Monday, 25 June 2012

Maya and Marcos now recovered

I'm really glad to announce that more and more Mini derivatives find their way through this blog. Take this Maya GT for example. It's been a while since Josh Willis called in to tell he'd found it in rural Kent, but he now finally managed to pick the car up from its muddy surroundings. He wrote: "Hi Jeroen, I finally picked the Maya up this morning. I think it is in a lot better condition than it looks. There are so many thick layers of paint on there that are all flaking off, but underneath the fibreglass seems pretty good. Now, I just need to get DVLA to come and inspect it as the vin plate is unreadable. They didn't seem to think it would be a problem to keep the registration (which is PAP 19F). If it doesn't keep the original number it should go on an age related plate. Will keep you posted." Josh also said that he will probably sell the Maya but may be restoring it himself, first.

Then there's this Mk1 Mini Marcos (MAB 223D). When I heard about it first I was very much tempted to go and pick that up myself, but in the end decided it would be better off with a friend of this blog. He thought the same and collected it within a few days, and wrote: "Just a quick update to let you know I got the Mini Marcos collected yesterday and its now back with me inside a dry unit - needs a clean! It seems to be originally a light blue colour. I also noted a nice badge on the inner front wing which says Moulded by Hamblin of Sherbourne Dorset etc, which is nice to see. Original GT chassis plate is there undamaged and never removed. I have traced the date of first registration to first week in July 1966 and have found the original registration entry so should be able to keep its current number and get a V5c without too much hassle. It was registered in Malvern and was factory built. Interestingly only one wiper. I have a feeling this was used for motorsport but no other data yet. Thanks for your help with obtaining this. It is much appreciated - will keep you posted."
Very good, boys, do let those stories continue to come.

Maya GT is in a lot better condition than you would say, says reader
The engine that's in is an 850, which will most probably be swapped

The interior seems to be complete but is very dirty and damp too

Same goes for the Marcos. Original dash may be hidden behind there
Lovely (Restall?) bucket seats may be worth saving, thinks new owner

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Big in Japan

I'm sure you know that Mini based cars are popular in Japan and from the late-1980s on quite a few were exported to that side of the world. I even believe Nippon is the nation with the biggest number of Unipower GTs and Landar R6s - there are more of these over there then there are in the UK for sure! The thing is that the Japanese continu to surprise me. This week I was sent over a link with some pictures of a Japan based Unipower (Mk1 I think), photographed earlier in June; it was new to me. That would make it the 10th example in Japan that I know of. Or is it an existing car that was resprayed? The door handles (Morris Marina alert) suggest it is not. I think the names on the wing read 'Y Baba', 'K Komeyama' and 'Y Gomibushi' but if google translation serves me right there is also a Mr. Tomohiko involved. Who knows more about it?

Is this white knight the 10th known Unipower GT in Japan?  
Note extra air intakes, 13" wheels and non-original door handles

Meanwhile, Kent Garage, a Mini specialist in Shizuoka with a soft spot for Mini derivatives, decided to    get their old Mini Jem Mk2 going again to return to the track on the 22nd of August this year. It's been gathering dust for years so there's plenty of work to do, but I'm sure it will be a cracking little racer again.

Kent Garage's Mini Jem racer will return to the track in August
Picture courtesy www.kentgarage.co.jp

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Oglin' in London

You may remember this post about me wondering about the Ogle SX1000 that was featured in my book. Well, the car is alive and well in London, as I understand from it's current owner, Richard Gauntlett, who wrote a nice little update: "Dear Jeroen, I love your book and have a copy sitting proudly on the shelf at home! I just found your blog and I saw a post about my car and I thought I would update you. I bought the car from Geoff about 6 years ago and have used it very little sadly. (mostly in London). The car was invited to join the 50th anniversary parade at Goodwood Revival in 2009 and was driven on one of the days by Sir John Whitmore who was a director of the company as you know. It was the first time he had driven an Ogle since 1963 and he was full of stories which was most entertaining. I had a great weekend at Goodwood and had the most wonderful drive back to London, overtaking everything I could and drove my lovely little car to the limit with a huge smile on my face because a great friend of mine was following in my new 745 BMW and he confessed to me later that he was working very hard to keep up with me!"
"My little collection has been growing and in central London it is very difficult to find the time and space for many cars so my friend Graeme Hunt stored the car in his showroom for a couple of months and I told him that if someone was really interested then I might sell her. The Ogle is currently in London and still very much in my possession. I must confess that sadly she only gets driven a few times per year but the reaction in London is huge! Lots of smiling faces wherever we go." I am not surprised! Thank you Richard.

