Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Season's greetings

Ho-ho-ho! Best Christmas wishes from here and looking forward to welcoming you in the new year. 2014 is going to be an exciting one with the first Mk1 Performance / Maximum Mini Track Day in May. That same spring my next book - Maximum Mini volume 2 - should come out, too.

For now: give this year's Christmas puzzle a try to win a rare William Towns signed press pack (click here). Also: if you have not yet voted for 'Best Find of 2013' do choose your favourite on the top right hand side of my blog. Have a jolly time!

The first Nimrod built conquers the Alps on its way to Transylvania in 1974
Picture courtesy Mike Jupp

Christmas puzzle 2013: Name the Frame

Time for tradition. We've had Christmas puzzles focussing on rear lights (here); head lights (here) and on 'Faces & Places', believed to be too difficult (here). The theme for this year is: Name the Frame. Is it easier? I think so. The idea is simple as always: you give the full name and model designation of the 25 cars that these chassis frames belong to and the first who has them all right wins a cool prize. This year that prize is an extremely rare press pack for the William Towns designed TXC Tracer of 1985. I have never seen another, and this one is signed by the late Towns himself, too. Send your answers via the comments below up until December 31 of this year. Good luck!

UPDATE 2 January 2014: Not easy, and only one player. Come on guys! Anyway, the frames are named and they are: 1: Coldwell GT, 2: Nimbus Don Parker Special, 3: Maya GT, 4: Landar R6, 5: Whitby Warrior, 6: Deep Sanderson 105, 7: Biota Mk1, 8: Greenwood 'sidecar', 9: Hustler 4, 10: TXC Tracer, 11: Gecko, 12: Status Minipower, 13: Siva Buggy, 14: ABS Freestyle, 15: Andersen Cub, 16: Unipower GT, 17: Ranger Cub, 18: Jiffy, 19: Boro GT, 20: Stimson Mini Bug, 21: Mean Sonora, 22: Onyx Tomcat, 23: Jackson Sportster, 24: Lolita Mk2, 25: Sauter Special.

Name the Frame - click for a bigger image

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Find of the Year - the 2013 nominees

Yep. It's time to introduce you to the nominees for the 'Best Find of 2013'. This year there were 8 cars suitable for a nomination - once again I picked out 5 of which I believed they are the best. Now it's up to you to decide which one wins the title. There's a poll on the right side of this blog and you just have to tick the box of your favourite find. The one with the most votes wins - it's simple as that. Now over to the candidates.

1. The Luna Bug. Mini derivatives hardly get more mysterious than this: a Stimson rip-off of which none would have believed it survived. It appeared in February this year only to vanish again short after its discovery. Speaking about mysteriousness… Click here for its story

2. The Japanese Unipower. Discovered in a derelict Japanese warehouse full of rare sports cars. The identity of this car is unknown to me and I would love to find out more about it. Two readers have made clear they have plans to go and see it. Click here for the story

3. The Mini Jaba. Found in a scrap yard in Spain this October, this could well be the car that was shown on the Barcelona Motor Show of 1971. The Jaba was meant as a neo-classic mimicking a 1930s car but based on the Mini. Will it be saved? Story of its discovery here

4. The Notts Nimrod. Not many Nimrods were built, and just a few are known to survive. This one, offered for sale in Nottinghamshire in January this year, was completely new to me. It looked nice and completely original, too, on its 1971 plates. Full story here

5. The American Elswick. You do not come across an Elswick Envoy very often, but how about one in the US, built to American specification with big bumpers and safety warnings? Bruce Rolland bought it and now plans to restore it to its former glory. Read his story here

Luna Bug could be unique, although the works demonstrator had a different reg
Picture courtesy Paul Wylde
An unknown Unipower GT in a derelict warehouse full of exotics - only in Japan
Picture source unknown
Retro styling a Mini in the 1970s. Mini Jaba made it to the Barcelona Motor Show
Picture courtesy foromini.minibcn.net
Nottingham Nimrod looks complete and original. It was sold on eBay in January
Picture courtesy ebay.co.uk
That's Bruce in his Elswick Envoy. And, yes, it has central seating like the McLaren F1…
Picture courtesy Bruce Rolland

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Richard Oakes redesigns

What if Richard Oakes - undoubtly world's most prolific kit car designer - would have had the free hand in redesigning the GTM or Midas back in 1981? Well, they may have looked like this. He made these sketches for Alternative Car magazine at the time, writing: "Come on, Midas or GTM, perhaps you could make it reality - a British Fiat X1/9 with a bit more muscle!" Hang on - he did actually redesign both cars in the end. With the new GTM becoming the 1986 Rossa and the new Midas becoming the Gold in 1989. Both were considerably rounder in shape though. For good? I'm not sure...

