Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Japan Unipower GT is alive and well

It was a long time since any news was heard from the red and silver Unipower GT (chassis number 4) that was previously owned by Simon Lee of Salisbury, who was the chief engineer at Janspeed at the time in the 1980s when he owned it. Lee fully restored the car and sold it in 1987. It went to a mister Suzuki in Tokyo but that's where the trace ended. However, it was snapped yesterday by Danny van Giel in the workshop of a Mini specialist in Osaka.

Originally, the car was sold in October 1966 to a well-known London silversmith and it was white in colour. Four more owners and three more paint jobs followed before the car ended up with Simon Lee. From an article about the restoration: "Originally he had hoped a weekend's work would make the Unipower roadworthy but a brief scrutiny of what was a pile of jumble spread around his front garden told him this was not to be." A very thorough restoration followed. Meanwhile, more than 30 years have passed, but the car still looks very keen. Thanks for the pictures Danny!

Voila! Unipower number 4 is unveiled in Osaka, looking unchanged to when it went to Japan in 1987 
Picture Danny van Giel

The car was fully restored by Simon Lee in 1980s, who was chief engineer at Janspeed at the time 
Picture Danny van Giel

This photo was taken just after the restoration was finished. Engine is a highly tuned 998 Cooper
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

The car's restoration was fully described in some of the specialist motoring mags at the time
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

As seen on a show at Hindhead in the mid-1980s. 'SUR 109D' is the car's original registration
Picture Tim Carpenter

Thursday, 19 April 2018

The Bee Gee's Broadspeed (3)

Two more pictures have emerged of the Broadspeed GT owned by Bee Gee's drummer Colin Petersen (more of them here and here). Said to be the last GT built, the car was registered GKV 55D and was last seen in an advertisement, when asked 1,750 GBP for it. Or nearest offer. One reader suggested it may have been burnt out and scrapped, saying: "I did have a conversation many years ago with a chap who saw mine at a meeting and said his brother's yellow Broadspeed caught fire on a trip to Spain and was scrapped." But that's it. Could it be stayin' alive? Who knows more?

London mews, girl friend, Ferrari, Broadspeed and pet dog. Oh, the rock star life!
Picture Joanne Petersen

Bee Gees drummer Colin Petersen loved his special Mini GT. But where is it now?
Picture Getty images

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Beaulieu goes Mini based

Last week I received a message from Tony Salter, who is organizing the Mini Cooper Register’s Beaulieu day on 10 June 2018. He wrote: "Each year we try and focus on a particular group of Minis and this year it is coachbuilt Minis. These coachbuilt cars are those converted by a number of companies over the years, Radford, Wood and Pickett, et cetera. This display is being organized by Neville Smyth and Steve Burkinshaw and we hope to have around 30 cars. Although our main display this year is coachbuilt Minis, we are having a secondary display of plastic mini based cars. I have space for 12, but only have 4 cars confirmed so far. I wondered if you could help me fill up the additional spaces? Each car would get a free ticket to the event and be parked in front of the main info caravan in the arena – top billing really!"

So there we go. I asked Tony what kind of cars he is thinking of, and he answered: "I had in mind the likes of Marcos, Jem, Biota, Ogle etc. As I said I already have a couple of GTMs and a Midas. If you could ask any who would like to come to contact me on beaulieu@minicooper.org I can sort out tickets for them." Well, here you go. If you like to enjoy Beaulieu as a guest and have your car on display there, do contact Tony. A report here will follow.

Two hatchback Mini Devilles next to each other at Beaulieu some years ago
Picture courtesy Stuart Watson

The Mini Cooper Register is expecting some 30 coachbuilt Minis for this year
Picture courtesy Stuart Watson

Among them Hoopers, Wood & Picketts, Radfords and some more unusual coachbuilts
Picture courtesy Stuart Watson

But... they are looking for 12 Mini derivatives like these, too: Ogle SX1000s and Mini Marcoses...
Picture Jeroen Booij

...Plus many more. Owners will get top billing for the event, says organizer Tony Salter
Picture Jeroen Booij

Monday, 16 April 2018

Peel Viking: the Dutch demonstrator (3)

Ah - the Dutch Peel Viking that went back to its original caretaker after a 49-year hiatus. Read all about the car's history in part 1 here and to find out about its survival and re-discovery click here for part 2.

Now, I visited Ben Konst recently at his home in Wassenaar, The Netherlands and copied the certificate he was awarded at the Belgian concours d'elegance back in 1968. He also showed me the award he was handed over at the time - a die-cast model car painted gold. But he also had some more pictures of the Peel Vikings that had gone through his hands. Not just the demonstrator we found back in Germany... Have a look for yourself below.

