Classic Sports Car



Year of manufactur­e 1982 Recorded mileage 98,000km Asking price €13,000 Vendor Garagisti, Lisbon, Portugal; 00351 930 672 674;

WHEN IT WAS NEW Price £4040 Max power 73bhp Max torque 74lb ft 0-60mph 12secs Top speed 96mph Mpg 45

When Frank Stephenson penned the BMW MINI for the 21st century, he started off by designing a Mini for each decade since its 1959 launch, imagining what the car would have looked like if it had been restyled, rather than pretty much unchanged, across its 41 years. Well, he didn’t need to do so for the 1970s: British Leyland’s Italian subsidiary had done that already.

Bodied by Bertone, and released just a year before BL was nationalis­ed and Innocenti was taken over by De Tomaso, the Innocenti Mini replaced the Mini’s 1950s bodywork with much more crisp, sharp styling and, crucially, added a hatchback. BL’S own effort at doing the same, the 1969 Mini Clubman, didn’t do that, and only altered the front panels of the car.

This isn’t just any Innocenti Mini, though. From 1976 there was a new, range-topping De Tomaso model. A Cooper-spec 1275cc engine increased power, while new bumpers and wheelarch extensions gave much more aggressive looks. A voracious appetite for rust means that very few remain.

This 1982 car has spent its whole life in Portugal, which has no doubt helped keep some of the rust at bay, but it has also benefited from a recent restoratio­n. Its bodywork was repaired where necessary, its Amaranto paint completely resprayed and its mechanical­s overhauled. Its interior is pleasingly original, however, with only a deep clean needed to bring back the carpet, door cards and seats. It is one of just a handful of Mini De Tomasos still in Portugal – and they hardly abound in the car’s native Italy.

An exotic body and interior with very familiar underpinni­ngs, it’s perfect for someone who wants to run an Italian curiosity without being beholden to parts-supply issues. Most classic Mini specialist­s should be able to refit and maintain the little De Tomaso, making it almost as easy to run in the UK, America or Australia as any other BL model.

It will also be just as brilliant to drive, with that trademark Mini firmness, wheel-at-each-corner handling and excellent steering. Like the contempora­ry 1275GT, the De Tomaso came with 12in alloys rather than the 10in rims of the 1960s Coopers, which allow larger brakes – if also giving a rather harsh ride.

More practical and much rarer than a Mini Cooper, but just as good to drive, this Innocenti is an unusual opportunit­y, especially in this condition, and the price seems correct for such a fine example of a little gem.

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