A ratty original Mini with a liberal bloom of rust, and which has not turned a wheel under its own motive power for more than 25 years probably doesn't sound all that appealing. And a pre-auction estimate of £12K-£15K for it when it goes under the hammer at Bonham's
on 30th April even less so.
This is, however, no ordinary Mini. It is, in fact, believed to be the oldest unrestored Mini in existence - the eighth example to come off the line at Longbridge back in May 1959 - and, though production had also started at Cowley when this machine was built, it would still be one of the earliest Minis built. Given that the Mini is rightly considered to be one of the most significant vehicles of the 20th century and must surely be considered an important piece of British industrial history, perhaps such an estimate isn't as wacky as all that.
XLL 27 has done just 30,000 miles in its life, and only one car at the British Motor Heritage Centre in Gaydon - and two in Japan - are known to be older surviving examples.
It's being sold by motoring writer Richard Bremner, who co-owns it as part of a consortium of like-minded car preservation enthusiasts. They bought it a little over a year ago, having seen an article about it on the internet.
"'Who'd be made enough to buy a Mini in that sort of state for £10.5K?' we wondered," Richard tells us. "Turns out it was us." Incredibly, although they saw plenty of pics of the car, the group actually bought it without having seen it in the (somewhat crumbly) metal. Fortunately the car - which arrived in a semi-dismantled state, with engine and gearbox separate from the car, and various bits and bobs in three black sacks - was actually fairly complete, and in surprisingly sound condition, despite appearances.
"As far as we can tell, all the wiring is original, as are all lines and hoses," says Richard. "Despite the surface rust, there's plenty of bits on the body - like the battery housing - which have disintegrated on many original cars, but which survive on this one." Richard says it's actually a lot better built than later Minis - the panel gaps are like you'd expect on a modern Honda - presumably down to the fact that the tooling was new and they were keen to produce the best car they possibly could.
The chaps decided that they felt it was a more interesting as an unrestored car, but the big question is whether the new owner should keep it that way or 'bring it back from the dead'...
Thanks to Classic & Sports Car for the pics
1959 Austin Mini
Price: £12,000-£15,000 (estimate)
Why you should: It's a piece of automotive history
Why you shouldn't: It's a piece of automotive history ... in pieces