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Derivatives of the Mini

Derivatives of the Mini.

 The Nota Fang.

Many of us who followed motor sport in the 60's will recall sports car races with many Nota Clubmans in the field; this company had the expertise to produce a good sports car, but who would have expected a car that looked like a formula one? Welcome the Nota Fang.

Unlike other kits based around Mini mechanicals the Fang used mainly the front subframe and power plant, however in this instance it was installed in the rear. Although the Fang was not strictly a Mini special, it still qualifies as a classic to be sought after by Mini enthusiasts due to the use of familiar components and limited
numbers. The body had a tubular steel space frame with semi stressed alloy tub section incorporating a roll bar. Among the built-in features were collapsible front and rear sections, as well as a fully adjustable and collapsible steering column.

The information reproduced here comes from sales literature of Nota Engineering at the time of production in the early 70's and from Modern World magazine dated May 1971. A new version with Toyota Camry power was produced a few years ago for the die-hard enthusiasts. This version was credited with a standing ¼ time of 12.2s, and was designated as the F1. Its price was listed at around \$35,000.


The Mini Jem.

The Taylorspeed Jem is the result of British and Australian workmanship.

Taylorspeed of Adelaide negotiated with Jem in the UK to manufacture the Mini Jem based special in the Southern Hemisphere. The Adelaide firm decided that certain modifications would have to be made to the body for Australian conditions and this has been the subject of many hundreds of man hours additional work.

The Jem accepts all BMC Mini components from the 850 power train to the 1275 Cooper s power train. It will accept any combination of Mini goodies such as wide wheels, racing tyres, anti roll bars and can be fitted with either dry rubber or hydrolastic suspension.

Costs have been kept to a minimum and such things as door handles and hinges, window latches, petrol tank and cap, all lights, instruments, wiring loom and even the steering are all Mini. The end product is a two seater GT car with an occasional two behind, that is front engine, front wheel drive with about half the frontal area of a conventional Mini and two thirds the weight.

The Aircraft Industry have given assistance both by wind tunnel testing and stressing. They found it stable to 170 mph after a few modifications which are now incorporated into the design.

Using a standard Cooper S power train the vehicle will accelerate to 50 mph in five and a half seconds and reach a top speed of over 120 mph.

Assembly from the bare shell to the complete car will take about 50 hours or with two people working on it, about two weekends. Virtually no engineering skill or training and only basic tools are required for the complete assembly.

The body shell is jig drilled ready to accept front and rear subframes. Power bulge moulded into the bonnet to make room for extra large carburettors. Dashboard left blank for any instrument arrangement.

Full width sliding window for ease of arm movement, using Mini channels and locks.

Will accept any type of Mini gear shift.

Designed to accept side draft Webber. Has aero dynamic wind spoiler moulded in for maximum stability.

The whole car is made up of 2x2 layers of E glass bonded in a mould with resin and pigment.

Wherever there is a pick-up point an 18 gauge plate is bonded into the shell to prevent tearing and also to spread the load.

At the front the main BMC metal cross member with 2x18 gauge fish plates is located on a jig and then bonded in. The rack and pinion mounting points are similarly located with 18 gauge plates. At the rear again all the pick-up points are backed by metal, with long metal stringers down the length of the rear floor plan. The roof is strengthened with an additional layer of 2 oz E glass. The door pillars have bonded into them a 1 x 18 gauge tube, bent over to form the pillar and the upper sill. The ends are flattened to be bonded to the side of the shell and take the load.

The central section is carefully worked out with box sections forming the strength and carrying the rigidity from front to rear. The box sections are wooden with glass fibre bonded over them to make a very strong monocoque section.

The Unipower GT.

Here is another mutant Mini special, this time it's the Unipower GT. A car that opened the door for other Mini based variants but having a prominent role in the British TV series "Mogul". This series ran in the 60's and starred Ray Barret who was an actor from Brisbane.

The rear engined Unipower was initially produced as a sideline project by a truck conversion company and was introduced at the 1966 London racing car show. The original car was shown prematurely and had a few gremlins which delayed its sale as a kit car for a short while after its initial display.

This was one of the better looking specials and was quite expensive for its time, due to its having a fibreglass body bonded to a space frame chassis. A unique feature was the gear lever, mounted on the driver's right side. If you think that's odd, the change pattern was back to front, resulting in first gear being where fourth normally is and vice versa. Now that would be interesting at the lights!

