When is a Mini Moke not a Mini Moke? When it’s an ultra-rare AEM Scout, and Lawrence Hambridge has one of the best…
Mini Moke or Mini Jeep? Actually neither. Lawrence Hambridge’s AEM Scout is a rare and interesting beauty.
First things first. Despite the badging, and general appearance, this feature car is not a Mini Moke. Neither is it a Cub, Jimini or Navajo. It is in fact an AEM Scout. The Scout story is a tad convoluted. It was launched by Import/Export of Spalding, Lincolnshire, with production spanning 19831985. Then, between 1987 and 1988, Scouts were manufactured in Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales, by AEM (Automotive Engineering & Manufacturing). And finally, between 1990 and 1991, they were produced by the Sun Motor Company, based in Solihull.
It’s difficult to ascertain just how many Scouts were made in total, but it’s thought to be quite a few. AEM is reputed to have made 200, which were offered as fullyassembled cars, or as a part-assembled knock down units to be completed by the purchaser (or whoever they chose to do the build for them). A six-wheeled version was also available, and all Scouts featured a steel monocoque.
In fact, the AEM Scout not only featured a steel monocoque, it utilised Zintec; a cold-rolled steel that has been electrolytically coated with a thin layer of zinc to resist corrosion. So, not only was this version a tough little creation, it was also built to last.
NUTS AND BOLTS
This stunning AEM Scout belongs to, and was restored by, Lawrence Hambridge; a Classic Mini enthusiast and HGV technician by trade. He was not actively seeking a Scout, or even a restoration project when he came across this Scout – it was all a bit by chance.
Lawrence takes up the story: “I’ve always been interested in classic cars, and have also done a lot of rallying as a navigator, and I’ve developed a particular interest in classic Minis too. Many years back I worked for an Austin-Rover garage, so I have an affinity for these cars. Because I work on lorries and everything is so technical these days, I find working on ‘nuts and bolts’ classics relaxing! And Minis and Mini-based cars are a lot smaller, of course!”
As alluded to, Lawrence wasn’t intending to undertake another restoration. In fact, he already had his hands full restoring a 1962 Minivan. “I was well into that restoration and wasn’t planning on another one quite yet,” explains Lawrence. “Then I learnt that my nextdoor-neighbour’s mother was moving to America and was having a clear out. She wanted to sell everything, and that happened to include an AEM Scout which she’d bought back in 2006 and had been kept under a tarpaulin in the garage.
“After having a good look at it I was intrigued enough to buy it. She wanted £250, but I thought it was worth more so I gave her £500. It was in fact in a pretty poor state though, and looked very sad for itself.”
Having had his interest piqued by the Scout, Lawrence took a break from the Minivan restoration, switching his focus to his new purchase. “I bought the Scout in 2015 then spent every weekend based in a friend’s workshop over a 12-month period restoring it,” says Lawrence.
Lawrence’s restoration began with the bodywork. Although the zinc-coated steel
had undoubtedly slowed the rust, there was still quite a lot of corrosion which needed cutting out and replacing with new steelwork. Unfortunately, Scout panels simply aren’t available, but Lawrence wasn’t deterred – it just made him more creative!
“Fortunately, the original floorpans were in great shape, so these could be retained, but the other replacement panels and repair sections had to be fabricated from scratch,” elaborates Lawrence. “Starting at the rear end, I removed the complete rear panel, then the side panels, pontoons, and the front panel and used the old parts as patterns.
“Luckily, I’m friendly with a number of the guys at a local metalworking firm and they were kind enough to not only let me oversee the panel making, but let me assist too. I made the smaller panels and repair sections in my workshop. I also made a few design changes along the way.
“For example, when I bought the Scout, it had a very plain and agriculturallooking front grille. So I bought a genuine Moke grille and shaped the front panel to accommodate it. I also reshaped the upper parts of the front wings. AEM didn’t have the tooling to curve them, which is why they were bent in small steps. I didn’t like the way they looked, so I used the correct tool and shaped the wings to give them a smoother, more flowing curve. I also fabricated new bumpers as the originals were too fussy – they looked like cow horns!”