The certificate handed out to Ben during the concours d'elegance in Knokke in 1968
Picture Jeroen Booij


Ben is seen here on the podium in the Knokke Casino on that very day, left from the speaker wearing a tie and carrying the certificate seen above and the golden car trophy
Picture Ben Konst

He still has that, too. It's very heavy and we found out it's a 1968 Nissan Cedric!
Picture Jeroen Booij

Open the roof for your cigarette ashes. There's a paper saying '3e PRIX Prive GT'
Picture Jeroen Booij

And the Dutch demonstrator once again in its prime! Ben is planning a full restoration
Picture Ben Konst

But this is another. Ben remembered that the damaged car at the front was dark green. The empty shell was sold to one of his customers in the late 1960s
Picture Ben Konst

And yet another? Or the same green car? The number 'FZ-04-14' is unknown in Dutch registration database, but the car may be lurking somewhere in obscurity, too?
Picture Ben Konst


Friday, 13 April 2018

Oldest known Mini Marcos is under restoration

An interesting message from Japan comes from Bunzo Yasuda, who - just like me - is restoring a Mk1 Mini Marcos. His car was imported from the UK in the 1990s when it still wore its registration 'BYA 764B' and together with its chassis number 6002 it is in fact the second oldest Mini Marcos built. What's more: with '6001' off the radar since ages, it may even be the oldest Mini Marcos surviving today. Remarkably, DVLA still recognizes the registration number as a 'white and black saloon of november 1964'. That must have been the Mini it was based on..?


With chassis number '6002' this may be the oldest surviving Mini Marcos today
Picture Bunzo Yasuda

Bunzo is restoring the car right now. Please keep it as original as you can!
Picture Bunzo Yasuda

Thursday, 12 April 2018

When a Porsche designer retires...

It's surprising how many great names in the world of automotive design have been involved in Mini based cars. ex-Lotus men such as Brian Luff, Paul Haussauer, John Frayling and Arthur Birchall. But also Gordon Murray and Frank Costin, who'd been a De Haviland aircraft designer before he started working on racing and sports cars. And even Alex Tremulis, who'd been a senior designer for Duesenberg, Ford, Tucker, Cord and Chrysler in the US before coming up with the wacky Mini-powered Gyro-X.

Stranger, still, was the Graham Hull Special, designed and built by the ex-Rolls-Royce and Bentley chief stylist of the same name, who'd been responsible for cars such as the Silver Spirit and the beautiful 1990s Bentley Continental. The Special he built upon retirement (see Maximum Mini 3) missed all that style and glamour. But then this was a vehicle he'd made purely for himself.

Could that be beaten? Perhaps it could, as in Wolverhampton a Mini based 3-wheeler is now offered for sale with a grand claim. It was allegedly "built in the 80’s by a retired Porsche engineer who couldn’t afford an early Morgan three wheeler." Wow! The trike is known as ‘The Moose’ and was built around a 1964 Mini, retaining its front subframe unmodified, while the rear one was cut, strengthened and repositioned with the one rear wheel in the centre rear. They are both bolted onto a three-quarter inch tubular steel space frame construction that was clad with an aluminium body. It was registered in September 1987 and is now seen for sale here. Something for you..?

'The Moose': said to have been built by a retired Porsche designer. We'd love to learn more about that!
Picture ebay.co.uk

Can you find any reference to any classic Porsche models here? We can't
Picture ebay.co.uk


Hang on, early Porsche 356s have a bench seat, too! Anyway, 'The Moose' is for sale
Picture ebay.co.uk

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Stimson collection up for sale

Paul Wylde reports about a collection of six Stimson Mini Bugs in Bedfordshire that he's been offered recently. He wrote: "I have been contacted by a guy selling his late dad's collection of Mini Bugs, six cars in total,  including the 'Flying Microbe' car as seen in Peter Filby's 'Amazing Mini' book. The white one is a CS2 that I sold to him a few years back with no V5 as the guy I got it off used the registration on a Blitz Buggy. But there are five that all have the correct V5s for them and two of them have not long had an MOT - the purple one and the Filby car I think. There is one car that will be coming with me, but if anyone is up for one give them my email and I will pass details on." That's very kind, thank you Paul! Let me know if you are interested and I'll pass you on to Paul.

The purple car from the back
Picture courtesy Paul Wylde

And from the inside
Picture courtesy Paul Wylde

It's dusty but looks okay
Picture courtesy Paul Wylde

'The Flying Microbe' was seen in Peter Filby's 'Amazing Mini'
Picture courtesy Paul Wylde

Here on another fairly recent photograph
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

There's a white car that looks perhaps less fortunate
Picture courtesy Paul Wylde

It was robbed off it registration for a Blitz Buggy...
Picture courtesy Paul Wylde

And there's this... I can't see a floor
Picture courtesy Paul Wylde

But it's a Mini Bug for sure!
Picture courtesy Paul Wylde

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Butterfield Musketeer prototype snapped

While reading about the Tornado Talisman recently I came across some cool pictures of the car in its prototype stage at Williams & Pritchard's workshop in Edmonton, London in 1961. But hang on, what was behind it? Yep, there's no doubt about that being the Butterfield Musketeer prototype in similar build stage, too! It fits in with what Richard Butterfield told me about 10 years ago as he'd trusted the job of body-bulding to them. W&P had previously made the much-modified body for Richard's Triumph TR3 and were now given the job to make the two-seater coupe body for the Musketeer in aluminium. Richard remembered it was finished just in time to have the car assembled for the Racing Car Show of January 1962 - the same show at which the Tornado Talisman made its debut... I found the photos were on the web also, and copied them here.

