Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Peel Viking: the Dutch demonstrator (2)

I am happy to announce that the Dutch demonstrator Peel Viking Sports GT, built by fellow-Dutchman Ben Konst in 1966/'67, has now been found back. And the best thing is that it's gone back to Ben as well! Read all about the car in part 1 here.

As you'll understand this car was one I was really keen to find, and so I asked around to anyone wanting to listen to me. I had been doing this for many years and had heard rumours of its survival more than once. But it was only in January last year that I actually learned it had survived. A Mini enthusiast told me he'd seen it in the late 1980s or early 1990s with a friend. And that friend was not the kind of guy to sell things, so he may still have it, or so he said. The friend had moved from Holland to Germany but I was able to track him down. And so I saw myself driving to his place in rural Germany over a year ago. I spoke to him extensively and he told me he'd had the car for 41 years. Eventually I was allowed to come and see the car in a barn a few miles down the road. And there it was. There was no doubt it was Ben's personal car, with the Fiat 850 rear screen and rear lights and even the number plate '88-49-EP' still on it. I was over the moon.

But did he want to sell? He did. But I had just become the owner of the Le Mans Mini Marcos, had no extra room for another Mini derivative and needed the money for my own project car. I phoned up Ben, who was much surprised to hear of my find, too. And he was interested in buying it, too. But he didn't know what kind of price to pay. I made some enquiries about that and must say the communication didn't go all too fluent. What followed was a long silence from Germany. I thought I'd blown it, until I received a message from the owner's wife. She told me her husband had passed away sadly in May 2017. He'd been ill and was just 63. Was I still interested in the car? I told her Ben was the man, and we now quickly came to an agreement.

And so, last week I went up to Germany once more. Now together with Ben in his car with a trailer behind it. Ben was absolutely delighted to see his old car back after 49 years and simply had to buy it back. He thinks he sold it in 1969. The last owner had had it since 1977, and it's still unclear what exactly happened in between. But we may still find out. The very draughty but beautiful barn where the car had been stored for such a long time contained more cars and many many more parts, and Ben and I have agreed to come back to pick up the Mini parts in the near future. Who knows what else we'll find...

January 2017: this is when I found the car back and saw it for the first time
Picture Jeroen Booij

It was owned by the last owner for 41 years and stood in this German barn for a long time
Picture Jeroen Booij

Engine was supposedly replaced by a Innocenti Cooper unit. But it came with two more engines
Picture Jeroen Booij

February 2018: back with Ben Konst, who built it in 1966, and was ready to pull it out here
Picture Jeroen Booij

Ben reunited with his own Peel Viking Sport GT, 49 years after he saw it for the last time!
Picture Jeroen Booij

In the daylight since a long, long time. Note correct registration plus Fiat 850 screen and lights
Picture Jeroen Booij

Dust, dirt and cobwebs. Just like a real barn find car should have! No hens or mice though...
Picture Jeroen Booij

There's just one Cosmic Mk1 wheel on the car now, hopefully the other three are still in the barn 
Picture Jeroen Booij

Classic Ten Auto Radio. Ben remembered very well having fitted this to the car!
Picture Jeroen Booij

The dashboard is still unmodified, too, with all the instruments still in place
Picture Jeroen Booij

Loaded up and ready to go back to Holland, to the man who built it all those years ago
Picture Jeroen Booij

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Peel Viking: the Dutch demonstrator (1)

I like the Peel Viking Sport GT, and being a Dutchman, I am intrigued by the fact that five bodies were imported from the Isle of Man to here by fellow-Dutchman Ben Konst. From his residence in Wassenaar, close to The Hague, Ben, together with his brother, marketed the cars from as early as in 1966. Ben was 21 at the time. He is 73 years now and I've known him for some 20 years. He is a lovely man, still much-involved in cars - classic cars now, with a soft spot for Austin-Healeys.