These models were once again renowned for their road holding and performance and continued the tradition established by the Mini, the donor of the good bits. A range of six versions was available starting at a basic kit and progressing to a race ready model. The unipower inspired other builders to release similar types of vehicles and some became quite successful in later years. Only a few cars made it to Australia and since their numbers were small anyway, one of these would be a very collectable item indeed. To see the old TV series again would rekindle memories of these cars and show just how well they suited the role as transport for the man from Mogul.

The Broadspeed.

The Broadspeed Mini, a vehicle that was stylish and well equipped, but expensive at the time of production.

These cars were originally produced in limited numbers in the UK by Ralph Broad, who had successfully modified and raced Minis prior to designing this fastback model. Its distinguishing feature was the extended Kamm tail, an essential item aiding aerodynamics at that time. The roof and rear end of the shell were fabricated from fibreglass and were reinforced with steel frame and inserts to give a strong and rigid body. The result was a car with all the Mini traits and a lot less weight.

As a road car it was under-rated by the motoring writers at the release due to bad finish and assembly - those poor souls also suggested that it was unattractive. Some of the criticisms were justified on the British cars, but when Brian Foley undertook local production the quality problems were successfully addressed.

The Foley-produced cars began with a Deluxe based unit as an entry model, followed by a 2+2 S version using Cooper S equipment. The Super Deluxe came with engine modifications such as a re-worked head (10.5:1), big cam and twin 1 ½" SU's, providing 90BHP and a rev limit of 8000rpm up from 6500. New Broadspeeds carried a full BMC factory warranty unless they were modified.

The Model with the bad attitude was the GTS. This car stretched Mini performance one notch higher - there were no apologies regarding noise, as this, combined with limpet-like grip and savage acceleration, made for one dynamic rocket ship. Here was a serious performance car that was accused of being overpowered as a road car, but, as a racing car, set new lap records all over Australia and its success became legendary.

On the dashboard, the matching 150mph speedometer and 10,000 rpm rev-counter indicate that this was no ordinary Mini. Down in the "herbs" department nestles a 1275 Cooper S power unit. For an extra \\$250 you could get a Broadspeed tune. This meant a modified head with bigger exhaust valves, ported & polished and a 10.5:1 compression. There was also a special exhaust manifold and a Broadspeed road/race camshaft. Twin exhaust pipes poked out the back, one on each side.

There are very few of these cars left now, and they remain one of the Mini's most valuable variants.

The Pellandini

The Pellandini special was produced in South Australia in the early 1970's. These were among the prettiest Mini based specials. The car featured here is a coupe, but there were also roadster versions as well. The open top look really suited the Pellandini, however not enough interest was shown and production numbers were limited.

The car takes its name from the designer, Peter Pellandini, who had an ambition to expand on the virtues of the Mini and its components. The Pellandini used the Mini drive train and components, and was made from aluminium and fiberglass around a tubular spaceframe chassis. The engine was mid-mounted, and was either an 1100 or 1275cc. The alloy wheels were 10 inch up front and 12 inch at the rear.

The one piece nose section, hinged at the front and secured by over-centre latches, covered the radiator and spare wheel. Entry through the openings provided by the gull-wing doors, needed some agility to scale the high sills, but the cockpit was amply roomy and comfortable for two.

Facia design was unusal, with glovebox on the left, angled speedo in the centre, and a group of warning lights ahead of the 300mm leather bound steering wheel. The seats were trimmed with either leather or sheep skin to order, and had four point safety harness as standard equipment.The location and length of the pendant type foot pedals were arranged to suit the buyer.

Seven of the coupe models were sold, all in kit form. Occasionally one of these cars will come up for sale in the pages of used car magazines, so they are still out there to be found.

The Bulanti.

Anotherof the Mini specials is the Bulanti. Here is a car that looks like nothing else. Built by Brian Rawlings, who had worked at Elfin and Nota, this special was a change from his usual Clubmans to a closed car. The body on the car in the picture is the first car built, in 1971, and was made in alloy. Moulds were taken from this car and subsequent units were done in fibreglass.

The Bulanti was just over one metre high and used the same track and wheel base as the Mini, which caused access to the cabin to be awkward, once inside there was a surprising amount of room with lots of legroom. The body of these cars was quite strong due to the wide side pontoons and triangulated rear section that also carried the engine. A modified Mini front sub-frame complete with Mini power-plant and suspension with locked steering, was integrated with the chassis behind the cabin's rear bulkhead. In the advertising, the vehicle was credited with being mid-engined.

Some other parts were also borrowed from the Mini, but the windscreen came from the Triumph Herald and the front lights from Hillman Hunter. The doors had Mini external hinges and like the proper Mini, two-piece sliding windows.

