December 2019

[1-Dec_19_Empty_gearbox_casing.jpg] Empty gearbox casing: the starting point.
Photo by Iain Barker

Creating a Gearbox from Scratch
by Iain Barker

One of my goals with buying a 1967 Mk1 Mini Cooper S was to experience what it would have been like to drive the fabled Cooper S exactly as it was in the 1960s. Originally a Mk1 Cooper S would have been equipped with a close-ratio gearbox and a higher ratio differential (3.44), suiting the race pedigree of its sports-tuned engine. Unfortunately, my car was fitted with a gearbox from an Elf/Hornet with standard ratio gears and a lower ratio final drive (3.65:1). Although this was perfectly adequate for normal use, there is quite a difference in concept between the sedate “designed for refinement” Riley Elf and Wolseley Hornet, versus the “racing pedigree” Cooper S.

There have been many generations and revisions of the gearbox used in the classic Mini. The very first type, from 1959 to 1962, used three bronze cones for the synchromesh, taken from the in-line Austin A35 gearbox design. With a central “magic wand” gear change they were not very reliable, and tended to wear out quite quickly. Next came several generations of the 3-synchro gearbox, using the Porsche design of separate baulk rings for the synchronizer hubs. Then the “magic wand” was replaced by a more accurate “remote” gearbox for use on the sportier Cooper and Cooper S cars. Next a change to 4-synchro remote, then 4-synchro with a rod instead of remote change, and finally a limited edition 5-speed used on the mid-’90s Cooper S 5 cars.

The original Mk1 Mini gearbox had synchromesh on 2/3/4th gear but an un-synchronized “crash on 1st,” the attitude per Alec Issigonis that first gear is only to be used when pulling away from stationary. Unfortunately, he had not foreseen the advent of stop-and-go traffic, where first gear would be used more and more while on the move. This inevitably led to the all-too-familiar repeated grinding to try and find first gear with the car still in motion.

December 2019

[2-Dec_19_Detail_333.jpg] Detail of gearbox casing with the all-important stamp: 333.
Photo by Iain Barker

Swapping out the original Mk1 worn gearbox for a fully synchro version donated by a non-S Mk2 or later Mini was a common solution in the ’70s, and most likely the reason my car had the wrong type fitted. Unfortunately, the differential on each Mini is machined to match its gearbox casing, so swapping the gearbox also results in the final drive ratio changing to that of the donor car. This means that not only are the closer ratios of the “sports” S gearbox lost, but also the engine revs much higher in any given gear due to the lower ratio final drive.

This would not do no, not at all.

September 2017 — The first thing I needed was to know exactly which gearbox casing to start from. The premier source for Mini gearbox parts is, and a quick e-mail to John Guess confirmed the worst: “Mk1 S parts are far and few between now. You’re looking for a 190 or 333, for which you may as well take out a second mortgage to pay for.” The Internet forums and reference books confirmed that “Q 22G333” was the casting number used for the 1967 Cooper S 1275.

The 3-synchro 22G333 gearbox was only used from 1964 to 1968. To make matters worse, the factory-spec set-up for my 1967 S was with an improved differential having Hardy Spicer output shafts, introduced as part of the homologation improvements for the Monte Carlo works rally cars to use. Of the total four-year production life of the 22G333 gearbox, that particular combination was only fitted between April 1966 and the introduction of the Mk2 all-synchro gearbox in August 1968.

Other than a list of part numbers, I really didn’t know what I was getting into. Back in the late ’80s/early ’90s, when I was repairing old Minis most weekends, I would focus on bodywork, mechanicals and engines, while anything gearbox-related was left to my father. Gearboxes always seemed like a box of black magic to me. Now it would be my turn to figure out how they worked.

December 2019

[3-Dec_19_Diff_New_Crown_Wheel.jpg] These arrived with the gearbox -- a most welcome package!
Photo by Iain Barker

So this is where I found myself — 50 years too late, no real clue what I was getting into, and trying to source a gearbox that was only in production a little over a year. This was not going to be easy. I spent the next year scouring on-line parts vendors, chat forums and other Mini-related sources, but to no avail. It seemed what I was looking for just wasn’t available. Nobody was selling 22G333 gearboxes, and nobody knew where to find one.

November 2018 — As luck would have it, Mini Mania in California was having an end-of-summer stock clear-out, and one of the things they listed in their e-mail newsletter was a used Hardy Spicer differential. After some discussion it emerged that this particular diff had a broken tooth on the crown wheel so it had been sitting on the shelf for a while, but was otherwise serviceable. Better still, they also had the empty 333 gearbox casing to match the diff, but alas, no gear set to go inside it.

