By Craig Watson.
The situation facing Leyland in Australia in 1970 was that the Mini was looking dated, the parent company had severed all ties with John Cooper and a new-look Mini, though mechanically not significantly improved, had just been released in the UK.
BMC Australia had previously rejected the changes for the Mk2 Mini – namely the larger windows and redesigned taillights – on the basis of cost. Similarly, the doors from ADO20 were also rejected on the basis of an estimated cost of $245,000 for re-tooling.
However, changing to the Clubman front panels and the Mk2 taillights was considered viable, to give the Mini a fresh look without excessive development cost.
When the Australian Mini Clubman range was released, in August 1971, the cars appeared at first glance to be not unlike their UK cousins. However, in reality, they were even further removed from the British cars than any Mini previously.
The Australian Clubman was still basically a Mk 1 Mini from the A-pillars back. Home-grown changes that widened the gulf included the wind-up windows with quarter-vents (1965), low-protrusion door handles and burst-proof door locks (1971), and the retention of external door hinges.
In another step away from the parent company, the Mini van was also given the Clubman front end – the only Clubman van built anywhere in the World (see Issue 21).
The parting with John Cooper meant that Leyland Australia also had to stop using the Cooper name.
Interestingly, Innocenti in Italy bucked the trend by introducing the Mini Cooper 1300 in March 1972 and continuing until early 1975 (see Issue 11 for Innocenti history).
Authi, in Spain, also released a Mini Cooper 1300 – the same as the Innocenti export model and built under license – in 1973. Wholly-owned by Leyland, the Authi factory was sold in 1975 to SEAT.
Meanwhile, back in Australia, with stocks of Cooper S running gear on hand, and a substantial contract with the police current, BLMCA decided that a performance Mini was still desirable.
Production of the Clubman GT began in July 1971, with the public release being on 16 August. Unlike the UK’s 1275GT, the Aussie car retained the full Cooper S running gear, including 9F engine, twin 1.5 ” carbs, power-assisted disc brakes, Hydrolastic suspension (to Cooper S spec), twin tanks, wheel-arch extensions as standard, oil cooler, and a laminated front windscreen.
The interior was revised with the English Clubman instruments, but where the UK GT had a tacho red-lined at 6,000 rpm, the Aussie GT was a little more generous with the red line from 6,500 rpm, and the speedo went to 120mph.
The seating was not greatly improved, even though much was made of the new styling. However, in the interest of safety, the front seats now had a lock to prevent them from tilting forward in a collision.
Beside the body, the most important feature of the Australian Clubman GT is the engine, but Identifying exactly what engine it came with is not made any easier by conflicting information, even from within the factory. By piecing together what is available from various sources, we can work out most of it.
Early GTs did have Mk2 Cooper S engines from remaining stock, with full synchro gearboxes. The engine number prefix was 9F/Xe/Y, and the engine numbers are thought to be in the 56300 to 56500 range.
If you would like to read the rest of this story, order your copy of Issue 19 of The Mini Experience.
Mini Experience Issue 19. July-Sept 2009 Magazine