Friday, 21 October 2016

Mini Gordon - it's all about name dropping

It's been a long time since I wrote about the Mini Gordon. That most unusual coachbuilt Mini, commissioned by Eric Gordon of Brussels and built by Wood & Pickett of London. Two years ago I  had a look at the car in Belgium and the then-owner told me it was all nonsense what I'd written earlier. Read it for yourself here.

However, I was quite sure about my article, but couldn't find back the Dutch magazine article, which had been my main source. And so I was relieved when Henk van Brakel sent me a copy of the same piece lately, a much better copy then I previously had. And there they were - the names I'd read about before, and even more of them. They were not made up by me! Eric Gordon certainly was fond of name dropping. This is a translation of a piece of the article, interviewing him about the car. It's unbelievably pretentious:

"I took the decision to build the car while in Spain, thanks to two Spaniards. Ylenia Vilar Sancho is a beautiful woman and dancer with the Maurice Béjart ballet. The other is named Antonio Huerta, a genius inventor who constructed a rotor engined Spanish Formula 1 car in the 1950s. The Japanese were much interested as they were also starting to work on Wankel engines at the time. Huerta is one of the popes of the European motoring underworld. He knows everyone - craftsmen, sub-contractors, designers, inventors, people who dream of surpassing impassable paths and so on."
"During my researches I also came across the Swiss designer Oulaf, who worked for the design house of Vittorio del Basso, and it was him who put the first sketches on paper."
"The whole project wasn't particularly easy, I can say. People with a good will are hard to find. I cooperated with some fifteen small British companies, but only Wood & Pickett of London and a Belgian man, Milan Marick van Omnibel, wanted to join me on this project."
"Apart from that I tried to get Hermes, Dior and Vuitton interested for the project, but all to no avail. Eventually, we based our car on Rolls-Royces as sub-contractors working for RR have carried out parts of the job, in a year's time, with typical British sobriety. It cost me over a million francs. To build a second Mini Gordon, I'd have to ask 650,000 Belgian francs. But then the car can be made to measure. You can choose for a long or short Mini, with or without the hatchback door."

Nuff said.

Oh, one more note then. When I interviewed W&P's Eddie Collins back in 2014 he said: “Eric Gordon, oh yes, that strange man. His idea was to offer a car like ours, but then shorter. We built the prototype for him. It made no sense to us but he was completely committed to the idea of a small and luxurious city car. To me it seemed like money wasted.”

Thanks Henk for the scan!

The Mini Gordon article that reveals it all. How many names can you drop?
Picture Jeroen Booij archive via Henk van Brakel

Eric Gordon with his creation in 1976. It certainly was pretentious and expensive
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

The car in 2014, when I photographed it in Belgium. It has been sold to the UK since
Photograph: Jeroen Booij

...And seen at a Birmingham show last month, now with its new UK number 'BF 80'
Picture courtesy Henk van Brakel

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Mini Beach sells for less crazy money

After the much-debated sale of an Austin Mini Beach Car to a man in Florida some two years ago (full story here), I followed the sale of a similar car in the US with a keen interest. This car was certainly better than the other one, fully original with first paint and 846 miles from new. Remarakbly, it made a considerably lower price, selling at $56,100. From the Barret-Jackson blurb: "This Austin Mini 'Jolly' defines rare. First, it is the ultimate body style. Second, except for routine maintenance, it is totally original. Finally, it has only 846 original miles (not indicated on title). This 805cc/34hp Jolly with 4-speed manual transmission..." Ahem. It's not a Jolly, it doesn't have 805ccs and the ultimate body style? Well, anyway.

What's more: the same car was offered for auction with the same seller in January 2009 when it had 809 miles on its clock, so it did under 5 miles a year. Perhaps the MOT station was at just over 2 miles from where the car was stored? But seven years back it made $53,900 - that's just $2,200 less. What does that learn us? Don't invest in Becah Cars? Is the Mini hype cooling off? Or was the car of two years ago just a most exceptional sale? You tell me.

Very original: this 850 engine ran only 846 miles from when it was new back in 1962
Picture courtesy Barret-Jackson

Beautiful Beach car sold twice in 9 years time, but an investment? It hardly rose in price
Picture courtesy Barret-Jackson

Fully original. I have seen a picture of it with a British registration behind that US plate, though
Picture courtesy Barret-Jackson

All the Beach Cars were Austin badged. Most were left hand driven
Picture courtesy Barret-Jackson

Unlike the 185,000 dollars car, this one came with the correct and original interior, too
Picture courtesy Barret-Jackson

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Magentas on the market

Looking for a winter project and like the traditional looks of the Magenta? This may be the right time to buy one. Several (project) cars have made it to the market in the last weeks. To quote the sales brochure: "In owning a Magenta you will alleviate the problem of body corrosion and probably to the embarrassment of some the Magenta will still be here when the year of registration suffix letter comes around again. Don't let planned obsolescence lower your standards."