I waited anxiously the few days for their “20% off used parts sale” start date, then placed the order. Sure enough, a week or so later the empty gearbox case and diff arrived, plus a new crown wheel to replace the broken one. Even better, no second mortgage required. The game was afoot.

[To be continued…]

December 2019

[4-Dec_19_Newman_Moke.jpg] Dave Newman and his new-to-him Moke, imported all the way from Asbury Park, N.J.
Photo by Bruce Vild

British Legends Weekend!

PLYMOUTH, Mass., Oct. 13 — A handful of Minis made it to the British Legends Weekend show on Sunday, the nicest day of the weekend. The show, hosted by the Cape Cod British Car Club, attracted the Barkers, Bertons, Icazas and Newmans, while Faith Lamprey and Bruce Vild brought not a Mini, but an MGB.

December 2019

NEMO Holiday Party Dec. 7!

The NEMO Holiday Party will be held at La Cantina Italiana in Framingham, Mass., on Saturday, December 7th, from 12 noon to 4 p.m.

La Cantina is a family-style Italian restaurant and has been in business since 1946. The member cost for the buffet lunch will be $20 for adults and $10 for children, with the club making up the difference. If your membership has lapsed you can renew at the Party for the six-month rate of $10.

We will be holding a Yankee Swap, so plan to bring a wrapped gift (try to keep the cost below $25). A Yankee Swap means that someone else may “take” your gift when it is his or her turn to pick. Warn your kids so they don’t get upset if this happens! You get to pick a gift for every gift you bring. For those attending your first NEMO Yankee Swap, many gifts are Mini-, MINI- or British-themed.

We need a head count by November 25th. A reminder Evite will be sent to the NEMO e-mail list. RSVP to the Evite or contact me directly, or (508) 561-3462. Let me know how many people will be attending, the ages of any children, and if you have any dietary restrictions.

The Holiday Party is one of our most popular events every year. Hope to see you there!—David Schwartz

November 2019

[1-Nov_19_Alex_Daly.jpg] Alex Daly’s 1962 Mini Cooper was only one of the attractions at the Weston show.
Photo by David Schwartz

Weston Antique & Classic Car Show
by David Schwartz

WESTON, MASS., Sept. 21 — This marked the 25th year of the Weston car show, presented by the Rotary Club of Weston & Wayland. The show runs from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., with early risers arriving at the Weston town green by 7:30 a.m. Cars park around the green and the Town Hall building and there is plenty of shade.

The morning was cool with bright sunshine — perfect fall weather for a car show. I drove my 1950 Morris Minor Tourer with the top up for the first time this season.

There is always a good turnout of British cars and I knew several NEMO members planned to attend. I spotted Wendy Birchmire’s Union Jack Mini parked next to Tom Birchmire’s MG TD replica and pulled in next to the Mini. Tom and Wendy had spread out to reserve an extra space or two. I made sure to leave room for another little British car. Within minutes Gary and Meryl Hampton parked their TR3A next to my Morris Minor. We had a nice enclave of four LBCs.

Other NEMO members and friends of NEMO trickled in over the course of the morning. Ken Lemoine arrived in his 1961 Jaguar XK150, Iain and Nuala Barker in their 1967 Mini Cooper S, Michael Gaetano in his 1947 Bentley Mark VI, Dean Saluti in his 2007 Jaguar Estate Wagon, and Paul Saulnier in his 1986 Ferrari 328 GTS.

While walking the grounds, I saw the familiar orange color of Alex Daly’s 1962 Mini Cooper 1380. The car was riding a bit low and carrying four adults. Alex’s partner Michael Goncalves was in the back seat, but who were the other people?

A few minutes later the mystery was solved when Alex introduced me to his parents, Ken and Claire Daly. Ken and Claire were long-time NEMO members, bringing Alex with them to NEMO events when he was a baby. Alex is the second-generation owner of the Mini, which he and his father worked on together. Ken declined an offer to drive the car.

Weston is one of my favorite multi-marque shows, with cars spanning 110 or more years of automotive history. The show features everything — Brass Era cars, hot rods, muscle cars, foreign cars, and American cars from every decade.

Each year brings a few rare and unusual cars, and this was no exception. My favorites included a 1904 Oldsmobile, a 1937 Lincoln Zephyr, a 1960 Dodge Polara D-500 and a 1966 Cord 8-10 Sportsman. (Please forgive me as I digress from British cars.)

