Unique Cars - - MKII MARVEL -

Rick James en­joys some fairly eclec­tic tastes when it comes to cars – he also runs some tasty Ja­panese clas­sics – but his pas­sion for Mi­nis is a long-term af­fair.

This is quite a late car,” he says, “a se­ries II re­leased in late 1969 and con­tin­ued to 71.

“There were a few up­dates with this model: syn­chro on first gear, dif­fer­ent heater, and flares for the wheel arches. There’s an old story that the flares came about be­cause a South Aus­tralian po­lice­men re­fus­ing to reg­is­ter a new Cooper S that didn’t have the flares – or so the story goes.

“I got into Mi­nis be­cause I prob­a­bly couldn’t af­ford a more ex­pen­sive car, but I liked go­ing fast and I liked sporty cars and th­ese were af­ford­able. The first one I had was in 1970, and this one I bought in ’73 from a guy in Dan­de­nong. It was a one-owner car and I’ve had it ever since.”

Sporty? Ab­so­lutely. The Cooper S had a well-deser ved rep­u­ta­tion as a gi­ant-killer in com­pe­ti­tion, typ­i­cally see­ing big­ger cars roar past on the straights, only to duck down the in­side of the next turn. Even to­day, you can see it hap­pen at events such as the Good­wood Re­vival.

Per­haps the car’s most fa­mous vic­to­ries were the fiercely-con­tested Monte Carlo Ral­lies, which Mini won three times, with teams Paddy Hop­kirk/ Henry Lid­don (1964 – a con­tro­ver­sial year), Timo Maki­nen/Paul Easter 1965) and Rauno Aal­to­nen/Henry Lid­don (1967).

Tim’s ex­am­ple was used as a fam­ily run­about, un­til the sec­ond child turned up and it was semi-re­tired. He tried to sell it, but was

unim­pressed with the of­fers and de­cided that one day he’d re­store it.

That op­por­tu­nity came about sev­eral years later, when a gent called Len Read, who is well-known in the lo­cal Mini world, of­fered to tack le much of the restora­tion in his spare time. “It took him nearly 18 months. If I had to do the same job to­day it would prob­a­bly cost dou­ble or more,” says Tim.

“Chas­ing de­tail parts is a chore. For­tu­nately I’d had this car for a long time and I knew what had been changed and what hadn’t. Be­cause Len had con­tacts as well, we were able to piece it to­gether prett y well. Lit­tle things like hose clamps took pa­tience… some took me up to five years ! The dip­stick got lost, we had to find an­other and they’re slightly dif­fer­ent on this car to other Mi­nis. You re­ally have to be on your toes.”

Per­haps the big­gest ‘find’ for this car was the wheels. “They’re a proper set of Minilites – I got hold of them back in the 70s from a guy named Bob Scan­lon, who raced Mi­nis and had a wreck­ing busi­ness. I think I bought the set for $200 in about ’74 or ’75. They’re one of the nicest ac­ces­sories you can get for one of th­ese cars. I’d hate to think what you’d pay for them to­day – sev­eral thou­sand.”

While the restora­tion is faith­ful to the orig­i­nal, there are a few mi­nor changes, such as the af­ter­mar­ket steer­ing wheel that’s been blended in nicely, or the slightly big­ger 1.5 inch SU car­bu­ret­tors, which was the spec for the po­lice-model Coop­ers.

What’s a car like this worth? A good ex­am­ple sold at Mo­tor­cla­sica last year for $78,000, plus fees that took it up to just over $ 90k. That’s the top end. Own­ers sug­gest some­where in the 70s is quite achiev­able.

TOP Ba­sic but ef­fec­tive in­te­rior is what we’re more used to.RIGHT Lightly mod­ded en­gine looks in­cred­i­bly orig­i­nal.LEFT Owner Rick reck­ons it’s still great fun to drive.

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