TOYBOX

RE­MAS­TERED MINI (EV­ERY­THING OLD IS NEW AGAIN) AND A FAB­U­LOUS FER­RARI

Unique Cars - - CONTENTS - WORDS MARK HIGGINS PHO­TOS DAVID BROWN AU­TO­MO­TIVE

“EVERY­ONE HAS a clas­sic Mini story”, says David Brown Founder and CEO of David Brown Au­to­mo­tive, the brains be­hind remastering one of the world’s great mo­tor­ing icons, the Mini.

It sounds sim­ple enough. Take one brand new – but old school – Mini bodyshell, add in a re­fur­bished driv­e­line from a clas­sic model and mod­ernise the interior for the 21st Cen­tury.

But the remastering is much more than that. David Brown has fuel run­ning through his veins, com­bined with a strong his­tory in man­u­fac­tur­ing; his con­cept of remastering the Mini came up in the plan­ning stages of the Speed­back GT which is lim­ited to up to 100 units. Brown started think­ing long term and what to do af­ter com­ple­tion of the Speed­back GT pro­duc­tion.

Brown’s he­roes are his fa­ther and Roger Dal­trey and it was his fa­ther who said the Mini was the best de­signed car ever with ingenious pack­ag­ing.

Be­ing the most iconic car in the UK, Brown saw an op­por­tu­nity to re­mas­ter the Mini as he ex­plained in our in­ter­view:

Unique Cars: At a glance it’s ob­vi­ously a Mini but with a new look. How far did you push the bound­aries?

David Brown: Some early de­sign sketches took Mini Re­mas­tered fur­ther away from the orig­i­nal con­cept, but we are pleased with what we are do­ing that keeps the orig­i­nal clas­sic Mini spirit.

UC: Remastering such a clas­sic comes with a mas­sive re­spon­si­bil­ity.

DB: Ab­so­lutely. Many com­pa­nies in the 60s and 70s tried to make lux­ury ver­sions of the orig­i­nal Mini, with pre­mium trim­mings, fin­ish and feel. Some did quite well at it.

Now we’re bring­ing a clas­sic Mini into the 21st cen­tury. We are very re­spect­ful of the Mini her­itage and we make sure what we do is right for our brand.

An ex­am­ple of that is the tail-light as­sem­bly on our three launch cars; de­signed in­ter­nally, it’s been met with po­lar­is­ing opin­ion so we’ve de­cided our pro­duc­tion cars will get a com­pletely dif­fer­ent clus­ter that’s closer to the orig­i­nal Mini and closer to the David Brown Au­to­mo­tive de­sign lan­guage.

We also want to bring in some el­e­ments of Speed­back GT into the Mini Re­mas­tered so peo­ple know it is a David Brown Au­to­mo­tive car.

UC: How does David Brown Au­to­mo­tive re­mas­ter a Mini?

DB: A Mini Re­mas­tered al­ways starts life as a clas­sic donor ve­hi­cle as we use the sin­gle-point fuel in­jec­tion 1275cc en­gine, four-or five-speed man­ual or four-speed au­to­matic gear­box.

Both the en­gine and gear­box are com­pletely re­fur­bished and are in fact bet­ter than when they were new. The en­gine now pro­duces 71 horsepower (52kW ), a bit more than the stan­dard en­gine. We also of­fer a 1330cc en­gine with 87 horsepower that gives it a bit more poke. All the an­cil­lar­ies un­der the bon­net are brand-new.

Aside from the en­gine and gear­box, ev­ery com­po­nent on the car is new, in­clud­ing the bodyshell. These come from Bri­tish Mo­tor Her­itage, the only com­pany in the world li­censed to build orig­i­nal Mini bodyshells and orig­i­nal Mini body parts.

Over 1000 hours go into making each Mini Re­mas­tered. Many hours of tra­di­tional coach-build­ing tech­niques and mod­ern man­u­fac­tur­ing prac­tices re­mas­ter the body shell, that in­cludes de-seam­ing and e-coat­ing it. As you will re­call the orig­i­nal car had large seams run­ning down the A and C pil­lars. We re­move them to give the car a fresh new look and re­in­force the body be­hind them.

We pro­file all the panel gaps and line up all the shut lines by adding or fil­ing the metal pan­els to en­sure they’re per­fect and con­sis­tent. We also add ex­tra re­in­force­ment to the side pan­els and to the front and rear cross beams.

