It was probably more like necessity than inspiration - but perhaps it was a bit of both. The necessity came (in 1970) from the need to get another car when my 1961 Mini Van (that I had bought in 1965) came to the end of its useful life. I reckoned that all that was really wrong with the Mini was it's bodywork - all the mechanical bits were fine and it seemed a shame to ditch the lot. The inspiration came by chance. At the time, Vince Gonelli and Peter Beaton (better known as Custom and Hotrodding) were assembling Stimson Mini Bugs in an old workshop at the Edinburgh end of the Union Canal (about where Cargo is now). The Mini Bug was a Mini-based beach buggy with a tubular steel spaceframe and a fibreglass body. The spaceframe was pretty narrow (as wide as the width of the inner-wheel track) - with the fibreglass overhanging it out to the full width of the track. I felt that a more useable and practical car could be made if the
spaceframe was the full width of the track. So I took the Bug's spaceframe dimensions and widened (and lengthened) them a bit.
The Mini had served me well. It was my first car and I had cut my car-maintenance teeth on it. I had also taken a few liberties with it - cutting holes in the sides to put in windows, and holes in the roof for blue-tinted perspex roof-lights. I used it daily and had travelled the length of the country with it several times - and it took me to the South of France in 1968 (during the French national strike).
The Build (or more correctly: The-Never-Ending-Process)
Based on my design for the larger frame (than that of the Mini Bug), I did some weight comparisons with a normal Mini bodyshell (virtually the same) and had the frame welded up by Graham McDougall - a well-known Edinburgh blacksmith. The frame was delivered to my parent's house (where I was living at the time) and I set about stripping out everything I needed from the Mini and transferred it to the Minamow. At that time it still didn't have a name - that was to come later. All of the construction work was carried out in the open - between January and March 1971. I spent every weekday night between about 7 and 11 and every weekend for that 3 months on it. Now that I think about it, it was a pretty quick build. And looking back, the neighbours seemed more interested in what I was up to rather than annoyed at me working into the night with outdoor lights on.
The design was never static and the build never did end. The bonnet kept sprouting vents, the rear suspension was completely changed, the canvas roof was replaced with solid: first ply then alloy. In my mind (at least!) the independent sliding doors were a masterpiece.
On The Road
It was a great wee car - it was unique. It served me well for almost 20 years - and was a considerable source of amusement. When I went to work in London in the early '70s it came with me. It took me back and forward beween London and Edinburgh I don't know how many times and also on camping trips to the South of France three times. Despite being called a Minamow, it became known as the Orangebox - because of it's colour and shape. Incidentally, the Minamow name came from MIN (threequarters of the word Mini) and AMOW (from the initials of: All My Own Work).
Of course it came with all the Mini-related problems: head gaskets, CVJs, rear suspension bushes, steering swivel pins, etc, etc, etc. But that's how you learn about stuff. One of it's main problems, that I never cured, was overheating. If you look at the photographs taken over the years, you'll see that the bonnet sprouted all sorts of air inlets and outlets. I even stuck another radiator in-line in the front grille, but even that didn't cure the problem. It was not so bad driving in this country, but on long journeys in France it was a nightmare. There, I used to ignore the speedo and "drive on the temperature gauge" - when it got near the red line I would slow down.
In December 1989, I stripped down the complete frame with the idea of a rebuild with a solid, fixed, roof with larger, hinged, side doors. I welded on the new upper framework; had it all gritblasted and primed; bought an MoT-failed Clubman and transferred the engine and suspension - then I ran out of steam.
The car lay untouched in the garden until Sunday 12 February 1995 - when I got up early, cut up the frame and took it to the dump. Within 2 weeks, the engine and all rest had gone the same way. And that was that. No regrets. It had served me as my daily car for years and I had had a LOT of fun out of it and it was time to move on.
It stll makes a pretty reasonable story.
If you click on the links to the right, you'll find lots of photographs that cover the whole story.
If you want to contact me, I'm at: firstname.lastname@example.org