He often told me about the the Peel Vikings. Of picking up the bodies on the Isle of Man, of having dinner with Peel-boss Cyril Cannell and of building his first Peel. This first car became his personal daily driver and also the company's demonstrator. Ben told me it was a real pain to get it road registered at the time, but perseverance paid off and in late 1967 the car was road registered and given the registration '88-49-EP' in Holland. Still without the registration it got featured on the Dutch brochure he had made but once road legal it was road tested by Autovisie magazine, which wrote: "The car that we had on loan from the importer is really nicely equipped with bucket seats and a very complete dashboard. The interior has been beautifully trimmed and the result is a remarkably good little sports car." By that time Ben had gone to the UK to buy Cosmic Mk1 wheels for the car and modified several things, too. Initially he'd build up the car with as many parts as he could re-use from the donor-Mini: an 850 saloon he took from the local scrapyard with frontal damage. But once using it as an everyday car, he didn't like the narrow Mini rear screen and small rear lights and decided to fit the bigger screen and round light clusters from a Fiat 850. He also fitted rear bumpers.

In the summer of 1968 he took the car, together with a friend, for a little holiday to Knokke, Belgium. Once they arrived there and had set themselves at the local camping place, they spotted signs for a concours d'elegance. Being car fans they had to have a look, and took the Peel to the place which was full of Ferraris and Jaguars. To their own amazement they were greeted with lots of enthusiasm and asked to join the festivities. Only trouble: a woman was to drive the car on to the Knokke boulevard and stop in front of the judges, but Ben and his pal were on their own. Nothing to worry: the organizers would mobilize one of the Shell-girls present at the event and she was to drive it. However, when the moment was there, there was no Shell-girl to be found and so eventually Ben had to drive the car himself. Although sleeping in a tent, he'd been fortunate enough to have brought a jacket and a tie, and hastily put these on. The crowds cheered and they were both invited to the prize-giving dinner, too, that same night in the Knokke Casino. A very posh place, and Ben remembers well how he had a look at the drinks menu and decided to order the cheapest drink available - which was still mighty expensive - share that with his mate and try to sip as slowly as possible from it. This while all the other people attending looked to be ordering bottles of wine and Champagne! Imagine their surprise when 'Monsieur Konst' was asked to come over to the podium to be provided with a first prize in class! He still has the certificate at home, but I haven't been able to copy that.

So, what happened to the car afterwards? Ben sold it in - he thinks - 1969, but there every trace ends. Could it have survived the next 49 years? Stay tuned, as I have some great news coming up.

Just ready, no registration yet: Ben proudly standing next to the Peel Viking Sports GT on the cover of the Dutch brochure for the car. He is 21 years old here
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

A newspaper ad for the car. Ben had become importer for the Peel Viking and had brought over the bodies from the Isle of Man by himself
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

In late 1967 the car was finally road-registered in Holland. Ben brought the Cosmic wheels over from the UK and had now made some modifications to the car's body
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Dutch motoring magazine Autovisie did a road test on the car and liked it. Note modified rear end with Fiat 850 screen and rear lights plus bumpers
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Summer 1968 on the boulevard of Knokke. Ben just got out of the car in front of the jury
Picture courtesy Ben Konst

This was a prestigious concours d'elegance where the Peel Viking Sports GT won first in class!
Picture courtesy Ben Konst

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Mystery Mini derivative (49)

Unfortunately, there is no information about this car, other than that it was found in an Australian barn some three years ago. It's also believed to be Mini based, but that's all. The size would fit in with a Mini and the wheels look like they could be 10-inchers, too. It's a low two-seater roadster with the engine behind the seat and it even looks to wear a bonnet badge. But it would be good to learn more about it and its alleged Mini motorization. Somebody will know?

Unknown Aussie roadster is said to be Mini based. But is it?
Picture source unknown

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

How a Lola engineer built himself a MiniSprint

Another great message from John Fischer, who contacted me about an interesting email he received from Peter Comben, about Minis he built in the sixties. This is what Peter wrote:

"I had worked on and modified a few Minis, so was familiar with the car. The original 'MiniSprint' car, displayed here at Brands Hatch with Stirling Moss, was my inspiration to build my own version of this. It was 1966 and Minis and their spares and parts were very sought after and expensive. I found a clean body shell with roof damage and cut a decent roof off another at a scrap yard. Set up on my make-shift jig, I took one and a half inches out of both the mid-body line and the window pillars and one and a quarter inches out of the roof, removing the gutters. Front and rear bulkheads were modified to suit. All window pillars had to be realigned to match up and the whole assembly was done using a thousand pop rivets before taking the shell on a trailer to be welded. Next it was a then case of cleaning and filling all the weld joints, undercoating and top coating."

