinged at the top or so it seems) is still cracked, the screens are left open. As noted before it appears to have been red in colour before, but at least now that I know its registration - PAP 14F - I can tell this is not one of the other 9 Cambers/Mayas described on these pages (see Camber/Maya Files here). Josh is eager to buy the car now - if the price is right. If he doesn't someone else around here may be interested to do so?

Lost Maya GT was last spotted in 2007. Although very rough, it is still alive
Picture courtesy Josh Willis

Rear screen is hinged - and cracked. Registration is unknown to DVLA database
Picture courtesy Josh Willis

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Mystery Mini derivative (20)

The 20th Mystyery Mini derivative to appear on these pages comes from France. Its picture was posted a couple of days back at www.auto-forum.com (click here) with very little information. It was snapped at the Course de côte de Saint-Antonin - that's the Saint-Antonin hill climb - probably in 1972 or 1973. And that's about it. Although it is not even confirmed to be Mini powered, the wheels certainly look like 10 inchers and the photographer does remember it having a Mini mill. Fair enough. The engine is clearly placed at the rear with the radiator probably under its nose (I think that's a radiator cap there). French Mini historian Enguerrand Lecesne adds that the body could have been made by a little firm named SIB, but isn't sure. Apart from IGOL sponsoring (a French lubrificants manufacturer) there is a 'Triplex' sign on the nose section. Could that be this barquette's make? Laissez-moi savoir!

UPDATE 27 August 2012: things are getting more mysterious! Click here

Barquette, snapped at Saint-Antonin in the early 1970s, is said to be Mini based
Hat tip to Enguerreand Lecesne

Thursday, 22 March 2012

At Techno Classica 2012

Yes, I was in Essen earlier this week to stroll through halls and halls full of classics at Techno Classica. Plenty of Mercs and Porsches there but fortunately MINI (by BMW) brought out a fabulous foursome of Mini derivatives (or actually three plus a Metro based Midas). I think they like linking them to their new Mini Coupe which makes no sense to me, but at least it was good to see them. I believe two of the four cars are based in Germany and the other two in The Netherlands. Together with France these seems to become more and more lively places for fans of Mini based stuff. On the other hand I didn't see any others at the show boasting no less then 1,200 stands and over 2,500 classic cars, or did I miss out on them..?

Well known 1996 Marspeed GTO remains one gorgeous car. More about it here
Picture Jeroen Booij

This GTM Coupe seemed very well built. But why those 15" tractor wheels?
Picture Jeroen Booij

Drop top Midas Gold was lovely, but is based on the Metro rather then the Mini
Picture Jeroen Booij

Mini Marcos Mk4 is a regular at shows and events. Spotted here last summer
Picture Jeroen Booij

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

The Perishers Siva Buggy

There aren't too many cars related to comic strips. Okay, there's the well worn Batmobile and perhaps Scooby Doo's Mystery Machine, but that's all I can think of. Hang on, anyone out there who remembers The Perishers? A British comic strip appearing in the Daily Mirror from 1959 to 2005? Well, I just found that its creator Maurice Dodd, used to drive a... Siva Buggy! The car is said to have been Cooper 'S' powered and was decorated with the characters of the comic strip: Marlon, Wellington, Maisie, Baby Grumpling and Boot the dog. According to the 1975 magazine article that I found mister Dodd "finds that the strip has a habit of taking over his life, leading to the acquisition of a Boot-type dog which bites visitors and a buggy which features front and rear rollbars. The buggy may be a spin-off from the Perishers, but the rollbars and belts come from Mr. Dodds involvement as an advertisement copywriter on the government's 'Clunk click' campaign (clunk click here)." A groovy machine, isn't it? And, yes, I too wonder what happened to the car.