November 2019

[2-Nov_19_1904_Olds.jpg] Oldest Olds running in Massachusetts? It’s a 1904.
Photo by David Schwartz

Cliff Lewis drove his 1904 Oldsmobile Curved Dash GC from Wayland. The car has tiller steering and is truly a horseless carriage. Cliff believes it is the oldest car in Massachusetts that runs on a regular basis.

The Oldsmobile won five awards in Weston, including Best of Show and Most Unusual. Cliff drove the car on the 60-mile London to Brighton Run, which is held every November. The car doesn’t have a top or a wind screen, just an umbrella in a wicker holder fixed to the side, and it rained for the entire drive.

The Lincoln Zephyr is one of three that were factory-built and is the only survivor. It is powered by a V12 engine. The car has streamlined styling cues, teardrop badges and fender decorations that mirror the hood ornament. The Zephyr won two awards.

I am a fan of space-age styling, gratuitous tailfins and extra chrome, and the Dodge Polara is in a class of its own. The car is a two-door with tailfins starting just behind the doors and ending about a third of the way down the trunk. The rear corners have a pair of stacked “jet exhaust” tail lights with the lower lights built into the bumper.

The Polara’s engine is a 383 V8 with ram induction. Dual carburetors connect to long intake manifolds that feed cylinder banks on opposite sides of the engine. Even the interior is futuristic, with a translucent steering wheel and speedometer, push-button transmission, and matching climate control push-buttons.

The Polara won three awards, including Best Muscle Car.

I am familiar with the graceful Cord 810/812 from the late 1930s, but did not know the make was briefly revived in the 1960s.

The original Cords were powered by a V8 engine, featured front wheel drive and had hand-cranked headlights that disappeared into the front fenders. The 1966 Cord Sportsman is scaled down from the original, with a wheelbase 20% shorter and a height lowered by five inches. It retains front wheel drive and is powered by a Corvair flat six engine.

The show car was number 53 out of a total production of 97. It has some original trim parts from 1936 and the first owner was Dick Clark (of American Bandstand fame). Surprisingly, the Cord did not win any awards.

Other British cars included Mike Rosen’s pristine 1962 MGA 1600 MkII, a 1978 Austin Mini, an MGB, a TR6, a 1968 Jaguar E-type, a 1994 Jaguar XJ220, and Rod Gilbert’s 1962 Jaguar XKE OTS. Rod has owned the XKE for many years and drives it regularly. He invited people to sit in it, and I took advantage of his offer.

In the Best British class, Mike Rosen’s 1962 MGA won 1st place, Michael Gaetano’s 1947 Bentley Mark VI placed 2nd, and Gary and Meryl Hampton’s 1960 Triumph TR3A placed 3rd.

In the Best Jaguar class, Ken Lemoine’s 1961 XK150 won 1st place, Rod Gilbert’s 1962 XKE was 2nd and Bill Braun’s 1968 E-type was 3rd. Dean Saluti’s 2007 Jaguar Estate Wagon took 3rd place in the Best of 2000s class.

The Weston show is well worth attending even if you don’t enter a car. You never know what will show up, and I just scratched the surface on interesting non-British cars.

November 2019

[3-Nov_19_Laura.jpg] Laura Schwartz, in dad David’s Mini Traveller. It’s all happening at the zoo.
Photo by David Schwartz

Going to the Zoo, Zoo, Zoo
by David Schwartz

STONEHAM, MASS., Sept. 29 — My daughter Laura usually accompanies me to one car-related event a year as a Father’s Day present. Since she’d met me for lunch at the Faneuil Hall car show in August, I figured we were done for the season. That was before I mentioned “Cars and Critters” at the Stone Zoo in Stoneham, Mass.

When the kids were young, we had a family membership at the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston, and made periodic trips to the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence. But somehow, we had never visited the Stone Zoo.

Cars and Critters is sponsored by Mustangs of Massachusetts, a chapter of the Mustang Club of America. Iain and Nuala Barker had attended last year with their 1967 Mini Cooper S. Their car was one of a handful of British cars, amongst a sea of muscle cars. Iain planned to attend again this year, and I asked him to save me a parking spot. Zoo admission is included with the car show entry fee, so the animals would be an added bonus.

My daughters are in their mid-20s, but there are some stuffed animals that they (and we) will never part with. Saturday night before the show I went on a stuffed animal scavenger hunt and found all the old favorites. Laura drove in from Northampton early Sunday morning, accompanied by Simba the lion cub (a recent addition from her days working at the Kennedy Center gift shop.) We filled the back seat of my 1968 Mini Traveller with Daddy Gorilla, Daddy Penguin, Snowflake Shackleton the polar bear, Koala, Monkey Puppet and Simba.

