Mini rarities out in force in Australia

| 28 Jan 2016

Minis were built in Australia in the 1960s and ‘70s along with Mokes and other variants, and the pint-sized classics still have a strong following today. The city of Wollongong on the south coast of New South Wales is known locally as ‘The Gong’, home to Minis In The Gong, an unusual local car club that exists only as a website to keep like-minded people informed. No membership, no committee, just a network to arrange runs and outings. The group staged its annual Show ‘n’ Shine last week in the grounds of  the Australian Motorlife Museum at Kembla Grange with a record turnout of 78 cars. Classic & Sports Car was there.

A steel-bodied replica of a Broadspeed GT was voted ‘Car of the Year’, it was built in 1991 based on a 1970 Cooper S, and certainly attracted some intrigued looks from the curious and the knowledgeable alike.

Other standouts included a blue Mini van with a turbocharged 1310cc A-series engine, which produced 140bhp at the wheels, plus Michael Benton’s ’78 Clubman, which was rebuilt with ‘round nose’ front panels, painted in a blue-to-red chameleon finish and fitted with a supercharged 1342cc engine. Everything on the car was restored or replaced with new, down to the last nut and bolt.

Also attracting attention was Steve Pearse’s blue Clubman GT, which sported a modified 1380cc A-series block fitted with a fuel-injected twin-cam cylinder head from a BMW K1100 motorbike – a conversion which is becoming quite popular with complete kits available from specialists.

The cars on show ranged from early, original Minis and several Coopers through to a brace of pickups (‘utes’) and a handful of Mokes.  

Australian built Minis often had differences to their British counterparts: they had wind-up windows with quarter lights before the UK built cars, and later different door handles too. 

A modern BMW Mini Countryman showed how much cars have grown since the original was launched, towering over the others and looking like a Range Rover had infiltrated the ranks.