It's got heart! The scrappy little Mini Scamp

Custom Car magazine, year unknown If the Mini Cooper is the glamorous sister hobnobbing with celebrities like Paul McCartney, Marc Bolan and Twiggy, then the Mini Scamp is the unloved sister sitting at home on a Saturday night playing Disney songs on the recorder for the neighbor’s cat. That may be a bit mean, however. The Scamp deserves more credit than that! The Mini Scamp was essentially a poor man’s Mini Moke: a utilitarian, rough-and-tough go-anywhere beater three steps removed from a Red Army truck. And while it does make even the Moke look like a precision masterwork of Italian beauty, it is a far more versatile workhorse. Fat tourists can bum around the Seychelles in a Moke, gawking at the palm fronds and undertipping the waitstaff, but the Moke never came in estate, pickup, six-wheeled, off-road or track-day-ready configurations. Plus, you can’t do this in a Moke: Or this, without spilling your Blue Hawaiian: You could say that the Scamp looks like it came from a shed (that bastion of British automotive quirkiness), and you’d be right, because it did. It was conceived as a kit car by Robert Mandry in 1969, when BMC stopped producing the Moke to the chagrin of Mini cultists worldwide. This was the man who also designed the Rough Terrain Vehicle, another wild Mini-based vehicle that is equal in its radness. For about £250 (in 1960s money), you could transform your Austin Mini from a humble family runabout to the early equivalent of a four-seater Yamaha Banshee and fearlessly hoon it about in the dirt. Use the stock Mini engines or fit a 1275 A-Series engine from the Sprite or Cooper for some real lightweight, hilariously dangerous fun. There’s no need to worry about voiding your warranty when you assemble it yourself, “in a few weekends, using normal hand tools.”

Cheap n' ugly, just the way we like it!
Cheap n' ugly! Just the way we like it.
And over the years it’s evolved as much as Darwin’s finches, spawning the diverse variants mentioned above: it’s been raced against regular Minis, it’s a beachcomber, it’s a dune buggy, it’s a utilitarian pickup truck, and it’s even been turned into a cut-rate Land Rover. Not bad for a car whose resemblance to an airport tug has been kept intact for three generations and over 20 years. Want one? Here’s one for sale on eBay UK. It may not be the Shaguar, or even its more glamorous sister, but it’s got a strange, bizarre charm uniquely its own. [Scamp Owners Club, Flickr (1) (2)]

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