The road tests at the time of release attributed these cars with exceptional road holding and handling and they could be allowed to oversteer at will, depending on throttle position! That would be a surprise to Mini owners who are used to torque steer and understeer.

Only three of these cars were made, as Rawlings decided not to proceed with production after the first three. Many inquires were received about the little coupe, but he thought that "it was just too much trouble". "All the fiddly things like getting the noise down, doing the electrics and upholstery and one bloke wanting ashtrays in it, get you down" said Rawlings.

The first car is still in existence, and is owned by Henry Draper from Northern Mini Parts in Melbourne. He also has the original moulds. Henry intends to restore the car as he considers it an important part of the Mini's history. Henry tells me that he thinks the two other Bulantis are still around. If you have the chance to own one of the other two, they would make a great toy and would a good investment..

The Mini Marcos.

The Mini Marcos, the most successful of all cars based on Mini components. It was the only British car to complete the Le Mans 24 hr race in 1966, however its purpose was mainly as a kit car in the UK where many of these coupes were sold. The success overseas resulted in their being manufactured in Australia by Competition Cars at Double Bay in NSW. Kits were available for completion by owners wishing to be seen in something different that had good performance and road manners, this was the only excuse one needed to own one.

The Marcos had a similar design philosophy to the Jem, which we featured in an earlier issue, the body/chassis unit was a monocoque structure with wood and metal sections bonded into critical areas to give immense strength to the shell.

On first sight the height is the one thing that gains your attention, standing just one metre high, it looks like you could trip over one in the dark, but overall the design ends up looking quite good. The body was designed as a 2+2 with adequate accommodation for two adults and two children and a bit of luggage. Some cars were built with polished timber dashes and good trim and were presented as quite an upmarket mode of transport.

A problem that arose was that engine cooling and interior ventilation had to be managed correctly to overcome the shortcomings of inadequate air volume. Caused by the slippery shape, this was cured by using a high capacity radiator and thermo fan to allow the motor to keep its cool, for the occupants a good deodorant was desirable!

The Mini Marcos is recognised as one of the best kit cars using Mini bits and it would be good to see some of these finished to a high standard to take their place in Mini history.

The Mini Monaco.

The Mini Monaco, a well-respected member of the modified Mini family. These cars were built by Bill Buckle who had previously made a range of sports cars based on MG or components of common cars available in the 1960s.As a result of having a successful background manufacturing cars, people were prepared to take notice of Buckles new project.

The Monaco was an inexpensive conversion carried out on Mini sedans that transformed them into quite good looking coupes. The modifications involved a more steeply raked windscreen along with a fastback roofline, this gave a reduced waist to roof height and added to the squat look. To accommodate the new shape the door frames and side and rear glass were modified to suit.

The interior had also undergone a few mods as well, the steering column was lowered and the front seats were inclined to allow more headroom. New roof lining was installed and the new bits sprayed and the car was ready.

Also available was a range of extras comprising of custom dashes with a simulated wood finish and a revised exterior package. The price of the base modification was \\$450 and that gave the owners a neat looking Mini.

There are not too many of these left now and so a good one is worth around the price of a mint Cooper S. A similar style conversion was done in South Australia and that also gained a good review at the time , the Eucrie De Des 2+2 faded away with only one or two examples remaining.

DeJoux Mini GT

The de Joux Mini GT, a little coupe that is produced in New Zealand using a Mini floorpan as the base for a good kit car. Originally designed by Ferris de Joux in 1965 and finally marketed in 1970,this car gained good reviews upon release. Ferris de Joux had been in contact with the Mclaren development team to enable him to perfect a new spot welding technique allowing the metal and fibreglass sections differing expansion rate to not affect the bodywork. These cars didn't use a separate body like a Jem but this shell sat on a Mini floorpan with a new scuttle built behind the firewall to add strength, the original sills were retained.

The overall height of the car was around 225mm less than a Mini and the frontal area also decreased by 22%, a good performance boost was gained, this combined with an increase in width gave quite a long look to the car and it received a good report in articles at the time.

Unlike many kit cars this one had no cooling problems due to the radiator being mounted in the front, a bonus was that the nose of the vehicle could be lowered. Most of the rest of the car followed kit procedure such as good instrumentation and rally style bucket seats that hadn't yet been taken up by the mainstream companies.

Only a couple of these cars made it here and as no one took up the job of producing them they faded into the haze, if any remain they are hiding somewhere gathering dust.

For internet fans there is a site dedicated to these and they still don't look too bad even with the passing of time.