I know this issue has been raised before in a previous Club Blog, but it's just frustrating that despite best efforts to ensure as far as is humanly possible, that the history of the Unipower GT is accurately recounted, the plethora of internet and social media reporting continues to provide misinformation, despite clear evidence and documentation to the contrary. This continued despite details of its history being published on the Club’s website www.unipowergt.uk, so it was suggested to me by none other than the marque’s founder, Ernie Unger, that the only way to address the issue of misinformation, was to put the history in a book.
The outset of Covid back in early 2020 prompted me to think more about taking on such a challenge and following some unexpected major spinal surgery requiring minimal exercise during the early recovery, I sat down and went through filing cabinets worth of over 50-years of owner’s correspondence, huge numbers of photographs and of course the original factory records that I had been fortunate to have obtained as part of the purchase of a brand new Unipower GT from late 1969. Writing the book was the easy bit, as having been very close to the marque since 1971, it was initially a case of writing down all I could remember supported by considerable original documentation. The next stage was to interview as many of the surviving members from both Universal Power Drives and U.W.F Automative Engineering, to both verify the facts and to flush out as many until then untold stories from the time. This had the benefit of being both recorded digitally for posterity, and acted as a catalyst for the interviewee to remember long forgotten memories when prompted by the recollections from others. Wherever possible, all the stories and facts that went into the book have been verified by more than one person from the period of production and thereafter, to ensure that memories were not inaccurate given the passing of years.
Hence in the case of my own Unipower Competition GT car, I have taken the precaution of obtaining written, signed and witnessed documentation from both the marque’s founder and the designer of this specific chassis, verifying its historical provenance and its significance to the history of the marque. Also such is the world we live in today, once I had finished writing the book, the manuscript was vetted by both Ernie Unger (Founder) and Val Dare-Bryan (Designer) before they both agreed to write the Forward to the book, where they stated it was the definitive history of the marque. The Definitive history of the Unipower GT was published in late 2021 selling hundreds of copies worldwide. Copies also reside as required by Law, in the five British Libraries in the UK.
But back to the point I raised at the beginning. I read with interest the most recent article published in the Maximum Mini Blog on the internet. The Maximum Mini Blog for those that have not visited the site, claims to be a knowledgeable portal for all things relating to the Mini including derivatives. One of its blog sections covers the Unipower GT and over the years has featured many cars and events, not always being factually correct. I have sometimes responded to this Blog, highlighting inaccuracies supported by irrefutable factual information, but sometimes disappointingly receiving a negative reaction.
The 1967 Racing Car Show as covered in the book on the history of the Unipower GT
Of relevance to this post is that an owner of a Competition GT version bought a well-known example and after a few years of learning about some of the marque’s unique historical facts, endeavoured to sell it at a profit by attributing unique Unipower GT developments and historical achievements to increase its provenance, despite not relating to this specific chassis. These claims were made all the more implausible given the chassis’ build date. However, despite being presented with categoric proof that these claims were false, the car went on to be sold to an unsuspecting buyer at a significant profit, subsequently finding that many of the key provenance claims for the car, were proven false. Stories such as this are unfortunately rife in the historic car world, when cars with significant history can attract premium prices.
Back to the article in question which focused on the January ‘67 Racing Car Show and the two cars displayed on the UPD stand. It went on to discuss some detail around a young lady, Monika Dietrich, who had without being invited by UPD, appeared on the Unipower stand and draped herself over the cars to the amusement of the guys from UPD. This of course drew useful publicity from the Press and a certain Stirling Moss who was passing by. This story is covered as shown below in the book on the Unipower GT history.
Extract from the book covering the '67 Racing Car Show
The Maximum Mini blog article states "The Unipower GTs on display at the '67 Racing Car Show were the ones wearing chassis number 1 and 9 and are both still alive and well also. The red car (number 1) is owned by Tim Carpenter, who takes it out to events and shows regularly; the white one (number 9) is a competition model, which was purchased by Jan Odor of Janspeed fame in '67 and was raced by Geoff Mabbs under the Janspeed banner before being sold to Cars & car Conversions magazine and repainted in red a year later. Like Tim's car it has been fully restored, too."
Well of course this sounds to the uninitiated, like a very clear statement of fact.
However, the Red car on the stand in January 1967, was in fact chassis number 8 (1266.8) built in December 1966 and NOT chassis number 1 (766.1), which had been sold to its first owner in April 1966. The White car was correctly identified as chassis number 9 (1266.9) also built in late December 1966 and still incomplete as displayed at the Show, to be sold to Jan Odur of Janspeed Engineering many months later.
Fact: chassis number 1 (766.1) was never used by the factory to represent the marque in any guise other than in a couple of photographs outside the factory before handover to its new owner. It should be noted that both cars on the stand at the ’67 Show are featured in the book on the history of the Unipower GT, correctly identified in numerous photos and captions, clearly showing their respective chassis numbers.
Just a mistake by the blogger you may say and of course and we are all capable of making them. However the blogger has had a copy of my book, purchased from my website some time before, so all the facts were at his disposal. Surely this was not an endeavour to cast doubt on the integrity of my book, which remember was verified by those who were at the Show in ’67 ?. So why ignore a verified reference source you may ask.
But does this really matter you may also ask ?. Well, it actually does. Remember how earlier it was seen how a cars provenance increased its value. In respect of chassis number 1 (766.1), its owner Tim Carpenter, attends many events and his car is featured in a number of motoring magazine articles, often because of being considered as ‘chassis number 1’. Now if it were also thought that this chassis was the Show car from the ’67 Racing Car Show, then this would add provenance and thereby value. So, statements in articles such as this Maximum Mini Blog, which are open to a wide audience on the internet, could well mislead its readers as to the cars history and have an impact any future buyer's purchase.
One final point regarding the car carrying chassis number 1 (766.1), as clearly articulated in my book, this was NOT in fact the first Production car, as it was not ordered until 3-weeks after the first chassis had been sold at ’66 Racing Car Show launch of the marque. Chassis number 2 (766.2) was commenced first as the original Record Cards from the factory (UPD) show clearly. The first car was sold on the Press Day before the ’66 Show opened and was given chassis number 1, but was a more complex Competition GT version. The second car ordered (some weeks later, was the simpler Road car version and was built quicker. For whatever reason, the chassis numbers were manually overwritten and reversed as can be seen in the description on the Record Cards. So, whilst chassis number 1 carries a number suggesting it is the first car built, it was in fact the second, as verified by the cars Founder and its Designer.
The original factory build Record Cards as officially verified
Finally the Maximum Mini Blog post states that chassis number 1 has been ‘fully’ restored. Unfortunately, its owner decided to make many non-Unipower GT changes to the car when he rebuilt it over 30-years ago (despite all the period parts having been sold to him with the car), unfortunately making it a poor example for representing the marque and its original build quality.
How disappointing, as despite numerous suggestions to its owner, it would not take much effort to restore it to being period correct, adding much to its relevance, albeit just as another production car. All the information to restore this car to period originality, is of course available by contacting this Club.
Despite all this, I'm sure the considerable number who have purchased the Book, will take there own view on the integrity of such articles.