These Richard Oakes sketches  never made it to a new GTM and/or Midas
Picture courtesy Alternative Car/Richard Oakes

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Building a Racing Show Car in 1968

If I'd ever be able to time travel I'd choose London in January 1967 or '68 to go to, when the Racing Car Show was in its splendor with in Olympia's National Hall. Here you would stumble upon Deep Sanderson 301s, Fletcher GTs, Viking Minisports, Cox GTMs, Mini Jems and Mini Marcoses, all in their prime. Apart from the cars this was an Alladin's cave for accessories, too with all the people directly involved into these cars attending (plus some other interesting figures, too).

Marcos Components had three Mini Marcoses on their 1968 stand of which at least one was built from a bare shell on the spot. I'd seen one or two black & white pictures, but was much surprised when Olof Neergaard dropped me a line earlier this week. He wrote: "Thanks for keeping up the good work started with your Maximum Mini book and now continuing on the web. The 'Bird puller picture' made me remember some images from the (London) 1968 Racing Car Show. They show how Marcos promoted the Mini Marcos by assembling one or two specimen on location. Note the skinny tires and lovely blue metallic paintwork. A red car with "GT" strips also appears. These pictures are courtesy Swedish Mini Marcos racer Tommy Jagerwall who was there." I love 'm! Thanks Olof and Tommy. And Olof sent some more cool stuff, but that's for the next time.

Three cars on Marcos' stand in January 1968. '370 JEA' is their Mk3 demonstrator
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Front car (another Mk3) is metallic blue and ready to be assembled on the spot
Picture courtesy Tommy Jaggerwal

Some time later it's on its skinny tires, with the Mini engine now also in place
Picture courtesy Tommy Jaggerwal

Can I buy it Sir? I can finish the interior myself. Where is this 1968 show car now?
Picture courtesy Tommy Jaggerwal


Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Mystery Mini derivative (36): South-African Coupes

Over to South-Africa, where a most unusual Mini Coupe was unearthed recently. What it is? Well, it's definitely not a Buckle Monaco, Ecurie de Dez or New Era Mini but that doesn't answer the question does it? Arch Mini fan Leon in Johannesburgh made me aware of this find. The thing is that Leon owns a similar car of which virtually nothing is known. Both use a long wheelbase Mini (Van, Traveller, Countryman, Pick-up) that was built in South-Africa, but Leon's car uses the Mini boot upside down, while the newly discovered car comes with what looks to be a specially made boot, giving the car something like a Saab back end!

Leon wrote: "Hi Jeroen, a second home made looking Mini coupe derivative has turned up here in South Africa. It has a similar side profile to mine, but different boot. Both seem to have been built on one of the longer wheelbase Minis." The recently unearthed green car dates from 1965 and appears to have only just been painted. No holes in the boot lid suggest that the tiny little slots below were used to house the rear lights. Thius while Leon's car uses the Mini Van lights . He adds: "Neither are very pretty. I'm not sure if there is any merit in restoring mine, I'd love to hear your thoughts on it? Regards, Leon." Of course you should restore the car, Leon! I dip really like both but haven't got a clue about its background. Who does?

Mini Coupe uses long wheelbase of a 1965 South-African built commercial Mini
Picture courtesy www.kznmini.europefreeforum.com
Steel fastback is cleverly grafted upon that. Tiny tail lights just fit under the boot
Picture courtesy www.kznmini.europefreeforum.com
There are definite similarities in the side profiles to Leon's SA-built coupe, shown here
Picture courtesy Mini Marcos Owners Club

Boots, however, are totally different with Leon's car using a Mini boot lid upside down
Picture courtesy MMOC/www.kznmini.europefreeforum.com

Monday, 2 December 2013

An American Elswick

Several Mini based cars originating from the UK made it to America through official channels. Some Ogles for example, and no less than 13 Unipowers according to my source. Unofficially a Foers Nomad and a Roamer even ended up in New Hampshire, or how about the the Innocenti based Mini Mare of John Stanmeyer?

But that there was an importer for the Elswick Envoy - I never knew that. And if you you'd have told me I would probably not have believed you anyway. It is true, though. Bruce Rolland from the USA managed to assure me, as he just bought one of these American spec Envoys. Imagine the trouble of putting these cars through the American environment and safety legislation! Or would there have been an exception for cars for the invalid? I'd like to know. Reader Miguel Plano had already spotted the ad some months ago and wrote: "I bet someone had the distribution rights for the USA and it never took off. This car seems to have never been registered in USA, with only 260 miles and original tires, that seems more than likely. There's an interesting story there if you can find the truth."

Whatever the story is, Bruce is now planning to restore his car. He sent over some pictures and the first thing that struck me were the big US-style bumpers. Information is scarce but Bruce knows the bumpers were an option and cost an extra 50 US dollars. He is desperately looking for more information about it now and hopes to track down an owner's manual. I haven't got one, but others may? If you can help Bruce just drop me a line and I'll pass it on to him.

Smile! Bruce Rolland in his newly acquired American spec Elswick Envoy
Picture courtesy Bruce Rolland 
Big bumpers are a clue. But who can tell more about Elswick's American ventures?
Picture courtesy Bruce Rolland 
This label is surely not meant for ordinary British Elswicks. How many more were there?
Picture courtesy Bruce Rolland