Maurice Dodd and his dog Bob in the Cooper 'S' powered Siva Buggy
Picture courtesy Custom Car magazine

PS: Like a Perishers buggy of your own? Then build a Siva Buggy just like Maurice Dodd's. Take a look at the marketplace section of this blog where there's a project car for sale now. Pretty rare with 94 kits sold. Click on the 'Maximum Mini Market' sign on the right hand side, or simply here

Monday, 19 March 2012

More on Nota Mini

Last weekend I received more information about the Nota Mini in the form of a newspaper clipping of January 1964. So now I can tell the car that's raced at Warwick Farm on the pictures of last week's 'Urban Legend' are of a man named Ward Wilson who bought mister Buckingham's prototype. The clipping unveils many of the car's specification: "Australian motor sport enthusiasts have been crying for a cheap and economical sports car to run in this rapidly expanding category and it was left to Nota to turn out the prototype and get things going. (...) The Nota-Mini is a revolutionary car as far as Australia is concerned as it features a rear mounted Morris 850 layout and also it is the only car featuring this type of installation in Australia. (...) The 'Down-Under Deep Sanderson' is revolutionary in many respects and features a rear mounted Morris 850 motor/transmission layout which has been tilted forward on a slight angle, fitted with a Weber twin choke carb. and bored out to 948cc. These modifications gave a 8bhp boost in performance."

"The side-mounted Morris 850 radiator has been discarded and replaced by a cross-flow unit mounted in the nose  and water travels via flexible piping from nose to tail. (...) At present gear changes are performed by a long lever protruding from the engine compartment, but future models will have a linkage allowing the gear change to be made from the right-hand side of the cockpit with a short lever. A bid is at present underway to obtain a Cooper-Mini S type transmission unit which should give the car 'wings'.
The front suspension mainly uses Triumph Herald components, whilst the rear suspension is identical to the original vehicle, with Sprite steering. A far better appearance has been obtained by fitting Sprite 13 x 5.00 wheels, future models will also have Sprite disc brakes to improve the braking performance.
Guy Buckingham is aware that the rapidly assembled prototype is by no means the best-looking car on the market and he hopes to taper the nose and cowl in the headlights to give an appearance similar to the Lotus 19 sports car."

"A fully assembled Nota-Mini with a Morris 850 layout costs approximately £1,100 (Australian). A Cooper-Mini layout would add another £A100 but has the advantage of offering disc brakes on the rear wheels. By supplying your own mechanical components the cost is substantially reduced. The other option is to purchase the chassis/body components and complete the care yourself.
The Nota-Mini is an excellent and most economical way of entering into sports car racing, specially oif one can lay hands on a wrecked Mini-car. Good tuners should be capable of making the car really fly and if it is steadily decveloped it could be a class winner."

Now that's some information. I wonder if any more were sold? And how about this car, the 'Down-Under Deep Sanderson' prototype, then-owned by mister Ward Wilson - does it still exist?

Future Nota-Minis were supposed to look like Lotus' type 19 (top)
But did these ever see the light of day?

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Urban Legend 3: the Nota Mini

After two British Mini derivatives that remain unfound, adding only to their legendary status (the Butterfield Musketeer - see here, and the Lawther GT - see here), let's go Down Under for my Urban Legend number three. It's the Nota Mini that deserves a bit of attention here. You don't know it? Not so strange as only one is likely to have been emerged, although one source mentions that two of these open two-seaters were built. This took place  late 1962/early 1963, making it defintely one of the very first Mini derivatives with the power plant places behind the seats. Only the Deep Sanderson prototype, dating back to late 1962 too, used a similar lay-out.

Anyway: the aluminium bodied Nota Mini was designed and built by Guy Buckingham who'd moved from the UK to Australia in 1952, to settle in Parramatta just outside Sydney and even closer to Warwick Farm racecourse. Buckingham started focussing on building race cars and came up with various racing and hill climbing specials, mostly one-offs. One of these came to life with a Mini-engine, reputedly from a crashed Cooper, and was used extensively for racing. The car eventually lead to the Nota Fang (or Nota Type 4) in the late 1960s, which became Nota's biggest succes with over a hundred units built between 1968 and 1975. What happened to its forebear remains unknown, though, like its technical specification that is mostly shrouded in mystery other then that it was Mini powered. From the three pictures that I have it seems the ultra low car uses non-Mini wheels (12"?). I wonder if it may still be tucked away in a shed somewhere out in that huge country..?

UPDATE 19 March 2012: click here.