Once the body shell is com­pleted it goes into the paint shop and un­der­goes a four-week process, with the num­ber of lay­ers de­pend­ing on the colour. We of­fer 13 stan­dard ex­te­rior colours, with the op­tion to go be­spoke if re­quired.

Our colour pal­ette is in­spired by the 60s, with both solid and metal­lic colours avail­able. We wanted to make this car an ex­pres­sion of the owner’s per­son­al­ity.

Our in­te­ri­ors are unique and we carry the ex­te­rior colour onto some interior pan­els like the clas­sic car of the 60s.

The dash­board has a fa­mil­iar look but is all-new with a glove­box, in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem with Satel­lite Nav­i­ga­tion, Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto, three gauges – now in front

“OVER 1000 HOURS GO INTO MAKING EACH MINI RE­MAS­TERED”

of the driver – and be­spoke ven­ti­la­tion con­trol knobs. There is air­con­di­tion­ing, USB ports in the glove box, an elec­tric start/stop but­ton, power win­dows, cen­tral lock­ing, elec­tronic boot-re­lease; ev­ery­thing is elec­tri­cally con­trolled, even the power-steer­ing.

The seats are re­uphol­stered in leather and re-foamed on their orig­i­nal frames.

It’s a bal­anc­ing act to change it enough to make it bet­ter but not too much so it loses the ap­peal of the orig­i­nal clas­sic car. We’re mind­ful of ev­ery­thing we do, like the wood grain or leather trimmed steer­ing wheel.

The Mini Re­mas­tered runs on 12-inch al­loy wheels and though there are many opin­ions on sus­pen­sion setup, tyre size, pres­sures and off-sets, we have ar­rived at what we be­lieve is the op­ti­mum setup. How­ever, as the sus­pen­sion is fully ad­justable we can tune it to suit our cus­tomers.

UC: What about airbags and anti-lock brakes?

DB: We haven’t added any air bags and we’ve made changes to the steer­ing col­umn’s rake and an­gle so us­ing an airbag from the donor car isn’t pos­si­ble.

We see the Mini Re­mas­tered as a city car that will op­er­ate at lower speeds. While it will eas­ily do a Lon­don to Ed­in­burgh trip it’s still a clas­sic Mini that is go­ing to drive sim­i­larly to a clas­sic Mini. We have added plenty of re­fine­ment with­out tak­ing away the clas­sic Mini steer­ing and feel which is why peo­ple want them. UC: Who is the re­mas­tered Mini aimed at and who is buy­ing it? DB: That is a very good ques­tion. As a small com­pany, there are ob­vi­ously lots of opin­ions and a cou­ple of months be­fore launch we were all in meet­ings and try­ing to dis­cuss what we thought the main cus­tomer base would be.

And there­fore, we were think­ing about paint fin­ishes of the launch cars, the type and style of op­tions and that kind of thing.

And we all had a dif­fer­ent opin­ion, which have all proven to be cor­rect.

We have all been amazed at the breadth of the cus­tomer base. Young, old, male, fe­male, Bri­tain-based, Europe-based, Aus­trala­sia-based, Asia-based, Amer­ica-based.

We were stunned at the up­take. From peo­ple who have never had a car be­fore, to oth­ers who have vast car col­lec­tions and want to add to it. Oth­ers who live in the coun­try but work in Lon­don and want some­thing spe­cial, ex­clu­sive and fun to drive in front of their friends in May­fair mews.

UC: You must be pleased about hav­ing so many young peo­ple in­ter­ested in the clas­sic Mini con­sid­er­ing there’s the new one on the mar­ket?

DB: One ma­jor mar­ket is the gen­er­a­tion who per­haps orig­i­nally owned clas­sic Mi­nis as their first or sec­ond car, per­haps the one they got their first speed­ing ticket in, those life af­firm­ing ex­pe­ri­ences. Now they want to rekindle their teens and early 20s.

As the clas­sic Mini was built between 1959 and 2000 so many gen­er­a­tions grew up with the Mini and every­one has a Mini story to tell. A pretty large por­tion of the pop­u­la­tion has ei­ther owned a clas­sic Mini or had mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ences in one. So we are tap­ping into that rather large cus­tomer pool.

UC: If I want to or­der one to­day (March 2018) when would I re­ceive it?

