The original Austin/Morris Mini, which debuted in 1959, remains a desirable classic—with such innovations as a space-saving transverse-mounted engine and front-wheel drive. But as a car you could use today it has some limitations, especially the tiny 850-cc engine that was in the base cars. It produced only 34 horsepower, with a zero-to-60 time of, yes, 27 seconds. It could reach 70 miles per hour, but barely.
David Brown Automotive is betting that it can capture customers for its “Mini Remastered, Oselli Edition.” Only 60 of these hand-built cars—with the look and feel of an original Mini—will be made, with the build at an 18,000-square-foot facility in Silverstone, England, taking a reported 1,400 hours. The first Oselli, announced in 2019 to coincide with the Mini’s 60th birthday, has been delivered to a customer in Scandinavia. Other customers around the world will get their cars in the coming months.
In the place of that original Austin engine is a 125-horsepower power plant with 113 pound-feet of torque, yielding a zero-to-62 mph time of 7.8 seconds. Despite the huge increase in power, it’s an authentic Austin A-Series engine, given a modern electronic control unit (ECU) brain, bored out to 1,450-cc and equipped with twin SU carburetors.
David Brown Automotive tells Penta, “The journey of creating each Mini Remastered begins with an original classic Mini, which we then restore without compromise and remaster to each customer’s personal specifications.” The specs include an all-new body from British Motor Heritage, a leather and Alcantara interior, and whatever else the client wants—including air conditioning, power steering, central locking and Bluetooth-capable navigation/infotainment sets. The car delivered to Scandinavia was in Carbon Grey with Heritage Green accents and 13-inch alloy wheels finished in Graphite. (The original wheels are only 10 inches.)
Makeovers like this do not sell for a song. The base price for the Mini Remastered is $150,000, the company said, and $185,000 for the Oselli edition.
The Mini is not the company’s only car. It announced the 503-horsepower Speedback GT, a grand tourer with distinct 1960s Aston Martin styling cues and a modern 5-liter Jaguar XKR drivetrain, in 2014. Deliveries have since been in “double-figure territory,” with customers in Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America. In 2018, a 600-horsepower Silverstone Edition was launched. The base Speedback was $753,000 in 2015 but varies in the U.S., and only 100 will be built.
Speedback GT’s aluminum bodies, with more than a whiff of Aston DB5, are hand-crafted using traditional methods, including an English wheel. There’s room for three golf bags in the rear, and a flip-up picnic seat. The GT takes 8,000 hours to build. With both cars, customers are encouraged to visit the factory and select leathers, paint colors, and wood veneers.
The cars are available in left-hand drive. David Brown Automotive tells Penta, “It goes without saying that the U.S. market is extremely important for a British company like ours. Americans have a huge appreciation for beautifully crafted and hand-built British cars, and we’ve always received a lot of inquiries from the U.S. market ever since the company was founded. We have already started U.S. sales and we have already delivered a number of our bespoke vehicles to customers in the U.S. and Canada. In fact, left-hand drive models make up around 60% to 70% of our production.”
David Patrick Brown is a serial entrepreneur who has started 30 companies, selling everything from craft beer to high-end tile work. His time as a competitive rally driver led to his interest in becoming a bespoke auto manufacturer.