The converters : Wood & Pickett Minis
Wood & Pickett’s riposte to Radford’s upmarket de Ville…
Having seen how Radford’s Mini de Ville conversions were catching on, Wood & Pickett decided that they too could take a slice of the action. They set about creating their own Margrave conversion, apparently taking their first order from actress Hayley Mills (although this may be apocryphal).
Trademark Margrave features included the obligatory redesigned dashboard, spotlights recessed into the grille (a la Radford) and W&P’s own-design nudge bars which soon became the last word in Mini-chic. However, few customers stopped there: Wood & Pickett were in the business of making dreams come true so, in addition to an options list as long as your arm, they were prepared to consider undertaking just about anything requested of them.
A Mini Margrave interior, this example dating from the mid-Seventies. The central area housing the instruments, radio and glovebox lid would more typically be given a walnut veneer finish rather than this all-white treatment
Popular interior upgrades included more supportive and adjustable front seats, Draylon or leather retrims, electric windows and sunroofs, while outside many owners opted for wider wheels with extended arches, rear wash-wipe and deeply-tinted windows. For those with a bit more to spend, Wood & Pickett offered a full de-seaming service, ridding the Mini of its distinctive but primitive front and rear body seams and endowing it with an altogether smoother appearance.
For those who really wanted their Mini to stand out from the crowd, Wood & Pickett came up with a 1930s-style treatment for the rear bodywork, whereby the side and rear windows were replaced with new metalwork, with a tinted oval rear window and the option of a variety of small opera windows at the side; this was then (usually) topped-off with a vinyl roof and the finishing touch of ornamental hood-irons.
A few of W&P’s bespoke conversions featured these neatly-integrated Mercedes-Benz headlight/indicator units, an expensive modifcation as it involved some reworking of the front wings. Arguably more successful than Radford’s similar conversion using rather more exclusive Facel units
When the Mini Clubman was launched in 1969, that also came in for Wood & Pickett’s attention. Their first conversion (ALD 877H) looked fairly standard from the outside, save for the Webasto sunroof, chrome wheel trims and tell-tale front quarterlight which was a feature of W&P’s electric window conversions.
Most of the work was reserved for the interior, which featured a tasteful walnut-and-leather dashboard and substantial leather seats. Later Clubmans would feature a twin-headlight conversion, intially using modified Vauxhall Ventora units which later gave way to Wood & Pickett’s own grille design.
A typical 1970s Clubman conversion, featuring a Vauxhall Ventora-sourced headlamp arrangement which works remarkably well. The idea was later copied by St Albans-based firm Trevor James Car Conversions, who sought to offer WP-style conversions at a fraction of the cost
The 1973 Oil Crisis provided a boost to Wood & Pickett’s Mini business, as drivers of luxury cars sought to down-size without giving up too many of the refinements to which they had become accustomed. The company continued to carry out work on Minis throughout the following decades, albeit on a smaller scale than in the heady days of the Sixties and Seventies. Notable customers included the now-disgraced Jeffrey Archer, who ordered a deep-red, de-seamed Mini in the late Eighties to use as his London runabout.
Under new ownership in the 1990s, the company’s emphasis shifted towards marketing a comprehensive range of accessories for the Mini, including the trademark Margrave dashboard, although they continued to accept commissions for complete conversions. 1994 saw the creation of what must be one of the most expensive Minis ever: the Crown Prince of Jahor ordered a Cooper-based conversion – complete with TV, karaoke system and fridge – for which the final bill came to around £50,000…