Q-reg, 1100 engine and seen for sale in Telford. Starting price 800 GBP - zero bids.
Picture courtesy

Supposedly stored in a barn in Middlebrough from 1983-on. This Lightspeed Magenta comes with the rare factory hardtop with gullwing doors and 'slot mag' wheels. I love it! But no takers...
Picture courtesy

Or fancy a project? This Magenta Sprint comes with 998 Mini engine but needed lots of work. 
Oh and again: unsold
Picture courtesy

Not Mini based, but this one deserves a mention here, I believe: an incredibly rare Ford-based Magenta Tarragon was seen in Sheffield. It's a unique example built for rallying. It sold for 103.50 GBP
Picture courtesy

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Moulds McCoy reappear again

A year and a half I was contacted by a man from Pembrokeshire, who planned to resurrect the McCoy and McIvoy cars. This is what he wrote: "Hi Jeroen. I am writing to you as you have a passion for all things Mini, as do I, and with this in mind I would like to inform you that I have recently purchased the moulds and rights to the McCoy and McIvoy kit cars. As well as the moulds I have a rolling shell which I believe to be an original Birchall shell, with which I plan to produce a car suitable for hillclimbing and sprinting, which I will hopefully be able to sell in small numbers to then give me the money to repair and modify the original moulds to produce a road going versions of the McCoy and McIvoy again. The moulds will need some modification for the car to be able to pass the dreaded IVA so it can be sold in kit and completed form. I am in talks with a company willing to take this on and am waiting for quotes for the work required. As you can appreciate I do not want to go off ‘Half cocked' so with this in mind I would ask you not to publicise this just yet , but when I have the car in a semi ready state, I will happily send you more information and photos for your blog"

So far, so good. But nothing came from it, until regular reader Barry Tilbury dropped me a line last week. A very short one this time, saying 'Oh Lordy. What have I done?' And, yes, he took over the full McCoy project. Well, what can I say other than congratulations Barry!?

The real McCoy: Rights, moulds and even the factory sign were taken over... once again
Picture courtesy Barry Tilbury

Originally from Norfolk they moved on to Pembrokeshire, Gloucestershire and now to Sussex
Picture courtesy Barry Tilbury

Barry is the latest keeper of the flame. He is not sure yet what to do with the project though
Picture courtesy Barry Tilbury

According to former McCoy employee Phil Wells the original prototype was sold to Neville Wynnes who made it race ready with narrower cockpit and wider sills, which can be seen here
Picture courtesy Barry Tilbury

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Cooper 1500 GT - quite a Special!

When Jon Cooper posted a photograph of one of his father's creations, it reminded me of an old article in Car & Car Conversions. And, indeed, it was about the same man: Graham Cooper of Sedgley, West Midlands where he had his workshop in an old Baptist Chapel! Here, Cooper built a number of massive overbore Mini engines with 1400; 1450; 1465; 1500 and 1520 cc. There even was a 1556cc version based on a 970 'S' block, using 170 thou thin-ring sand cast pistons and a unique Laystall Engineering crank. This particular one was raced in a Mini by a man named Bill Cole and according to the CCC article by Clive Richardson not just very competitive but also… reliable! 

From the words: "What's more, the 1556 engine - the only one there is - has been running since the end of 1968 and for one-and-a-half seasons hasn't been touched at all, not even so much of having the head off or the concealed tip N62R spark plugs taken out. Starting from cold is simply a matter of pulling out the choke, starting it and the big bore ticks over immediately at 1000 rpm. Apparantly Bill uses 9000 rpm regularly, though more often than not doesn't manage to look at the rev counter. Did somebody have doubts about reliability?!"

Jon's photograph that struck me, however, was one of a much-altered Mini with 12" steel wheels at front and wide 10" JAP Magnas at the rear. What's more: it's chopped, streamlined, deseamed, lowered and comes with a much-raked windscreen and ultra-sharp fastback rear. The (fake?) number plate suggests this GT used a 1500 lump, too, but there is no further information. So… who knows more?

Graham Cooper special must have used 1500 engine. Body is much, much, altered too
Picture courtesy Jon Cooper

This Mini used the 1556cc engine and supposedly scored 9 out of 10 wins in the Midlands Sprint Championship
Picture courtesy Jon Cooper

Friday, 7 October 2016

Moss, models and Mini-based GTs

Unipower owner Tim Carpenter took his GT to Goodwood in September, and had a chance to snap Stirling Moss with it. Tim wrote: "Please see attached some shots taken at the Goodwood Revival at the
beginning of September. They re-enact the shot of Sir Stirling Moss and 'A Model' taken at the 1967 Racing Car Show." Meanwhile, he took it to Castle Combe last weekend, too, where Pete Flanagan's Unipower was also seen. In fact Pete's red ex-Janspeed racer is the actual - then white - car shown with Moss and Monika Dietrich in '67. Well done boys!

Moss and model back in 1967, when the Unipower GT was launched at the Racing Car Show
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Fast forward 49.5 years and Moss still likes the Unipower. And a model. Here at Goodwood
Picture Tim Carpenter

Tim's car again at Castle Combe, now joined by Pete's racer - the white car Moss posed with
Picture courtesy Pete Flanagan

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Reader finds Stimson Safari Six

Avid Maximum Mini fan Paul Wylde finished the long-term restoration of his Stimson Mini Bug earlier this year (see here), but couldn't live without a Stimson project. Enter a Safari Six he'd been chasing for years! Paul finally managed to persuade the owner in parting with the car and is now working full steam on another restoration job. He wrote: "The guy I bought it from got it when he was 11 years old. His dad said it came from Barry Stimson and collected it from Rochdale. Whether they built it or if it was already done I don't know, but will ask his son. He is in his fifties so it may well have been new at the time." Great work Paul, and do keep me posted on the restoration!

