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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8 responses to “It's got heart! The scrappy little Mini Scamp”

  1. Maymar Avatar

    I suspect if Marc Bolan drove one of these, the rest of T-Rex would be dead also, even if they weren't in his Mini.
    Still, it looks like a sportier model of the Mini Moke, and I approve of that.

  2. engineerd Avatar

    I was just thinking that with the popularity of the Mini it is a bit surprising there haven't been more kits produced for it. Although, the Taurus was popular, too, but there aren't many kids for it, either. We should fix that.

  3. retro Avatar

    In the UK there have been a huge number of mini based kits, covering a whole spectrum from sporty to utilitarian, and from stylish to downright bizarre.

  4. mdharrell Avatar

    Finally, a car that's boxy enough and has a halfway decent name! Many thanks on behalf of the few but loyal members of this demographic.


    Just thought I would make contact,I'm the guy with the Yellow Scamp in the top picture.In September 2011,with the help of Complete Kit Car Magazine we recreated the same photo,40 years after the one above was taken.The Scamp is still Yellow and still going strong.I have driven it the 1700 miles to Italy(over the alps)twice,it has been to Le Mans twice,offroading,green laning,there is not much it can't do.A great little car!!

  6. Tim willett Avatar
    Tim willett

    hi, as an owner of a rtv also built by robert mandry.just wandering if i am the only driver on road with one? anyone out there know of any.Tim, east sussex.

    1. Tim Willett Avatar
      Tim Willett

      Hi, thanks for reply, slow in reply due to lack of use of Internet .hope to show rtv at my local shows this year, but trailer transported as 30 miles an hour max is bit of a drag. Jeroen booij writer of maximum mini is visiting in may to photo and study rtv to put article in new book . Will look out for and await some info. Thanks Tim.

  7. Tim Willett Avatar
    Tim Willett

    Hi to anyone interested, my rtv wil have its first showing at the festival of transport broad farm hellingly East Sussex tn274ds. August 24,25,26, but been put in the tractor category. Gunna stick out like a cat in a kennel . Are well will be looking around for you scampers. Tim .