The show hours were 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Four or five rows in the parking lot were already full when we arrived at 9:45. The registration folks were expecting another Mini and directed us to a shady spot next to Iain and Nuala.

As expected, there were loads of Mustangs, muscle cars, a few hot rods with big V8 engines, and some heavily modified Japanese cars. The strangest muscle car was a 1983 SAAB 900 fitted with a short block Ford V-8 engine and a slew of performance upgrades. The Jurassic Park Jeep, a screen accurate recreation of the first jeep seen in the movie, was a special treat. It was parked next to a dinosaur enclosure.

We fielded lots of questions about our Minis and people really enjoyed seeing them at the show. Kids of all ages were amused by the stuffed animals in my car. There was a good climbing tree parked behind the Minis where Nuala spent time channeling her inner primate. (She must have taken lessons from the gibbons.) The only other British cars in attendance were a classic Land Rover, a modern Land Rover, a Rolls-Royce and a Triumph Spitfire. Two Jaguars (of the four-legged variety) live at the zoo as well.

Laura and I spent about two hours visiting the zoo. They have a good variety of animals that are housed in natural enclosures. To quote Laura, “Car shows are more fun when they’re at zoos.”

November 2019

NEMO Holiday Party Dec. 7!

The NEMO Holiday Party will be held at La Cantina Italiana in Framingham, Mass., on Saturday, December 7th, from 12 noon to 4 p.m.

La Cantina is a family-style Italian restaurant and has been in business since 1946. The member cost for the buffet lunch will be $20 for adults and $10 for children, with the club making up the difference. If your membership has lapsed you can renew at the Party for the six-month rate of $10.

We will be holding a Yankee Swap, so plan to bring a wrapped gift (try to keep the cost below $25). A Yankee Swap means that someone else may “take” your gift when it is his or her turn to pick. Warn your kids so they don’t get upset if this happens! You get to pick a gift for every gift you bring. For those attending your first NEMO Yankee Swap, many gifts are Mini-, MINI- or British-themed.

We need a head count by November 25th. A reminder Evite will be sent to the NEMO e-mail list. RSVP to the Evite or contact me directly, or (508) 561-3462. Let me know how many people will be attending, the ages of any children, and if you have any dietary restrictions.

The Holiday Party is one of our most popular events every year. Hope to see you there!—David Schwartz

October 2019

[1-Oct_19_Mini_Cooper_1991.jpg] Pete Rhoten’s 1991 Mini Cooper at Faneuil Hall — one of only 1,650 produced.
Photo by David Schwartz

Faneuil Hall British Car Shows
by David Schwartz

BOSTON, Mass. — This year marked the 12th time the Boston Area MG Club (BAMG) hosted the Faneuil Hall British Car Show series. BAMG welcomes owners of all British cars to participate. Club membership is not a requirement, nor is owning an MG. Cars are parked on the cobblestones between Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall, with space for about 16 cars, so this is a very small show.

What makes the shows unique is the interaction with the public. Car shows are usually attended by people with an interest in cars and the audience is self-selecting. At Faneuil Hall there are thousands of tourists from all over the world. They don’t expect to see a classic British car show at a tourist venue and are always pleasantly surprised.

Speaking with people from the U.K. is especially fun. They love to talk about similar cars their family owned, the car they learned to drive on (“Gran owned one just like it”), etc.

It is a long day. Cars need to arrive at the staging area by 8:30 a.m. and the show ends at 3 p.m. Faneuil Hall security opens a gate to let us in and out. Leaving is a hoot, as hundreds of people gather to wave and take photos and videos.

I have been attending these shows with my 1968 Mini for the past five years and it is one of my favorite events of the season. For the June 22nd show I brought the Mini, and for the August 24th “People’s Choice” show, I drove my 1950 Morris Minor convertible.

In June, my Mini, an MGA, and a Triumph TR3A were flanked on both sides by MGBs. The owner of an MGB parked next to my Mini answered questions about my car any time I wasn’t there. It was nice of the organizers to park all the cool cars in the middle.

At about 2 p.m. the sky turned dark and there was a heavy thunderstorm warning. We hurriedly packed up our cars and made a hasty exit to beat the rain. Most of the convertibles left their tops down. I kept trading places with an MGA heading west on the Mass Turnpike. A few miles before my exit it started to rain, but I made it home without getting caught in a downpour.

