MINI GETS A SPORTY MAKEOVER.
By the late 1960s, Mini had proved its power on the track, taking out world-famous rallies and races both in Australia and overseas.
So it wasn’t long before the pocket rocket began attracting the attention of sportscar engineers and designers.
They were lured by the combination of the Mini’s lightweight body and handling, and set about giving the Mini a makeover.
One of the most well-known Mini derivatives was the Nota Fang – an entirely Australian model produced by a Sydney workshop.
Powered by a Mini Cooper S engine, the Fang was essentially a body kit that brought the weight of the car up to 450kg, and designers claimed that the kit could be put together in two weekends.
Rick Scott, who owns one of the models, says it served its purpose of being a car that could transcend both the track and the road, for a reasonable price.
“It’s pretty much as close as you can get to driving a single seater racing car on the road,” Rick says.
“I love it because it’s different – I’ve got the only one competing in Victoria, and there are only three of four that still compete, that I know of.”
Rick estimates he’s spent around 1000 hours refining his Mini Fang, but his love for Minis goes back to his childhood.
“My father worked for BMC and my first association with a Mini was one he brought home for evaluation in about 1960,” he says.
“Then in 1964 I started my apprenticeship at BMC, and because I had a young brain I absorbed everything.”
Rick’s first car, a Mini Deluxe, was the start of what would become a healthy collection.
He’s owned around 10 Mini Cooper S’ throughout the decades and now has a collection of 14 that he uses for racing.
“They are fun to drive,” he says.
“It doesn’t matter if they’re an 850 or a Clubman GT, they are fun and you can embarrass a lot of other people on the road with their performance and concerning ability.
“You can just really drive the car, you’re not getting something that’s a press button start, feet up on the dash, cruise control type thing.
“They’ve got soul.”
Another popular Mini derivative was the Mini Marcos.
According to Steve Schmidt, who owns one of the cars, the Marcos company was started in England by a pair of engineers who saw the potential to transform the Mini into a purely racing model.
“They designed a fibreglass shell to go over the Mini mechanics,” Steve says.
“Because they’re so light and they’re quite aerodynamic, they slip through the air quite quickly.”
The Mini Marcos was raced to wide success, but perhaps its best-known entry was in the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race, where it was one of 15 cars to finish, despite its smaller size.
“A lot of people don’t realise the Mini Marcos was never sold as a complete car,” Steve says, adding the body kits were manufactured only in England, Ireland and South Africa.
“You only ever bought it as a body shell and then you were meant to provide all the other pieces, so you had to have a Mini that you could take the mechanics out of.”
These days, Steve manages to take the Mini Marcos out on the road about once a month.
“It’s a bit of a crowd-puller,” he says.
“What I like about them they’ve got this giant-killer type history, where they compete against cars of much bigger engine sizes and they seem to hold their own and do quite well.
“That’s what I like about Minis".