Lawrence, who tends to underplay his abilities, and is very modest about what he has achieved, did a stunning job on the wings, grille and bumpers. Indeed, the entire car, which was sandblasted before work commenced, and again before painting, is something of a metalworking masterclass. There are subtle, yet very
“I fabricated new bumpers as the originals looked like cow horns!”
effective, and seamlessly integrated, touches everywhere.
For example, to produce the raised horizontal lines in the side panels, he welded two RSJs together then welded a round steel bar to them and used this arrangement to form the correct shape in the replacement panels. Apparently, it took a fair few attempts to get it right. His efforts have certainly been rewarded as the end result is flawless. But he didn’t stop there…
“The original fuel filler was on the offside wing – it didn’t look good or work effectively,” explains Lawrence. “I altered the filler so that it now sits behind the rear number plate, which is hinged to provide access. Plus, there was a small compartment beneath the passenger seat, so I’ve made one to match under the driver’s seat. The grab handles are from a genuine Moke, as is the front badge and rear mud flaps, and I’m in the process of modifying the heater vents so they demist the screen more effectively. They’ll still look period though.
“The windscreen surround is also the original, as is the roll-hoop and rear seat support/base, although I had to get a new windscreen made, as the original was damaged. Oh, it had a single wiper fitted. I changed this to twin wipers.”
CUTTING A DASH
Making the Scout as structurally sound as possible was top priority for Lawrence, and although he cut plenty of new metal, he didn’t cut corners! He also didn’t skimp when it came to the visuals.
“I wanted to make the Scout stand out, so I resprayed the bodyshell Daytona Yellow, its original colour,” reveals Lawrence. “Although it looks great, and turns heads, the downside is that the colour is a magnet for insects!”
When it came to the interior, which was very Spartan, Lawrence made a few improvements: “The seats were very worn, but I was careful to replace them with ones that look almost identical but are better made, and have contrasting piping. I’m planning to have the rear seat squabs upholstered and piped to match. To improve the dash, and to keep me informed as to what’s going on with the
engine, I chose new Smiths instruments. I also redid the wiring. It was MkI at the rear and, because an alternator had been fitted, MkIII up front! I’ve fitted MkIII switches as I think they really suit the car’s design.”
The car originally had 12-inch steel wheels, but Lawrence says they didn’t do anything for the car aesthetically, so he decided to put it on 5x10s, which he had to travel to Ipswitch to get! As a bonus, they were fitted with 165/70/10 Yokohama A008 tyres. “These are perfect for a Mini or Mini-based car,” says Lawrence.
Understandably, the Scout isn’t a particularly heavy car, and it performed well enough when fitted with an 848cc A-series. However, when Lawrence bought it, he discovered that the original 848 had been given the heave-ho.
“I was surprised, and pleased, to discover that the engine was 998cc,” admits Lawrence. “But that’s where the good news ended. Although it ran, the engine was a bit smoky, and it misfired.
“When I stripped it down I found that the rings were worn and the head wasn’t in a good shape. I replaced this with a ported and polished head, one that has also been converted for unleaded. And I fitted a new timing chain, pistons, bearings, oil pump, water pump and had the sump aqua-blasted. Absolutely everything was done in fact. The exhaust system exhaust came off a Cooper I think. To help keep the engine cool, I had the radiator fitted with a new core that has an extra row.”
Lawrence also cleaned out the gearbox and replaced all its bearings with parts supplied by Mini Sport.
“The master cylinders are ones I’ve machined and adapted to look like originals, and the whole braking
“I wanted to make the Scout stand out, so I resprayed it in Daytona Yellow”
New replica seats were installed with contrasting piping... but no belts! Front panel was shaped to accommodate Moke grille.
Looking bright in Daytona Yellow, the car’s original colour. Lawrence fitted MkIII switches. Special compartment was made. Sporty alloy pedals fitted.
Original 998cc engine was completely refurbished. Bonnet straps are a nice touch. Original stamp of authority. Lawrence re-wired all the parts in himself.
Original windscreen houses new glass and Lawrence replaced single wiper with these twins. 5x10-inch steels were Lawrence’s shoe of choice.