DB: We have about a year of build slot reser­va­tions con­firmed so it would cur­rently be late 2018 or early 2019.

Our Mini Re­mas­tered man­u­fac­tur­ing ca­pa­bil­ity right now is about 100 cars a year. It’s a very lim­ited ex­clu­sive and niche prod­uct and it is our in­ten­tion to keep it that way.

David Brown Au­to­mo­tive is a low vol­ume coach­builder pro­duc­ing be­spoke unique ve­hi­cles. And we will al­ways have that ethos. We’re not try­ing to com­pete with any­one who is build­ing mass pro­duc­tion cars.

UC: Tell me about the model range.

DB: Cur­rently we have the stan­dard, if you can call it that, plus two spe­cial lim­ited pro­duc­tion mod­els of Mini Re­mas­tered.

One is in­spired by Café Rac­ers and the other, by the Monte Carlo rally tak­ing in­spi­ra­tion from clas­sic rally cars of the era with a high-per­for­mance 1330cc en­gine as stan­dard. Both spe­cial edi­tion mod­els are lim­ited to 25 units.

UC: Are they sold through deal­ers or sold direct?

DB: Most of the time direct through our head­quar­ters in Sil­ver­stone, UK, but we do also have a deal­er­ship based in

“WE WANTED TO MAKE THIS CAR AN EX­PRES­SION OF THE OWNER’S PER­SON­AL­ITY”

Dus­sel­dorf, Ger­many, and while we can take or­ders we can feed them back through that dealer. Be­ing such a small vol­ume com­pany it doesn’t make sense to have vast num­bers of deal­ers.

We can do things through shows and events that bring peo­ple to us. Which is one rea­son we’re at Sil­ver­stone as we recog­nise that a lot of peo­ple who are in­ter­ested in our cars may well be here any­way.

We en­cour­age cus­tomers to come and watch their car be­ing made and we have no­ticed this of­fer is some­thing key to our cus­tomers. Many are in­ter­ested in see­ing a car be­ing built and talk­ing to the crafts­men and women that are build­ing it.

Each cus­tomer gets an on­line por­tal they can ac­cess any­where in the world with pic­tures and videos and sound clips of the var­i­ous build stages of their car.

Peo­ple love com­ing here and sit­ting down, choos­ing leathers, paint fin­ishes and watch­ing their car be­ing built. It’s an emo­tional ex­pe­ri­ence.

UC: Now you’ve whet­ted my ap­petite, how much is a Mini Re­mas­tered?

DB: Mini Re­mas­tered is avail­able from $133,500 plus taxes, ship­ping and de­liv­ery, the In­spired by Café Rac­ers spe­cial edi­tion is $142,500 plus taxes, ship­ping and de­liv­ery and the In­spired by Monte Carlo spe­cial edi­tion is $147,000 plus tax and de­liv­ery. The price dif­fer­ence between Monte Carlo and Café racer is purely the big­ger out­put en­gine in the Monte Carlo as stan­dard, avail­able as an op­tion on the In­spired by Café Rac­ers spe­cial edi­tion.

UC: And what is the purchase process?

DB: Mini Re­mas­tered can be re­served with a build reser­va­tion which re­quires a $3500 re­fund­able de­posit. Then we in­vite you here or work with you re­motely to help with choos­ing colours, spec­i­fi­ca­tions and any be­spoke fea­tures you want. Once the spec­i­fi­ca­tion is agreed, we re­quest a 20 per cent de­posit, to start the build of your Mini Re­mas­tered. You’ll get reg­u­lar up­dates in your on­line por­tal and at the point of com­ple­tion and de­liv­ery from Sil­ver­stone, the re­main­der is paid.

All our cars are sold pre-tax and pre-de­liv­ery and we have ex­cel­lent peo­ple in the lo­gis­tics busi­ness who can be con­tacted to ar­range for your car to be de­liv­ered any­where in the world.

RIGHT Vi­sion­ary David Brown. TOP Only the interior pro­por­tions re­main fa­mil­iar. BE­LOW A larger ca­pac­ity 1330cc en­gine is op­tional.

TOP If you reckon it’s a nicely re­stored old­school Mini, take a closer look! BE­LOW LEFT The Mini Re­mas­tered gains more com­pre­hen­sive in­stru­men­ta­tion.

TOP Ba­sic Mini styling still ap­peals af­ter al­most 60 years.

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