UPDATE 3 October 2012: The car is now up for auction. See here

Ogle SX1000 is perfect for zipping around town, but mind those double yellow lines

Friday, 15 June 2012

Amazing Le Mans moment

It's Le Mans this weekend again. Now, have a good look at these two pictures. Yes, that's our brave Mini Marcos that came home 15th overall in the 24-hour endurance race of 1966. As you can see it had to withstand lots of bigger, more powerful, more expensive and more professionally built machinery that year. In fact it can be seen here it between the brutal 4-litre V12 Ferrari 330 P3 Spider of the North American Racing Team and 7-litre V8 Ford GT40 of Hollman and Moody. Both of these did not finish. Contrary to the less-then-1,3-litre Mini Marcos, built on a shoestring by a couple of French enthusiasts.

Now, look again to see what I see. Aren't these two pictures taken at the exact same moment from two different angles? I certainly believe so. Enjoy the weekend. To memorize our little number 50 and its bravest race, exactly 46 years ago now, simply click here.


Thursday, 14 June 2012

Yet another Mini Beach car variant!

You must have noticed that an awful lot has been written and said about the Mini Beach car lately. Not in the last place because the prototype was found in a scrap yard in Greece a while ago (exiting story here and here). The daunting restoration of that car will actually be finished one of these days, so keep an eye on these pages. But I'm sure you will agree it was least as nice to find out that Mini Beach cars weren't limited to the not-too-sunny UK. There was an Italian Innocenti based variant, too. And again you could read all about these cars here (click!), including the discovery of a fourth example of this rare car in the USA (here). I hope I do not over exite you with these findings.

Hold on, 'cause were not there yet. Now that Summer is approaching it is about time to unveil a third variant of the Mini Beach Car. Not from Longbridge, not from Milan, this time it comes from... Spain. Oh yes. Over there in Gavà - right on the Catalan coast and just miles from Barcelona - a coachbuilding company named Arco Iris Autos built it. Reader Xavi Enrich, who lives in Catalunya himself, made me aware of one such car when it was offered for sale a couple of months ago. He says he knew of another purple coloured example that had been on display in the show room of a Barcelona driving school for years, too. It seems that the one shown here at least was based on an Authi Mini 1000, built in Pamplona, Spain. But apart from that Spanish base, the conversion too is very different from its British and Italian siblings. There's a roll bar rather then a roof, there's no wicker inside and the door openings are round and have been welded shut with wide metal strips. They do have ropes to keep passengers from falling out, though, archetypical for a Beach car. Crude you say? According to Xavi the finish was actually very good.

Oh, it is said to have been built in 1975. Would I like to learn more about these Spanish Beach cars? Of course I would. Now, vamos a la playa!

Spanish built Beach car is based on Authi Mini, made under BMC's licence in Spain
Picture courtesy www.segundamano.es

Round door openings, a roll bar and signature rope to keep passengers in. But no wicker
Picture courtesy www.segundamano.es

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Mystery Mini derivative (23)

From utilities over to sports racers. Mini based sports racers, mind you. This mysterious example was found in the US a couple of years ago with no one knowing what its background could be. One thing was certain though: there was a Mini engine lurking behind the seat, driving the rear wheels through long drive shafts. Question is whether it had been there originally, as it doesn't seem too well connected. On the other hand it does fit in the spaceframe chassis nicely and comes with an exhaust that seemed especially made for it. Who knows more about this intriguing American racing special?

Voloptuous and low bodywork reminds perhaps of Elva's early  racers? It is RHD
Wide wheels and fat tyres. Exhausts poking from rear must make it seriously noisy 
That's a Mini engine for sure, canted forwards like in the Landar R6 and R7 
Suspension at the rear uses double wishbones. Note long drive shafts

Monday, 11 June 2012

World's quirkiest go-anywhere vehicle is Mini based

The Mini Moke may originally have been intended as an all-purpose Army vehicle, but it was only when it washed ashore of tourist beaches that it became a hit. And it certainly wasn't alone there as umpteen Mini based and Moke inspired creatures followed (quite a few used names inspired by it, too. From the Mule to the Yak, from the Cub to the Mongrel). Okay. But most of these emphasized on the fun factor rather then on the utility side of things. Were there ever any real all-purpose Mini derivatives? Oh yes.

