AN EXPERIMENTAL MINI.
If there’s one thing MINI has always known how to do well, it’s taking the rules and breaking them.
And MINI’s early days in Australia were no exception.
Allan Todd’s father, Duncan, was an engineer in BMC’s Zetland plant in Sydney in the early 1960s, working in what was called the experimental department.
While Duncan was working at the plant, BMC purchased a Mini pick-up and a Morris Mini Traveller from the UK in 1962.
The Traveller, a van with barn doors, had been launched at the same time as the Countryman, both slightly larger cars than the iconic classic Mini.
Both the Traveller and the pick-up were evaluated for the Australian market, but BMC decided not to produce them locally as there was already an existing market for both models.
Duncan Todd bought the Traveller in 1964 for £500 and took it home to use as his everyday car.
But like most innovators, Duncan was an inventor through and through, and couldn’t resist testing new experiments out on his Mini.
The car became a test model of sorts for BMC.
“When they were deciding on new components, a number of those were done on dad’s car,” Allan says.
“So we had a stash of various odds and sods from the experimental department at our house for a long time.”
That included test to help the Mini handle Australian fuel, which was a lower grade than that used in the UK.
“That meant driving to the highlands to test the engine in both hot and cold weather, and things like handing out the back of the boot with a microphone to see how loud the exhaust pipes were, that sort of thing,” Allan says.
“Dad was very much into his job.”
There are few indications that the Traveller was a test car for BMC, as most of the moderations were mechanical, except for a few additions like spring loaded seat returns and an altered gear shift.
It was badly damaged in 1971 but has survived its five decades as a test case, and still runs perfectly well.
The car now lives in Geelong with Allan, who has made a few additional changes that he and his dad had planned to make over the years.
“I guess because I’ve grown up with Mini and dad being in the experimental department, I’ve got a bit of an interest in all things mechanical and engineering, I think that’s where that comes from,” Allan says.
While he’s owned two other Minis (a 1972 Clubman and a 1974 Clubman S), Allan says it’s the experimental Traveller that is the most intriguing.
“I did go to a Mini car show recently and it still gets quite a bit of attention from people walking past and quite often from the older generation,” he says.
“Minis are just awesome to drive; I love taking it out to the hills behind Geelong to those tight twisty hilly roads.
“It’s so much fun and it’s also a link to my dad and all the things that he did.”