News : Mini Beach car going to auction

One of the most rare Mini variations is coming up for sale at Bonhams Auto Auction at the Quail Lodge in California on 15th August. Most of these were sent to the original U.S. BMC Mini Franchise Dealerships as ‘display cars” to generate interest in the U.S. introduction for Minis, including the one coming up for sale.

Words: Alexander Boucke Photography: Robert Forbes


The history of the Mini beach cars is quite short and led to a small amount of cars being built (see: Mini – Classic Beach cars) – they are certainly the rarest of all Mini variants. AROnline reader Robert Forbes, the current owner of the car, recounts:

“Per the Longbridge production records 14 were built as described and, of course, the brown tan one in RHD purportedly used by the Queen. As that car exists, call that the 15th. There were a few, maybe 2 or 3, with Elf back ends done that I have seen photos of so call it about 17 or 18 Beach Cars in total with the 14 like mine in LHD. Quite ‘rare’.”

14 LHD cars were sent to BMC’s Mini franchise dealerships across the US as display cars to raise the interest for the pending introduction of the Mini. Kjell Qvale, the original owner of Rob’s car and founder of San Francisco British Motors, used this car up to about the year 2000. It resided for a while at the dealership on Van Ness Drive in San Francisco, then Kjell took it to his ranch for a while up in the wine country. It was repainted dark green. Kjell brought it back to the upstairs of the dealership and it sat there some twenty more years. He gifted it to a Mr. Keith Simon a long-time manager of Kjell’s real-estate holdings.

Rob: “We bought it from Mr. Simon. Kjell says mileage is accurate and correct at some 11k miles now. I updated the transmission to a full synchro box taking great effort and machining to retain the ‘magic wand” old style s-shaped shift lever buy machining what we call the ‘nose” to fit the newer style full synchro box. (The original gearbox goes with the car.) We have the Heritage Certificate and I have furnished a copy for you and a few pictures also. Engine is not rebuilt but runs like a top and is, of course, an 850cc. Subframes were refurbished as the dry-suspension cones were pretty rock hard after forty some years. We also went back to the original colour of Surf Blue.”

Alexander Boucke


  1. Wow. I want it. Can’t afford it but I want it! I hope it goes to someone that understands the heritage of the brand. Wonder if BMW are interested?

  2. Fantastic looking little car. Possible inspiration for a new niche that BMW hasn’t yet explored with the new Mini?

    Article says the car was used up until the year 2000 – would need a lot of bravery to drive a tiny car with NO DOORS on fast Californian roads, dodging the giant Suburbans and F150s.

  3. No doors and no seatbelts either. A charming little deathtrap- however it would be just the thing for pottering about locally in a little seaside town on a sunny day.

    Hope the new owner uses it- albeit on an occasional basis.

  4. Nice to see the reference to the Van Ness dealership, I believe the original West Coast Jaguar agent from sons ago and still selling JLR products. Worth looking up on Google street view (sorry, doing this ‘mobile’ so unable to include a link)

  5. Looks like a new front valence has been fitted, and the front wings tidied up too. Looks a bit like the one that was restored at Frank Zucchi Restoration in Livermore.

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