Rare picture of the Nota Mini, seen here at Warwick Farm's Causeway corner
Picture courtesy Sports Car World

Same race, same corner, but now from a slightly different angle. Who's at the wheel?
Picture courtesy Australian Motor Sports & Automobiles

Guy Buckingham's Nota Mini was one of the earliest rwd Mini derivatives
Picture courtesy Australian Motor Sports & Automobiles

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Mini Marcos Mk1 for sale

Let's continue the Mk1 Mini Marcos theme for another while. This time with a car that's for sale in southern Germany. Slightly over priced perhaps, but then try and find another Mk1 in this sort of condition. It seems to be just completed and ready to race. Perhaps your ticket to Le Mans Classic? Click here for the ad.

Proper Mini Marcos Mk1 for sale in Germany, said to be chassis# 6032

Engine bay (1293cc, supposedly good for 115hp) looks as good as exterior.

Most of original dash is maintained but the theme is a sober racy style

Monday, 12 March 2012

Misinterpreting Don Parker's Nimbus special

When you have my book you will have read the story of the Nimbus special that was built up with a Mini Cooper engine from a prototype sports car by a man named Don Parker in 1965. When writing it I remember well having had some troubles in finding out about the car's chequered history. In fact the Don Parker special was one of the few cars of which I wasn't all too sure about its story. And when researching it, all the information that I could lay my hands on came from people who were not directly involved with the thing. But then the book had to be finished and I had to rely on something. Anyhow, it is with some shame that I received an email message last week, putting some of it right. The message came from Mike Hentall, and I did mention him in the book as Parker's son in law and later owner of the car who'd moved to Portugal in the 1980s taking the car with him.

Mike wrote: "I am Don Parker's brother in law (not son in law) and helped in its construction, and competed with it for 5 years, so am in the best position to put the matter straight. The Nimbus started life in South Africa as a special with a Riley engine in the 50s built by my brother in law, Don Parker, and came to UK in 1957 just as a rolling chassis when he returned here to live. The most important point to note here is that you have ascribed Nimbus to the wrong Don Parker!! The one you write of, and picture in your book, was (he died some years ago) a Battersea garage owner who was the 500cc (Formula III) champion in the 1950s, and a very fine driver. This Don Parker who built Nimbus was a man of private means whose great hobby was building specials and racing them entirely as an amateur (he had the money to do so). He is a genius with his hands, having been in his time a fine sculptor, painter, stonemason, welder and panelbeater. He is still alive at 92 and must be one of the few WW2 tail gunners left to tell the tale today."

"Nimbus did start her career in UK as an 1172 Ford Special driven through a Norton gearbox and chain to a solid rear axle. To say it was a handful is the understatement of the year! The body as you show it is, as you say, the same body as was sold as the GSM Dart built by Willi Meissner and Bob van Nierkek in Kent assisted by me and (to a much greater extent) by Donald. He bought (or was given for his help) the first, not quite successful, pull from the mould and that went on the 1172 special which was such a murderous handler. It was about 1965 that Don completely rebuilt it with the Mini Cooper engine in the back mated to a Shorrocks blower which he ran until 1979 when it was passed to me. I ran it in 1980s events but the blower kept shedding rotor blades and in 1981 I changed it for a truck supercharger with a vastly increased capacity. We were running her on a 10.5:1 comp. ratio and blowing at 12lbs. per sq.in. In this form she was producing about 155 bhp and weighed 450 kgs. Even running on pure methanol we were going through pistons every other meeting,but when we could hold her together we collected our share of awards at Prescott and Shelsley in the 'Golden Oldies' Class. I had to give up competition in 1985 and when I moved to Portugal in 1988 I took her with me, meaning to give her a much needed rebuild, but I never got round to it and she was sent back to UK to be sold in about 2002, After that I do not know what happened to her. I wish I had her now!"
Well well. Although merciful about the error, that does fill in the gaps properly. Thank you very much Mike, and my appologies once again for the mistakes.


The Don Parker Nimbus special in its original configuration

And the car in 'as found' condition, discovered by your's truly

Some years later it was light blue and came with wide wheels...

Current owner changed that again to bright red. Here at Goodwood
Picture courtesy www.bryanpurves.co.uk

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Landars at speed

It's not long anymore before our cheriched little cars will make it to road and track once again. I'm not sure if there are any Landars (R6s or R7s) left in the UK or in Europe, as most seem to have found their way to the US and Japan. Reason the more to show you some images here of a few Landar R6s in their natural habitat: the racing track. More here. And here.