"The door panels were ground off and the bare frames were reduced in height to match the body. The panels were replaced with aluminium sheet and the window frames modified. The windscreen and all the windows were replaced with Perspex and the bonnet and boot lid were fibreglass. The engine was 1098cc from an Austin 1100 car and was re-bored +40 thou. I chose this engine because it was cheaper than Cooper ‘S’ and it was 'under-square' - its stroke was longer than its bore. This would put the torque curve lower in the rev range. The crankshaft, con-rods and lightened flywheel were cleaned smooth and balanced. I used the BMC 649 full-race camshaft. The cylinder head was skimmed to raise the compression ratio and new guides, larger valves and stronger springs were installed. The carburettor was a twin-choke downdraught Weber. Power came in at around 3000 revs with quite a kick, right up to 7000 revs (occasionally but rarely to 8000). The gearbox final drive ratio was raised to 3.44. Maximum speed through the gears was: first 30mph, second 60 mph, third 90 mph and fourth * mph! The exhaust sounded great, from chugger, chugger on tick-over to sheer howl at high revs. Cooling was with a front radiator in addition to the normal side radiator, but with no fan (sometimes a problem in London traffic)."

"Low front bucket seats were fitted, with no rear seat. A large, flat fuel tank was fitted flush in the boot floor and the rear subframe was covered underneath with aluminium sheet to improve airflow under the car. Later, a chromed side-winder exhaust was fitted. I had been working at Lola Cars for a while, but it was time to move on and sell the car, so I installed an 850cc engine with rally cam (731?) and normal exhaust, and I sprayed on a 'go faster' stripe."

And the Sprint wasn't Peter's only project car. after having finished it he soon started work on a Mini based buggy of his own design. More on that soon. Thanks Peter and John for sharing the story!

Damaged donor car was bought at a local scrap yard and mated to another Mini's roof
Picture courtesy Peter Comben

Then the tough job of sectioning the body could start. Not for the faint-hearted!
Picture courtesy Peter Comben

But the result is stunning. A DIY-MiniSprint just after the real thing had been released
Picture courtesy Peter Comben

A great picture to show the comparison with a standard Mini. It's not just a roof chop!
Picture courtesy Peter Comben

By the time the go-faster stripe was added, the highly tuned 1100 had been replaced by an 850 engine
Picture courtesy Peter Comben

Peter with the car before he sold it. He worked for Lola Cars at the time
Picture courtesy Peter Comben

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Deep Sanderson for sale at Rétromobile

Due to snow it was not easy to reach Paris yesterday, but when I finally made it to the Rétromobile show, I was happy to be reunited with an old flame: the Deep Sanderson 301 that was restored by David Ramsbotham almost a decade ago. When David had just started work, back in 2007, I had a look at it. Meanwhile, he had the car advertised here and sold it, but it ended up in auction with Coys some time later. And here it was again. And once more it is offered for sale! This time in an impressive sale by French auctioneer Artcurial during the Rétromobile show.

Oh, it's not the first time it's in France. As I wrote before the car's history is somewhat shrouded in mystery and it may or may not have been intended to race at Le Mans in 1963, but fact is that it ended up in France until the 1980s during which time a J.M. Muratore competed it under the 'Equipe Bleue' banner. I'd still love to learn more about that. After this, the 301 was repatriated to Britain, where it sat neglected in a lock-up until rescued by David in 2002. With the help from the late Chris Lawrence a complete restoration was completed in 2009. David drove it at Goodwood in 2010 and Pau in 2011. It is still unregistered and is to be sold with no reserve tomorrow (Friday the 9th).

UPDATE 9 February 2018: just hammered down at 40,000 euros.
UPDATE 13 February 2018: Unsold, says catalogue now, which seems strange as it had 'no reserve'

This is what the body and chassis looked like back in 2007 in David Ramsbotham's garage
Note Aston Martin DB7 prototype behind...
Picture Jeroen Booij

And this is what it looks like now. The car will be auctioned in Paris tomorrow with no reserve
Picture courtesy Artcurial

Deep Sanderson 301 was a pioneer in having the Mini engine placed in the rear
Picture courtesy Artcurial

Interior is nothing more than functional. It would be a great car for Le Mans Classic
Picture courtesy Artcurial

It's always good to show the car's size in comparison to a human. I'm not a giant!
Picture Francois Tasiaux