October 2019

[2-Oct_19_Queen.jpg] ‘Her Majesty’ with Betty and David.
Photo by David Schwartz

The morning of the August show started out like a crisp fall day. It was 55° when I left the house and rather cold driving into Boston with the Morris Minor’s top down. The car doesn’t have a heater, so I rolled up the windows and closed the vent windows. The Minor prefers local roads to highways. The sun was bright and the air much warmer by the time I arrived in Boston.

There was a great turnout, including a 1966 Rolls-Royce Phantom V, a 1991 Mini Cooper, Wendy Birchmire’s Mini-based Domino Pimlico, Gary Hampton’s 1960 TR3A, Nels Anderson’s 1963 Land Rover Station Wagon, Tom Birchmire’s MG TD Replicar, a 1957 MG Magnette ZB, a Triumph TR6, and of course a lot of MGBs!

The Phantom V is slightly larger than the Space Shuttle. It was parked in the center of the car row, surrounded on both sides by mere commoners’ cars. The black paint gleamed, and the interior was replete with luxury accoutrements.

Ned Niemiec owns the Rolls and drives it to other shows around New England, but this was his first Faneuil Hall show. I gave Ned a heads-up that the public would crowd in close for photos. He was a good sport as people posed with the car and leaned in the windows for a better look. It seemed likely that the Rolls would win the 1st place People’s Choice award.

Pete Rhoten’s 1991 Mini Cooper is a Rover Special Products (RSP) model of which only 1,650 were produced. He imported the car from the UK in 2017, shortly after it became legal in the U.S. The car has covered a mere 30,400 miles in 28 years and is original except for a repaint due to fading.

Wendy Birchmire’s incredibly cute Domino was parked next to the BAMG information tent. A steady stream of people posed with the car and took turns sitting in it. Wendy quickly handed out all her voting ballots. When the votes were tallied, “cute” won out over luxury. The Domino placed first, the Rolls second and an MGB third.

A very special guest happened to be visiting Boston on August 24th. When the British Consulate heard about the Faneuil Hall car show, they arranged for “The Queen” to put in an appearance. When the show ended, Ned Niemiec chauffeured Her Majesty back to the consulate in his Rolls. (Truth be told, The Queen was advertising for Boston’s Dreamland Wax Museum.) My family met me for lunch and my daughter Laura accompanied me on the leisurely ride home.

October 2019

[3-Oct_19_Mr_Peanut.jpg] Mr. Peanut’s Nutmobile — seen here with Nuala.
Photos by Iain Barker

The ‘Cars of Summer’
by Iain Barker

“Cars of Summer” in Worcester, Mass., certainly lived up to its name. Set in the picturesque Green Hill Park, the event is arranged around what was originally the access road to the Green family private estate and homestead, circa 1760.

The show is held over three days starting on July 4th, U.S. Independence Day. Saturday was the main car show this year, and when Best in Class awards were presented.

The day was all set for sweltering summer weather, but that didn’t seem to affect the turnout. There were multiple classes, including one for classic cars 25 years and older. While ours was the only classic Mini, there were other European cars including a very nicely restored VW Type 2 van and a ‘screen star’ VW Beetle painted as Herbie, the Love Bug.

This event is very family-friendly, and includes a central pavilion with live music, street food and snack vendors, and a ‘kid zone’ children’s activity area with inflatable bounce house-type attractions. The park also incorporates Green Hill Farm — which although not open for petting the animals during car show hours, was available to walk around and view.

My daughter Nuala views our 1967 Mini Cooper S 1275 as her own (which hopefully one day it will be), and her main activity for the afternoon was treating the Mini like a climb-through playhouse, inviting all the kids at the show to climb in one door and out the other. Good job I’m not one of the “hands off” owners — it’s important to engage the next generation, and a few sticky fingers and scuff marks on the vinyl are no big deal.

Over 300 show cars attended the event, somewhat biased towards American classics and muscle cars. In addition to a Best in Show award, there are 50 judged runner-up prizes given out. Although by far the smallest vehicle in attendance and well out of its element as one of only two British cars I spotted (the other was a ’70s MG Midget), our little Mini did us proud by winning a runner-up prize.

As the afternoon wore on, the weather quickly started to turn and a local thunderstorm and flooding alert was issued on the Wireless Emergency Alerts System. The event organizers decided to hold the prize presentations early, allowing people time to get their cars back home and dry before the rain came. Of course, we did not have that luxury, being in a slow car and a long way from home, so we chose to grab a budget hotel room in Worcester, Mass., and stayed overnight.