Tim Dyke's Broadspeed tuned Landar R6 tackling Barbot hill climb in 1968
Picture courtesy Tim Dyke

An unknown Landar R6 at an unknown event. Great shot though
Picture courtesy Kazuo Maruyama, source unknown

This is the aluminium bodied R6 prototype being tested at Silverstone
Picture courtesy Tom Northey

Another R6, this time in the USA in the late 1960s
Source unknown

All I know about this Landar is that it raced Prescott Hill here
Picture courtesy Autosport magazine


Monday, 5 March 2012

Mystery Mini derivative (19)

Hey-ho, let's solve another mystery. This good looking '66 Mini based thingy is not a Buckle Monaco, nor is it one of Des Higgins' 'Ecurie de Dez 2+2's. Unlike these two it does have a big hatchback, as you may have notived from this somewhat blurry image. Funnily, it does share its country of origin with the Monaco and Ecurie the Dez as it was built Down Under too! Eagle eyed readers may have noticed this from the quarterlights, typical for Aussi Minis. In actual fact I know a tiny little bit extra about it (not a name though), but thought it would be nice to give you guys a try first. So there we go again: who knows more about this Mini derivative on show?

Is it a Mini coupe or a Mini hatchback? It is Australian, that's for sure

Thursday, 1 March 2012

The Monkees' Mini

You may have noticed that David Jones, lead singer of the American pop group 'The Monkees' passed away sadly yesterday. Like many stars of the swinging sixties, Jones had a soft spot for cars, owning plenty exotics. But it was fellow Monkee Michael Nesmith who commissioned Radford to build one very special Mini when on tour in the UK in 1967. The car was based on a new Austin Cooper 'S' and came in Sable (chocolate brown) with gold coach lines and a beige leather and Wilton wool interior. The laminated windows were tinted in double Shadowlight so that not much of that inside could be seen, though, including the quarterlights and electronically operated side screens. Apart from serious soundproofing Radford's also incorporated a 'flow-through' ventilation system with extra vents throughout the interior. To further reduce noise the standard radiator fan was replaced with a thermostatically controlled electric fan.

The dashboard, with Radford’s name laid into its veneer, was made to Mike's specific wishes and included a Halda speed pilot and no less then 25 independent switches with warning lights to almost every switch, even one to see if the doors have closed properly. Apart from a VHF radio, the stereo tape playing system was specially designed to feed through six speakers placed througout the interior. The bonnet was modified for better ventilation of the 1275cct power unit, tuned by Taurus and said to deliver 100bhp while being as silent as a Rolls-Royce. Zero to 60 mph could be achieved in 7secs round, 90mph took just 20secs. According to some sources it was the most expensive Mini Cooper ever built, costing Mike just under £4,000.

Modern Motor magazine's correspondant wrote in 1967: "When I saw the Mini before Mike took it over, Mike still had a few of his own gimmicks to add. Back in the States he will fit a special radio-telephone system which will not only open the gates of his three-acre estate, but do a countless number of other jobs. Within a 20-mile radius of his homestead, Mike will be able to press a button (for his wife Phyllis presumably, or the family cook and chief bottle washer) and have the stove turned on to cook a late meal. If he wants his dog to meet him at the gate, he will just flick another switch and the dog’s kennel will open. Now that, I reckon, is something."
I would definitely say so, too. But you know what I am thinking of: what on earth did ever happen to this very desirable Mini? Could Mike still have it, some 45 years after taking delivery?

Mike Nesmith and his then-wife Phyllis with the Taurus tuned Radford Mini
Picture courtesy Gene Trindl

At £4,000 this car was said to be the most expensive Mini ever built in 1967
Picture courtesy Viewimages

Delivery of the car was made into a press event in a London hotel on July 3, 1967
Picture courtesy Mirrorpix

Daydream believer... Note serious sound proofing and the lack of a radiator fan!
Picture courtesy Viewimages

Dashboard, mostly designed by Nesmith, was said to inspire Radford Mini-de-Ville
Picture courtesy Modern Motor

Ha! What's there not to like? But where on earth is this car now?

Picture courtesy Getty images