WELSH RAREBIT

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 Magazine - - Contents - Words Martyn Mor­gan-Jones Pho­tog­ra­phy Ger­ard Hughes

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!”

NEIGH­BOURLY

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.

BODY BEAU­TI­FUL

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.

MOV­ING ON

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.

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