Standing in the hotel lobby, looking out at poor “Mini KK” in the rain, we saw our car was almost up to her hubcaps in running water and it was torrenting off the roof and down the scuttle. Being a 52-year-old car it’s not exactly state of the art when it comes to waterproofing, but there was no sheltered parking so c’est la vie.

The next morning, I expected to open the doors and be presented by a biblical level of floodwater gushing out onto my shoes. But in fact, it was remarkably dry inside — just some dampness on the door cards where the rain had driven sideways between the sliding windows, easily cleaned up with paper towels. My daughter got a bonus day at the Worcester EcoTarium as a result, which turned a good weekend into a great weekend.

October 2019

Hold the Date — Dec. 7!
by David Schwartz

The NEMO Holiday Party will be held at La Cantina Italiana in Framingham, Mass., on Saturday, December 7th, from 12 noon to 4 p.m.

This is the same venue we have enjoyed for the last two years. La Cantina is a family-style Italian restaurant and has been in business since 1946. The member cost for the buffet lunch will be $20 for adults and $10 for children, with the club making up the difference. If your membership has lapsed you can renew at the Party for the six-month rate of $10.

We will be holding a Yankee Swap, so plan to bring a wrapped gift (try to keep the cost below $25). A Yankee Swap means that someone else may “take” your gift when it is his or her turn to pick. Warn your kids so they don’t get upset if this happens!

You get to pick a gift for every gift you bring. Please, no more than one gift per person or the Party will never end.

For those attending your first NEMO Yankee Swap, many gifts are Mini-, MINI-, or British-themed.

We need a head count by November 25th. A reminder Evite will be sent to the NEMO e-mail list. RSVP to the Evite or contact me directly, or (508) 561-3462. Let me know how many people will be attending, the ages of any children, and if you have any dietary restrictions.

The Holiday Party is one of our most popular events every year. Hope to see you there!

Directions: The address is La Cantina Italiana, 911 Waverley St., Framingham, MA 01702, and the phone number is (508) 879-7874.

Take I-90 (Mass Turnpike) to Exit 12. Bear right on the ramp and follows signs toward Framingham. Merge onto Rt. 9 East (Worcester Road). Follow Rt. 9 for about 1.8 miles. You will pass Dunkin’ Donuts followed by Samba Steak & Sushi. Immediately after Samba, take a sharp right onto Winter Street. Follow Winter Street about 1.8 miles until it ends. At the traffic light, take a left onto Waverley Street (Rt. 135). La Cantina will be on the left.

There is parking behind the restaurant and in a large lot across the street.

September 2019

[3-Sept_19_Vespa_Electric.jpg] An electric Vespa 400! Note ZAZ 968M parked on the grass.
Photo by David Schwartz

Gould’s 24th Microcar Classic
by David Schwartz

NEWTON, Mass., July 12-14 — The Goulds’ 24th Microcar Classic varied ever so slightly from its usual format. The Friday evening welcome reception was catered this year, which gave Nancy Gould, who hosts the event with her husband Charles, more time to socialize with the guests. William Ellis mapped out a new route for the Saturday driving tour from Newton to the summit of Mt. Wachusett.

The rest of the weekend was unchanged, with a stop at the Gould’s Matchbox Motors storage facility, Saturday night barbecue, and Sunday lawn event at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline, Mass.

AlphaCars was back this year with two different Russian cars. A 1976 Volga GAZ M24 “Moscow Taxi,” complete with taximeter, checkerboards and roof light. The Volga resembled a ’60s Ford Fairlane or Dodge Dart, and was the preferred car of the KGB. The second car was a 1990 ZAZ 968M Zaporozhets with an air-cooled rear engine.

My favorite oddball car this year was Max Hall’s Vespa 400, which was converted to an electric car back in 1972. The Vespa is powered by an old forklift motor and ordinally had eight large lead-acid batteries. Max updated it to use four modern batteries. The electric Vespa was one of three Vespa 400s at the Museum lawn event on Sunday. A gas-powered Vespa screamed its way up Mt. Wachusett on Saturday (and I do mean screamed, since with two passengers the owner kept it in first gear for the entire ascent!).

Minicar and microcar owners often have a sense of humor. A two-tone red and white Nash Metropolitan sported a giant wind-up key protruding from the trunk-mounted spare tire. The previous owner had wired the key to an electric motor so it spun slowly. Sadly, the Metropolitan broke down on the driving tour.