What happened to the prototype Musketeer remains a mystery to this day. What we know is that the original car was put on display at the Racing Car show in 1962 with a Mini 850 engine. Later that year, it was used to plug a mould to make replica bodies in fibreglass, while at the end of 1962 the car was rebuilt with a Cooper engine. It was then entered for the Peco Trophy race at Brands Hatch with Christabel Carlisle behind the wheel. She spun it and did not finish, but after that every trace ends. Any more information would be highly appreciated.


Yep. That's the Tornado Talisman prototype. But look behind it. That's the Butterfield Musketeer!
Picture through pistonheads.com

Another view. The craftsmanship of Williams & Pritchard was famous throughout the country
Picture through pistonheads.com

And from the front. Musketeer's round headlight just visible here. This must be late 1961
Picture through pistonheads.com

There it is at during the build-up of the Racing Car show in January 1962, it was red in colour
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Behind that aluminium body is supposedly an 850 engine, with double SUs and special rocker cover
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Action on the Racing Car Show of 1962 with the Butterfield Musketeer in the foreground
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Last sight of the prototype was at Brands Hatch at Boxing Day 1962, raced by Christabel Carlisle
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Friday, 6 April 2018

Le Mans Mini Marcos: Progress, finally!

Yes, this is the update on the Le Mans Mini Marcos project that I promised last week. There is news, and it's good news, too. Some of it focusing on the car's past, as I am continuing to research its history and keep on finding snippets of information. But there's news from the present day, too, as work on the body is now finally under way, and looking very promising thanks to a superb craftsman! In three points:

1. 
I have recently found some beautiful Kodachrome slides showing the car at Le Mans, which are a great attribution to the ever-growing file and will be very useful for the book that I have in mind. Thanks everyone for thinking of me, not in the last place Christophe Pund, Karsten Stelk and Gérard Boulin.

2. 
I also received the message that I'd been hoping for for such a long time, unveiling more about the mysterious past of the car. I was told the car probably went to Africa, only to come to Portugal in the early 2000s. What happened between 1975 (when it was stolen in Paris) and 2016 (when I bought it) was totally shrouded in mystery. So was there an Africa connection? I asked around everywhere and published a six-page article about the car in Classic Car Africa magazine, asking for more information. It all lead to nothing. But then a Portugese model maker phoned me up one evening about two weeks ago, clearing things up. He saw the car in 1993 in Coimbra, recognized it as the Le Mans car and tried to buy it, but didn't succeed. He then found it with a new owner and tried to buy it again, which again didn't work out well. But he gave me a name and I made further investigations. The picture below turned up eventually, shot in 1993 or 1994 with the car on its back (ouch!) in a Portugese workshop. It was in an almost similar condition then as it was when I bought it. I'm still investigating but know a lot more now (for the book!) and can now say that there was never a thing such as an Africa connection. Thank you very much Carlos and José.

3.
Last but certainly not least, repair work on the car's body has now finally started and it is looking very good. The much-butchered battery box is now almost re-made and it turned out to be a bit of a puzzle. Off all the bits cut out, there was just one piece of fibreglass left, with some holes in it. But it formed the answer to how the battery was placed into the car. Initially we thought it was east-west, but it turned out to be longitudinal in the end as it would have conflicted with the rear subframe. The holes fit in with straps to secure the battery. The front is also under heavy repair now, with two more separated bits being re-used and fitting in perfectly. The six holes to attach the front radiator (click here for more) are all visible once again! Many more smaller cracks and holes that shouldn't be there have been closed beautifully by now with more to follow. I went over to have a look and deliver the petrol tank and front screen in order to make the body ready for these. I'll let you know what's next.


I keep on finding old photos of the car and recently managed to get hold of some great slides
Picture Jeroen Booij

This picture was taken in Portugal in 1993 or 1994. History-wise it's very valuable to me!
Picture Jeroen Booij archive 

Front side is now being repaired back to like it was. Bottom pieces have been puzzled back in
Picture Jeroen Booij

This is the front from the inside. Note the original three holes on each side to attach the front radiator
Picture Jeroen Booij

Battery box being refabricated. You can spot the old bit that was cut out and is now laminated back in
Picture Jeroen Booij

Thursday, 5 April 2018

The Unipower GT - size wise

Thought Minis and Midgets were small cars? Think again. The picture below - taken from The Motor magazine - shows that a Unipower GT is in fact quite a lot smaller. Lower at least! I've added another trio of Unipower photos from the files that show one of the earliest cars made at the factory premises, where it is parked alongside a Ford Cortina. Compared to contemporary saloon cars that's a small vehicle these days... I would love to see one next to a GT40.

Jammed in between the two babies of the car scene, the Unipower still stands out!
Picture The Motor magazine

Ford Cortina dwarfs it, too. Unipower GT's roofline just about reaches Cortina's waistline
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

These photos were taken at the car's factory in Perivale, a place that's virtually unchanged
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

'UPD 1000' was a fake number used for publicity shots. Whereabouts of this car are unknown 
Picture Jeroen Booij archive