1959 Austin Seven sells for $65k at Bonhams auction

There's good reason this Mini more than doubled it's pre-sale estimate, and it's not because Neil Armstrong once drove it. No, Lot 307 at Bonhams' Hendon, U.K., sale was bid up to $65,100 because it's an exceptionally rare early Mini, just the eighth of the iconic cars ever manufactured, according to the auction company.

The seller was clearly able to capitalize on the current collector car trend of finding unrestored survivor cars – those gems that have somehow escaped not only the ravages of time and oxidation, but five decades of enthusiastic collectors armed with an attitude that tearing it down to the base metal and building it back up, "better than new," is the only way to enjoy vintage iron. The auction company advertised this 1959 Austin Seven (the Mini name wasn't applied to the Austin version until 1961) as the oldest unrestored Mini, saying that only three earlier cars are known to exist, one of which is in the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust museum.

Unrestored cars have achieved their recent popularity in part because they serve as records of how the cars originally came from the factory. Production standards in the '50s and '60s were much more lax than they are now, and written records can be hard to come by, hence the need for cars like this to direct historians and restorers alike.

The Mini, of course, is one of the most popular cars of all time, remaining in production with few changes from 1959 through 2000. Over 5.3 million of the cars were produced over that period, before BMW shut down production to launch its modern version of the car.

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Lot 307
1959 Austin Mini Se7en De Luxe Saloon
Registration no. XLL 27
Chassis no. AA2S7/108
Engine no. 8AUH-908
Sold for £40,250 inc. premium


Footnotes

This Austin Se7en De Luxe is believed to be the oldest surviving un-restored Mini. Accompanying correspondence from the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust states that it is the 8th of its type to come of the production line at Longbridge in May 1959, some three months before the launch of this legendary model on 26th August. The BMIHT correspondence confirms that the car was despatched on 31st July 1959 to Car Mart Limited in Colchester, whose service plate is riveted inside the engine compartment.

It is believed that only three Minis earlier than 'XLL 27' still exist; one is '621 AOK', which forms part of the BMIHT's collection at Gaydon while the other two (one of which has been converted into a cabriolet) are in Japan. From 1986 until last year the car was owned by David Gallimore of Chichester, the previous owner listed on the copy Swansea V5 on file being Mrs Gladys Hobro of Aldwick, Bognor Regis. The car is complete and has all the features that distinguish these very early Minis, including the famous glass washer bottle. Some parts have been removed for security and ease of transport but all will be provided at the sale together with a Swansea V5 registration document.

The driver's door has been replaced but other than that only a few small items appear to have been renewed. 'XLL 27' retains its factory Farina Grey paintwork, all its original panels, engine, transmission and the original registration number. The interior is likewise original, intact and complete except for the carpets. Even the original Bluemels numberplates survive and there is evidence to support the belief that the recorded mileage of 30,041 miles is correct. A paper brake service label remains fixed to the near-side door jamb, recording work carried out at 17,942 miles.

There is evidence of corrosion in the front floors, 'A' panels, sills, doors, rear seat well, boot floor and rear valance but a surprisingly high percentage of the shell is intact. The rear sub-frame appears original, as do all the steel hydraulic pipes. The engine has not been run for many years.

The August 2011 issue of Classic & Sports Car magazine devoted six pages to this amazing survivor, which represents a unique opportunity to own an astonishingly correct example of one of the 20th Century's greatest cars in its earliest, purest form. There can be few more important examples of British automotive engineering.