September 2019

[1-Sept_19_Mini_Lineup.jpg] Part of the Mini line, under the shade at Larz Anderson.
Photo by Bruce Vild

Five classic Minis and two Mokes started the 120-mile Mt. Wachusett drive. Unfortunately, Bruce Vild’s Mini suffered a potentially serious failure with no compression in two cylinders, and was towed by AAA. The preliminary diagnosis was head gasket failure, which was confirmed a week later by Dave Black. Dave had the repair complete and Bruce back behind the wheel a few days later. Bruce and Faith completed the driving tour in the Goulds’ Nissan Pao, along with Kate Lane.

Luke Vancraeynest’s 1981 Trabant had an alternator problem early in the driving tour, for a total of three casualties.

Two Subaru 360s were in attendance, both of which completed the driving tour. One of the 360s won an award for the longest distance driven to attend the weekend, having motored in from Springfield, Mass.

The new route to Mt. Wachusett had a lot more turns and a few cars got lost. There was an unexpected construction detour, and cars at the back of the line were quite confused when the front cars doubled back. Everyone eventually reconvened at the summit.

Sunday was a beautiful, sunny day for the lawn event at Larz Anderson. The cars paraded from Newton to Brookline and parked by marque or category. There were eight Minis and two Mokes on the lawn. Most of the Minis belonged to NEMO members. I felt like a bit of a traitor to NEMO by driving my 1950 Morris Minor convertible on Sunday (though I did drive my 1968 Mini Traveller on Saturday). This year the Minis parked in the shade, rather than the sunny center of the lawn.

Sunday, July 14th, was Bastille Day, which is celebrated as the turning point of the French Revolution in 1790. All the French car owners celebrated by holding a parade on the lawn while the French national anthem, “La Marseillaise,” blared from the Museum’s sound system. It was quite a sight. Then it was time to give car rides to the public, a high point of the day.

Ken Lemoine’s 1965 Mini Traveller won 1st place in the Mini class, and Wendy Birchmire’s 1973 Union Jack Mini took 2nd. A VTEC Mini was 3rd.

Next year will be the 25th anniversary of Gould’s Microcar Classic. There will surely be some surprises. To get a sense of the weekend, see the on-line photo album posted by Joshua Sweeney, professional automotive photographer extraordinaire, at

September 2019

[4-Sept_19_Jack.jpg] ‘Jack’ among the other Brits.
Photo by Wendy Birchmire & Iain Barker

British Cars of N.H. Hosts a Great Show!
by Wendy Birchmire

To show or not to show, that is the question. On the plus side, the BCNH Show of Dreams is well-run, and Hudson, N.H., it isn’t a long drive from Needham, Mass., and is an easy distance to trailer. I was sure other NEMO members would be present, and friendly conversation makes the day go by much faster. On the negative side, my husband and I are winter people and don’t do well in the sun. A day of temperatures in the mid-80s wouldn’t be too hot as long as we had a tent to sit under. Let’s do it!

We decided to trailer “Jack,” our 1973 Morris Mini 1000. This year trailers were allowed to park close to the show field instead of on the other side of the visitor parking lot, making it much easier to unload heavy items like tents. Thank you, BCNH show coordinators! They also had “cooling tents” dispersed throughout the rows of vehicles. Inside each tent was a large cooler filled with ice water. We ended up sitting under one of their tents instead of putting up our own. Others joined us and we got to meet more car enthusiasts.

There were lots of vendors on the perimeter of the show field selling British car products and other items. An especially popular spot was the ice cream truck. There was a 50/50 raffle with over $200 going to the winner, and a silent auction featuring restaurant coupons, hotel accommodations and other goodies. A third raffle was for the prize of your choice on a table filled with car-related products. Each car registrant automatically received one ticket for the third raffle. Some people purchased long strips of tickets, hoping to be one of the early winners.

The Show of Dreams has been held every year since 1996 and BCNH selects local charities to receive show proceeds. The 2019 recipients were the High Hopes Foundation of New Hampshire, which aids chronically ill children and their families, and the New Hampshire Food Bank, the only food bank in the state. Each charity gave an award to their favorite car. Lucinda and Peter Barrone took home a trophy with a miniature shopping cart on it (very cute) from the Food Bank. Jack and I were awarded a plaque from the High Hopes Foundation.

There were only three classic Minis and four modern MINIs in this show. David Rosenberg and his Mini took a 2nd place in his division. Jack took 1st place in the British Classics 1970-1979 class. Best of Show went to Mark Harrison and his 1938 Bentley.