Meet the RTV, or Rough Terrain Vehicle. A most unusual Mini based go-anywhere thingy that was more capable of mudplugging then your average Camel Trophy Land Rover. The outrageous RTV was designed and built by Robert Mandry on his farm estate in Surrey. Yes, that's the same chap who did the Mini based Scamp there, too - clearly another funster. Anyway, apart from using a Mini engine (plus suspension, brakes and steering) the RTV was different then anything else. Not in the last place because of the 998cc 40bhp Mini engine with auto gearbox was placed amidships and longitudinally. And then with the drive shafts running front and rear, driving all four Weller wheels with massive Terra tyres through two Triumph Herald diffs. Good God! And that wasn't all. The thing came with a swiveling body, so that just about any surface could be tackled without any of the wheels coming off the ground. That's not just very clever. That is very cool, too.

There's a fantastic brochure of the RTV which shows some of the ways it can be used for. At one shot it is seen with a sorry-looking tractor in a ditch and the caption reads: "The mechanics of a Mini. The guts to rescue a bogged-down tractor." Another, showing the RTV with a muddy Range Rover: "The Range Rover ran out of juice, the horse-box trailed along behind, the RTV kept everything rolling on." My favourite one is of the RTV driving over what looks like the white cliffs of Dover, reading: "We could have used a helicopter to drop the RTV here. We decided on a gentle drive instead."
Not more then 30 RTVs are believed to have been built, although there could be less, too. I understand it even made it to BBC's Tomorrow's World programme, too, which would be nice to see. One RTV was advertised recently on eBay in Rochdale with a 3,000 pounds Buy it Now price. Despite living in the flattest country in the world, I should have bought it, really.

Wish I lived there. Then there would have been no excuse for buying an RTV
40 Degrees swiveling body was masterminded by Scamp instigator Robert Mandry
Picture courtesy Off Road and 4-Wheel Driver
The RTV was just under 3 metres long. The Mini engine is situated behind the cab 
This RTV was offered for sale in Rochdale recently. Who took it? Note rear axle
Picture courtesy eBay.com

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Utility derivatives galore

I don't know about you guys, but since I covered most of the Mini based sports cars in my first book I have developed a strange taste for utilities that used Mini mechanicals, and started tracking them down, too. Not easy! As I can tell by now there are plenty of these around. The Mini Moke spawned quite a few in the first place, but that's not all. Over the years there have been many others that were more individual, quirkier if you like. Most are simple, strong and sturdy and come in the shape of a motorised frame. And slowly but surely I am beginning to like them more and more. In fact you can still find lots of them around in any condition, from project to pristine. So why not make a selection of such cars that are currently offered for sale on the well known auction/advertisement sites? See below a Top 10 in alphabetical order. You just click on the links to see the advertisements. My pleasure. Oh, but don't forget to drop me a line when you buy one of them!

1. An AEM Scout (click here)
2. An Andersen Cub (click here)
3. An ASD Hobo (rare!) (click here)
4. An Autobarn Gecko (click here)
5. A Foers Nomad (click here)
6. A Hustler Six (click here)
7. A Kaig (okay, it's Metro powered) (click here)
8. A Scamp Mk2 (click here)
9. A Scamp Mk3 (click here)
10. A Whitby Warrior (unbuilt) (click here)

When was the last time you stumbled upon an Autobarn Gecko?
Picture courtesy ebay.co.uk
Kaig: motorised rollcage. It surely must have good power to weight ratio
Picture courtesy ebay.co.uk

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Minis at Le Mans (2012)

All the Mini derivatives that ever made it to the 24-hour race at Le Mans (or just about!) were described here in a series last year. This year three of these cars will make it to the Le Mans Classic on 16-18 July 2012. Two of these are Mk1 Mini Marcoses entered by French teams (just like the one in 1966), the first of them wears chassis number 9 and is being entered by Arnaud Pautigny and Jean Pierre Jabouille who is said to have co-driven the 1966 car (this one). With chassis number 6034 the other Mini Marcos is slightly later and will be driven by Jean-Pierre Manjard and legendary stunt driver Rémy Julienne, who catered for the stunts in the Italian Job and should know how to drive a Mini, I reckon! Third but not least is a Deep Sanderson 301. In fact it is the alloy bodied car that originally made it to the same track twice (and crashed in practice in '64 - see here). It's also the same car that was auctioned last year and is now enetered by a New Zealand/British team of Roger Wills and Joe Twyman. Intriguingly the car can be hired, too (click here). Perhaps something for Classic Le Mans 2014? Anyway: good luck gentlemen racers!

This Mk1 Mini Marcos will be driven by legendary stunt driver Rémy Julienne
Picture courtesy motorsport.com
While this one will have 1966 Le Mans veteran Jean-Pierre Jabouille at the wheel
Picture courtesy motorsport.com
A Deep Sanderson 301 (Number 9 here) is entered by Roger Wills and Joe Twyman
Picture courtesy ultimatecarpage.com