Little Mini Cooper with a curious history set to fetch $140,000
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An extremely rare Mini Cooper S owned by the much-derided former English MP Ernest Marples [pictured below] will be sold at auction later this month for up to £80,000 (NZ$140,000).
In his time as Minister of Transport from 1959 to 1964 he introduced the first motorway, double yellow line and traffic warden to the UK's road network.
But Marples' reign was shrouded in controversy, not least for his part in the demise of the British rail network and his own business profiteering from the construction of the M1, resulting in the words 'Marples Must Go' being spray-painted onto the bridges his firm built.
In the mid '60s, Austin's Experimental Department created three Minis with a hatched boot lid. This one was road registered for Marples specifically so he could fit a case of wine and a set of golf clubs in the back.
The 1964 Austin Mini Cooper S 1071 will be sold by H&H Classics at their Imperial War Museum Duxford sale in Cambridgeshire on the 26th July.
Experts have slapped a £70,000 to £80,000 estimate on its roof - a sum that would no doubt have money-mad Marples rubbing his hands in anticipation if here were alive today.
This special creation is one of just three fabricated by Austin's coach-building backroom - it was the only one to be signed off for use on public roads and the last surviving example, according to the auctioneer.
Rumour has it that former Postmaster General and Minister of Transport Marples, who died in 1978, said he'd only drive a Mini if one was built with enough space to carry his golf bags and the wine stock he regularly transported back from France.
Cooper organized a meeting between Marples and Alex Issigonis, designer of the Mini, who informed him that such a car already existed as part of a prototype project and subsequently the sale of this Almond Green vehicle was arranged.
As a result, the car has been given the somewhat unwelcome tag of the 'Marples Mini'.
Commenting on the upcoming auction, head of sales and H&H Classics, Damian Jones, said: 'This is not just another Mini. It is history on four wheels.
'Its former owner, Transport Minister Ernest Marples changed the face of Britain with housing, bridges and motorways. He was a very 'colourful character' to say the least.
'It is fascinating that he chose to buy and use this relatively modest car when going golfing or going to France on holiday. If this car could speak what tales might it not tell? It is truly one of a kind.'
Marples will long be remembered for spearheading the development of the country's motorway system during his time as Minster of Transport.
The move was soon rife with controversy, though, when it emerged that his own company was being paid to lay the road and erect bridges over it.
At the same time, he played a pivotal role in the closure of a considerable portion of the national railway network with the 'Beeching Cuts', which saw 4,000 miles of railway lines in the country decommissioned in a bid to increase road traffic.
This, along with accusations that he was having relations with prostitutes, evoked intense dislike in the general public, with opposition spray-painting 'Marples Must Go' signs on the motorway bridges his company had built.
In 1975, Marples, who had by then been made a baron, fled to Monaco to avoid a substantial tax bill and died there three years later.
While the car certainly has a chequered history in the hands of the infamous former owner, it's the 1071cc model's unique boot design that sets it apart as a one-off buying opportunity for classic collectors.
- Daily Mail