A Mini that is reputed to be the earliest unrestored example in the world today made an astonishing £40,250 at auction, despite being a wreck.
The Mini, which was owned by a small group of enthusiasts including Richard Bremner, who wrote about it in the August 2011 issue of C&SC, is a 1959 Austin Mini Se7en De Luxe, registration XLL 27.
Confirmed by British Motor Heritage to be the eighth of its type, it went under the hammer at Bonhams' sale at the RAF Museum in Hendon with an upper estimate of £15,000.
Having shelled out a mammoth £40k at Bonhams, the new owner will have a huge quandary of whether to keep the car as-is – as a hugely expensive artwork – or to restore it and wipe out its principal claim to fame.
From the Bonhams catalogue description:
This Austin Se7en De Luxe is believed to be the oldest surviving un-restored Mini. Accompanying correspondence from the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust states that it is the 8th of its type to come of the production line at Longbridge in May 1959, some three months before the launch of this legendary model on 26th August. The BMIHT correspondence confirms that the car was despatched on 31st July 1959 to Car Mart Limited in Colchester, whose service plate is riveted inside the engine compartment. It is believed that only three Minis earlier than 'XLL 27' still exist; one is '621 AOK', which forms part of the BMIHT's collection at Gaydon while the other two (one of which has been converted into a cabriolet) are in Japan. From 1986 until last year the car was owned by David Gallimore of Chichester, the previous owner listed on the copy Swansea V5 on file being Mrs Gladys Hobro of Aldwick, Bognor Regis. The car is complete and has all the features that distinguish these very early Minis, including the famous glass washer bottle. Some parts have been removed for security and ease of transport but all will be provided at the sale together with a Swansea V5 registration document. The driver's door has been replaced but other than that only a few small items appear to have been renewed. 'XLL 27' retains its factory Farina Grey paintwork, all its original panels, engine, transmission and the original registration number. The interior is likewise original, intact and complete except for the carpets. Even the original Bluemels numberplates survive and there is evidence to support the belief that the recorded mileage of 30,041 miles is correct. A paper brake service label remains fixed to the near-side door jamb, recording work carried out at 17,942 miles. There is evidence of corrosion in the front floors, 'A' panels, sills, doors, rear seat well, boot floor and rear valance but a surprisingly high percentage of the shell is intact. The rear sub-frame appears original, as do all the steel hydraulic pipes. The engine has not been run for many years. The August 2011 issue of Classic & Sports Car magazine devoted six pages to this amazing survivor, which represents a unique opportunity to own an astonishingly correct example of one of the 20th Century's greatest cars in its earliest, purest form. There can be few more important examples of British automotive engineering.