Updated: Jan 20
Change is something I have been used to in relation to my Business Consultancy Company and career, both in the UK and Internationally; but I once remembered that car Club’s used to be the primary source of verified knowledge for good reason. However the advent of the internet and Social Media, has spurned a plethora of individuals who use this ‘virtual’ and seemingly anonymous platform, to establish themselves as ‘authorities’ on a wide range of subjects, offering comment or opinion to one and all about subjects that they in fact, know little about. The Club has over the years, built its database and knowledge on fact, information gathered from decades of corresponding with Owners, from ex-Factory personnel, along with significant practical experience with the marque. Its integrity has long been underwritten by senior members of the original Companies, who both designed and manufactured these very special cars.
So, it was with interest that I read recently, a comment from an anonymous person on a Unipower GT related Thread on one of the many Mini related Blog internet sites. Previous comments on the Thread had been started in response to a Blog posted in 2017, recounting the story, relayed from the first owner of Unipower GT Chassis # UWF1008, of it having been exhibited at the Northern Racing Car Show in Manchester in April 1969 by Unipower Cars and sold to him at the Show and road-registered in the UK as GEM 911G. The Thread posts went on with the owner of some badly damaged old body panels that came from the original GEM 911G body, making reference to these and a another totally unrelated Chassis that is from another Unipower GT, crashed badly in around 1969, that he had also purchased. He wanted to know the likely Registration number of that damaged chassis, which he had been bought without a UK Log-book or any other verifiable means of identification. A further comment from another commentator, suggested that the Owners Club may be able to assist in this question.
Checking on the UK DVLA online records in 2020, raised some interesting and possibly disturbing questions about registration GEM 911G. It would seem that in January 2017, a new V5C Registration document was issued for this Registration number, following an application made to the UK DVLA by someone. Then subsequently earlier that year in February 2020, a declaration to the UK DVLA was made, that a Unipower GT in yellow with Registration number GEM 911G, was to be SORN’d, thereby implying that this Unipower GT was in the UK and was to be kept off the road in the UK. Nothing unusual here you might think.
However the last comment on the Thread, interestingly dated February 2020, but from an anonymous commenter, stated that “GEM 911G was never officially exported according to DVLA, the yellow car in Japan is fake”.
Well some background to GEM 911G’s history, may help to understand the concern that these comments raise. After its first owner, GEM 911G ended up in a very poor condition indeed, such that it was bought in around 1994 for £90. The cars chassis was severely rusted, the bodywork badly crazed and damaged, with the interior in a terrible state due to water damage. Its new owner decided to totally rebuild the car with a new chassis and some new bodywork but using as much of the remaining car as possible, but with his own specific requirement that he wanted to use it for both road and track use. A highly reputable specialist manufacturer of bespoke cars was commissioned to remake an exact copy of the original chassis from the rusted original, made difficult as it was rusted away in its lower half. Its owner also had no option but to have remade many new body panels, however considerably modified to his requirements (wide wheel arches and an integrated air-dam). The Original doors, bonnet and the floor were however able to be re-used in the rebuild. The body panels cut off the old chassis were left outside at the premises of the company remaking the replacement panels, for over 18-years and subsequently sold to a passing party, for £20. Not long after, these old panels were advertised and sold on eBay.
All the suspension and many other parts had been refurbished and reused, the car reassembled and the body painted yellow. To comply with regulations, now that a new chassis had been made, UK DVLA were involved and the rebuilt car inspected. UK DVLA agreed that sufficient original parts had been reutilised and that the car was worthy of being saved, so the original Chassis number and Registration number were authorised to be retained on the rebuilt car. However, this was conditional on the rusted original chassis being destroyed, which was duly cut up and scrapped by the new chassis manufacturer. After the rebuild, its new owner now taxed (this was at a time in the UK when this was still required), insured and MOT’d the car using its original chassis number and Registration number, driving the car on the road in the UK for a couple of years, before selling the car through an Agent in the UK, to a Japanese client. The car was exported to Japan in 1999 and subsequently appeared, advertised by a Japanese Classic Car dealer in 2017, before then being sold to a new owner in Japan around mid-2018, the car still sporting its UK registration GEM 911G as well as its new Japanese registration number.
The question now is, how is it that the UK DVLA were requested to issue a new UK V5C Registration document was made for a car, supposedly still in the UK, more than 17-years after the car was exported to Japan and 18-months before the car, residing in a Japanese Car Dealer had been sold to a new owner in Japan ?. Also subsequently, a declaration was made to the UK DVLA in February 2020, to SORN Unipower GT - Registration GEM 911G, as being off the road in the UK. Perhaps the Agent in 1999 had omitted to inform the UK DVLA that the car had been exported and had also retained the original Registration Document ?. If this were the case, then of course, the UK DVLA still think the car is in the UK, with all the consequences this brings.
The value of Unipower GT’s have typically maintained a steady increase, with the market seeing occasional positive surges, opening up lucrative opportunities. The afore statements and actions definitely poses some serious questions. Maybe that anonymous 'commenter' on that Blog thread can provide enlightenment ?. Why else would someone want to assert that 'the car in Japan is a fake' if not because they have another agenda ?.
The subject of how much of what remains of a car makes it the original, is a thorny subject, hence the possession of an original Registration Document is of value when not wishing to prompt an inspection. However there is no other Unipower GT, other than the one in Japan, rebuilt and ratified in the mid-90’s, which can legitimately lay claim to be GEM 911G Chassis UWF1008 given how much was reused and otherwise disposed of. As to fakes, there are many Unipower GT's around which have had their chassis' replaced due to rust; so does that make them also fakes ?. Of course not if the correct process has been followed with the DVLA.
The Club is registered with the UK DVLA to authenticate any Unipower GT, holding a huge volume of verifiable information on cars past and present, thereby being able to provide guidance to current and potential owners of Unipower GT’s, now and in the future.