All the Safari Sixes that I now know of are:

NPX 144J
NGF 419K
EAW 340L
PGF 289L
YPX 676L

Do let me know if you know of any others.

UPDATE 19:30: Paul is the man to know more! He says: "NPX 144J was a Mini Bug registration Barry used on the prototype Six until it was registered with JYM 2K. Here are a few more to add to your list: TYP 1L,  GDW 53L and one in the US (AMX ??K). Then there is the blue one with no registration in Belgium and one a guy had down by where I live, which is still in hiding along with a Mini Bug…" Cheers mate!

A Stimson Safari Six is rare. This one presumably comes from its very first owner
Picture courtesy Paul Wylde

EAW 340L is one of six different registered Safari Sixes that I have photos of. There must be more
Picture courtesy Paul Wylde

It seems that the car stood outside for a long time; Paul is giving it a full nut & bolt restoration
Picture courtesy Paul Wylde

Safari Six uses a 12" wider rear track than a Mini, giving it a large pick up deck - and six wheels
 a Picture courtesy Paul Wylde

Nice duo! Paul's Stimson Mini Bug was finished earlier this year, his working now on the Safari
Picture courtesy Paul Wylde

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Is Corsican hatchback Mini a Radford?

Welcome back to Hatchback Mini news, where one story leads to another... and yet another! This time it's Dada Rotily Forcioli to get in touch. Dada is a forest worker on the island of Corsica and stumbles upon car wrecks regularly during his work. After seeing yesterday's mystery hatchback Mini, he found the time ripe to show his find, too. It's a Mini wearing Morris 850 badges, and one with a hatchback conversion, too. The base vehicle appears to have been white, but is repainted in bright blue, with a (once) Tartan red interior. Is it a Radford conversion? Dada found the car some four years ago in a forest in southern Corsica, 30 meters below road level, from where it must have come. He knows nothing of its history but is planning to retrieve the Mini from its woody location and restore it, though. Surely not an easy task, as it seems in a real bad shape. Perhaps a reader here may know more about it.

This Mini has been lying here for a long, long time and is in a real sorry state
Picture Dada Rotily Forcioli

But look at that. It's no ordinary Mini. This one has been converted into a hatchback, too
Picture Dada Rotily Forcioli

Badly bumped and detoriated, but the leftovers of the rear door are there, too
Picture Dada Rotily Forcioli

You can clearly see here where the boot lid was welded to the hatchback door frame
Picture Dada Rotily Forcioli

Corsican sun has bleached the Tartan Red interior. Is it a Radford? And who knows its story?
Picture Dada Rotily Forcioli

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Another mystery Mini hatchback

One mystery hatchback leads to another… Yesterday's photographs of the Sydney-built hatchback Mini prompted reader Roger Hunt to drop me a line about a car that he has. Roger wrote: "Hi Jeroen. I've had this car for some time. Have you seen a conversion like it anywhere else? I think it may have been for a disabled driver with a wheel chair but I'm not sure. Someone might have an idea of its history. It's a Mk3 shell with 1968 registration and automatic transmission. It may be a one off, I'm not sure, but I've never seen another one." Well, I'm not sure either, Roger, and I certainly haven't seen it before. It could even be a modification from outside the UK? I can't remember where I saw that Austin Mini 850 badge before, but I think it was on a non-UK built car? Roger adds to that: "I might send to the DVLA for its history to see if it's a UK car." Meanwhile, someone out here may give him a hand?

Not Wood & Pickett or Radford's - this is yet another Mini hatchback conversion
Picture Roger Hunt

Roger thinks it may have been built for a disabled driver but is not too sure about that
Picture Roger Hunt

Despite the 1968, it's a Mk3 shell. On paper it's a Morris 998, but badge says Austin 850
Picture Roger Hunt

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Sydney Technical College's fastback hatchback

They certainly aren't the best quality photographs seen here, but at least they have emerged. Three more pictures of the Mini, modified by the Sydney Technical College in 1965 (see earlier post here) We can now see the car with its fastback hatchback closed, too, and have a detail shot of the faired-in headlights, which seem quite unique to me. The original caption with one of the pictures mentions it was built on a Morris 850 base and the paint job was done with Viton paint 'giving a deep red glow'. In 1967, the Sydney Technical College was responsible for this car, too.

Recessed headlights and a deep red glow certainly made this Mini stand out
Picture via Milton Lewis, courtesy Robert McQuirk

But it's the rear that really differentiates it. Is this a hatchback fastback?
Picture via Milton Lewis, courtesy Robert McQuirk

Different view, and now with the hatchback door closed. Who knows more about the car?
Picture via Milton Lewis, courtesy Robert McQuirk