Revitalised Jewel

Words and photos by Alasdair Brass

This 1965 Bermuda Blue Mini was assembled in New Zealand and sold on 16 January 1966, by Seabrook Fowlds, a major Austin supplier in the greater Auckland area.

The buyer, Gwen Ager (nee Seabrook), was a cousin of the business’ owners, and was able to get the car without the usual long wait. Gwen felt a little guilty about jumping the queue, but told me, “I soon got over it”.

She drove the little car some 1,100km down to her hometown of Christchurch, on the South Island, and used it around town for nearly 40 years.

She took the Mini on several larger trips, including conquering the Haast Pass on the remote West Coast of the South Island. Gwen told me that her and the Mini were a formidable pair!

Eventually Gwen was faced with giving up her driving freedom and, early in 2007, her niece, Jan Ball, was faced with fi nding a home for the car.

Jan rang the Vintage Car Club of Canterbury to see if they could make any suggestions, and the Club Captain rang me to see if I could give some idea of the car’s value.

One Sunday afternoon, my wife Beryl and I popped in to look at the car. It was rusty, grimy and dirty, and hardly worth looking at, but I thought I had better do the right thing and show some interest. The car was under a blue plastic cover and the windows were so dirty I had to brush them to see inside. I was surprised to see the upholstery was very nice, and the carpets all in one piece.

The car when Al first got it home

Inside I found the odometer showed only 25,411 miles, and apparently the fi rst time around. The warranty book, handbook and a hand-priced sales and accessory brochure were all there. I realised I was looking at something quite special.

While there was rust everywhere on the outside, it all appeared to be superfi cial, and the car seemed reasonably straight.

Both Jan and I believed that the registration had lapsed, as the last rego sticker was from 2003. It would cost me roughly $1,000 to have it certifi ed, re-registered, and to have the old number plates personalized so that I could keep them on the car.

That evening we easily agreed on a price by phone, and I trailered the car home the following afternoon. I bought a new battery and fl icked the key to see if everything was connected. I was surprised to hear the little 850 kick, so I sat in, pulled the choke out, and turned the key again. Without hesitation, the little green engine burst into life, running so sweetly that it was hard to believe it had been idle for four years.

The brake pedal felt fi ne and the clutch pedal freed with a terrible bang, but felt smooth afterwards. I selected reverse, backed up a little and then drove down the driveway. Several trips were taken up and down the street, without problems.

The next day I checked with the LTSA (Land Transport Safety Authority, the NZ govt crowd that look after all vehicular issues), to fi nd that Gwen had put the registration on hold. All I had to pay was $84 to crank up the rego and change the papers to my name.

The next day I checked with the LTSA (Land Transport Safety Authority, the NZ govt crowd that look after all vehicular issues), to fi nd that Gwen had put the registration on hold. All I had to pay was $84 to crank up the rego and change the papers to my name.

My plan was to do a bare-metal paint job over the winter, and sell the car once it was done. All that changed when Beryl said she had fallen in love, and would very much like the car for herself. I was pretty chuffed about that. How many car enthusiasts’ wives share their man’s hobby to such an extent? The job was no longer going to be a simple “tidy-up”.

Work commenced in May last year. I started by stripping the car out, but left the engine and frames in so that I could wheel it in and out of my workshop. The paint was mostly original, so I was able to use Scotchbrite pads on my angle grinder and drill. What I couldn’t reach in the corners and gutters was removed with a small sandblasting gun.

If you would like to read the rest of this story, order your copy of Issue 15 of The Mini Experience. <plumshop>21</plumshop> 

Boot repair was the biggest job
Beryl has added around 500 miles so far
All books came with the car

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