BCNH gives a unique gift to the 1st-place winner in each car class. Last year I received an elegant bottle of wine with a BCNH private label and a matching glass with the club logo. This year I won a folding camp chair. On the back it says, “2019 Show of Dreams 1st Place” along with the BCNH emblem.

The day was a huge success. I won a raffle prize with the one free ticket that came with my registration. For my prize I chose a Stanley Automatic Battery Charger/Maintainer.

A three-win day for Jack and me!

September 2019

[2-Sept_19_MiniFrontSplitApart.jpg] Zach’s Mini split apart as the steering rack is replaced.
Photo by Iain Barker

Racking up the Shows
by Iain Barker & Wendy Birchmire

Regular readers may recall the article in the February newsletter about the early Mini Cooper 1071 S owned by Zach Barbera (car #3 from the 1963 Cooper works build). Iain had been trying for some time to cajole Zach into bringing his car to the Goulds’ Microcar Classic at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts to get the car ready, it failed inspection due to excessive play in the steering rack.

If you’ve ever watched the BMC short film Wizardry on Wheels (available on YouTube) there is a scene where the painted Mini bodies are lowered from an overhead gantry to mate up with the assembled front end. The steering rack is clearly visible already fitted on the body, and it ends up sandwiched between the subframe and the body.

The video should have provided a hint as to how difficult it is to change the rack on an Mk1 Mini. The twin carburetors must be removed to gain vertical clearance. Then the front subframe mounts, engine steady and solid brake lines need to be disconnected so that the front of the car body can be separated from its mechanicals and raised up. Finally, the steering rack can be unbolted and withdrawn through the wheel arch.

So it was, on a hot, hot (90°-plus) day in July we found ourselves splitting a Mini in two. We worked in an open garage using just a trolley jack and an assortment of wooden props and axle stands.

On examining the rack after it was removed, it was obvious it needed a new end bearing. Where there should have been a nylon support bushing, we found nothing but a thick brown slurry of grease and decomposed plastic granules. Unfortunately, this car is not standard Cooper S and had been heavily modified when it was rebuilt as a racecar by Zach’s father in the mid-’90s. The steering rack was in fact a ‘quick rack’ with a 2.2 ratio. We e-mailed the original U.K. vendor and their reply stated that replacement bearings for this specialist part were no longer available.

Fortunately, similar steering racks were used on late model MPi Minis, and an entire new quick-rack is available from U.K. vendors. Order placed, a few days later DHL duly arrived with the new rack. Fitting it was straightforward, other than that I attached the tapered ball joints upside-down. In my defense, I assembled them the way they are shown in the 1963 BMC workshop manual. But the diagram in the manual was evidently drawn the wrong way up! This made for an interesting test-drive by Zach, but was easily remedied.

September 2019

[5-Sept_19_Zach_and_car_line.jpg] Zach and his Mini in the car line again.
Photo by Iain Barker & Wendy Birchmire

With the rack re-fitted and the two halves of the car bolted back together, it passed inspection with no issues. Now all we needed was a show to attend.

Melmark New England, a school for children with autism, hosts an annual all-makes classic car show in Andover, Mass. This year’s show was scheduled for August 10th, so that was our new goal.

The show is held on grass in the leafy grounds surrounding the school. Lots of trees provided shade for a summer day, and there was room for lawn chairs and pop-up awnings. Around 150 cars were in attendance. There was a wide variety, with classic two-seater Ford T-Birds, Corvettes, ’60s to ’70s muscle cars, an Edsel, a Model T, a firetruck, a Willys Jeep and many others.

In addition to Nuala and Iain’s 1967 Morris Cooper S 1275 and Zach’s 1963 Austin Cooper S 1071, Wendy and Tom Birchmire brought ‘Pim’, their Domino Pimlico fiberglass-rebodied Mini convertible. There was just a 10% chance of rain, so Pim’s roof and side windows were removed, which made for a cool drive to Andover.

The show itself is short and sweet, running from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and entry is free. All exhibitors and spectators are able to vote for their favorite car. We forget who won the show, but the runner-up did not step forward when announced, so the trophy was passed on to Pim as the next-most popular vote getter. (Wendy said, “I’ll take People’s Choice Runner-up any day, especially when competing with the caliber of cars at this show!”)

Good weather held for the duration of the show, but rain appeared shortly thereafter. Luckily, Tom had convinced Wendy to bring along Pim’s top and windows, so they were all set for the drive home. (Wendy again, “Note to self — listen to your husband more frequently!”)

All said, this is a great little car show and highly recommended for classic Mini owners.


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