Rear wheel suspension was Chris Lawrence's own LawrenceLink system
Picture courtesy Artcurial

Something is strange about this rear wheel, though. I'd say it's not placed right
Picture Jeroen Booij

Perhaps due to this off? This was at the Goodwood Revival in 2010. It was raced at Pau later
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Deep Sanderson is not only Chris Lawrence design offered for sale in Paris. There's this Monica, too
Picture Jeroen Booij

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Cox at Croft

Sabre Sprint owner Ron Palgrave dropped me a line about his car and mentioned, in between the lines, that he had two old photographs, too, taken at Croft in the late 1960s. The first of them is shown below. Ron wrote: "As I mentioned I have two pictures which I took at Croft, our local track here in the North of England. I have retained no information to support them, so they will have little value. But it is better that someone else has copies rather than stuck in my files."

So how about the car? Certainly an early GTM, most probably a Cox. Hang on, it looks to be this car, driven here by one D.E. Boler on Oulton Park in a near miss with an Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato... Look at the flared rear arches, wide 'reverse rims' and two-tone colour scheme. Who knows more about mister Boler and his Cox? More on Ron's Sabre and his other photo next time.

Cox GTM seen at Croft in 1969. It is probably DE Boler's car that was seen at Oulton Park, too?
Picture Ron Palgrave / Maximum Mini archive

Friday, 2 February 2018

Gecko's never die

Found in rural Oxfordshire and photographed by Tim Green: an Autobarn Gecko that's slowly becoming one with the nature surrounding it. Will it be too far gone or was the Gecko really the toughest of all Mini derivatives? (that's how they marketed it!).

Found in a field and slowly detoriating. Or not? The Autobarn Gecko was tough
Picture Tim Green

You bet it was! They car was advertised throughout the specialized press as being so
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

'Our strength is others weakness'. 88 Geckos were built between 1976 and 1992
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

The company behind it was, remarkably, a Volkswagen Beetle specialist
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

This one looks more cared for. The Gecko was available in a number of variants 
Picture Jeroen Booij

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Classic Mini Coupes

There have been several coupe variants on the classic Min saloon now. I thought it would be nice to see all of them together. So... left to right:
Top row: New ERA Mini Coupe, Buckle Monaco, Ecurie de Dez 2+2
Middle row: Automotive Refabrication Coupe, ABS Mini Coupe, homebuilt creation
Below: Mini Trafalgar Coupe 

Oh - there have been several more projects... Which one is your favourite?

Friday, 26 January 2018

Market round up (winter 2018)

Another look at what's on the Mini derivatives market right now. Most of the cars seen in the selection below are for sale at the moment, although some may have been sold by this time. Any good winter projects for you? Or buy now for the Summer.... Thanks to everyone for letting me know about cars for sale. Do keep them coming!

Good looking Scamp Mk3 with 955 miles from new. In London. See it for sale here

A Midas from France, believed to have 145bhp under the bonnet. See it for sale here

1985 registered Vendavans Ice Star in fully functioning form. See it for sale here

Nice 1987 Andersen Cub, first registered in '89. See it for sale here

Another Cub but this kit has never been built. See it for sale here

Ranger Pick-up said to have 1300 with Cooper 'S' head. See it for sale here

Or... a 1980 Triad Warrior, said to be Cooper-based. See it for sale here

A Hrubon Phaeton, made in Paris by Jean-Claude Hrubon. See it for sale here

Or later incarnation of the Phaeton: a Schmitt. In Cannes and not cheap! See it here 

Newly made from the rediscovered Raubenheimer moulds: Mk3 Mini Marcos shell. For sale here

Another Mk3 Mini Marcos shell with distinctive rear spoiler, in Belgium. For sale here

Or... one that's on its wheels already. Comes with 1275 engine. See it for sale here

A Siva Buggy needing some work, but cheap. In West Wales. See it for sale here

Rare! An AEM Commanchero Six, believed to have been used for falconry. See it here

Foers Nomad pick up, comes with trailer in Nottingham on Irish plates. See it for sale here

Unfinished 1982 GTM Coupe rolling chassis with 1966 papers. See it for sale here

Remarkably tidy Jiffy Pick Up with 1275 engine in South Wales. See it for sale here

Lightspeed Magenta needing much attention, rescued from Yorks barn. See it for sale here