News : MINI restores Dutch-built original

Keith Adams


MINI has completed the full restoration of a 1959 Austin Seven at the company’s soon-to-be-opened assembly plant, VDL NEDcar, in the Netherlands. It’s here that MINIs will roll off the line in 2014 – the second time in the company’s history. The 1959 Austin Seven, which is one of the first of the line was built in Holland, is now up and running and MINI’s decision to restore it is a case of squaring the circle – allowing the company to mark its heritage in the country.

The 1959 Austin Seven in question has a special history: it has chassis number 983, making it is one of just 30 cars built in the first year of Dutch production by Car Companies, a firm that assembled left-hand drive Minis for the local market using components sourced from the UK.  VDL NEDcar employees undertook the restoration of one of the first Dutch Minis, which is also one of the oldest Minis in the world. It was assembled in 1959 at Molenaar’s Car Factory in Amersfoort, Holland and was completely rebuilt by a team of five. Minis were produced in the Netherlands from its year of introduction until 1966 – during that period the importer JJ Molenaar’s Car Companies in Amersfoort assembled over 4000 Minis. The full story of Amersfoort can be read elsewhere.

The job of restoring the Mini was particularly challenging because it spent over a quarter of a century abandoned in a damp barn, but MINI took on the project because the car was remarkably original and complete in spite of its advance state of decomposition. During the six-month restoration, the shell was stripped down to the bare metal and rebuilt it using as many original parts as possible. The  engine and gearbox were fully rebuilt, the interior was given a thorough makeover and the body was treated to a full – and much needed – overhaul that included fitting new floors and a new rear apron. The finishing touch was a fresh coat of Farina Grey, the car’s original colour.

The car will no undoubtedly take centre stage when the NEDcar plant re-opens to production next year – and we hope that MINI won’t then squirrel it away, but let as many people as possible see this appealing 1959 original with a fascinating history.


Restoration gallery

Keith Adams


  1. Austrian Minis, “made in Holland” ones now… A total nonsense for the British economy and the image of the brand.

  2. Nissan make cars in the UK, and it doesn’t seem to harm the Japanese economy or the image of the Nissan brand at all. Only the British are so inexplicably precious about such things, in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

  3. NEDCar has had an interesting history, from Dafs through the ‘small’ Volvos (340 -> S40), various Mitsubishis, the Smart ForFour and even badge engineering some SUVs for PSA Peugeot-Citroen.

    Doesn’t stop Volvos being Swedish, Mitsubishis being Japanese, PSA products being French or Smarts being German.

  4. Yes, i don’t think it matters where cars are built anymore. All Jaguars are now built in a foreign country rather than their home of Coventry. It’s called Birmingham. They all speak funny over there and dribble a lot. It’s criminal.

  5. Nothing like using someone else’s heritage to peddle your wares! As much as I like to see another classic Austin back on the road! I hear they are going to dig up Issigonis for next years Frankfurt motor show.

  6. @1
    “Austrian Minis, “made in Holland” ones now… A total nonsense for the British economy and the image of the brand.”

    What a ridiculous statement to make!….the classic Mini was built in factories all over the world….see below. 🙂

    From AROnline:
    MINI celebrated the Cowley centenary in style by touring of all of the European production sites that have built this iconic car over the years. These included Novo Mesto (Slovenia), the Italian city of Milan, the former production plant in Malta, the Portuguese town of Vendas Novas, Pamplona in Spain, Seneffe in Belgium, Amersfoort in Holland, Longbridge and the Irish capital Dublin.
    To kick off the celebrations, five Cowley-built MINIs toured the eight former classic Mini production locations throughout Europe.

  7. Its truly great they restored a piece of
    rolling history. Why so many naysayers taking
    away from the meaning of the article?

  8. As they have completed such a fantastic restoration on that Mini (honestly), I wonder if they would be interested in restoring another Cowley classic – my MG Maestro 2.0i? I really am impressed with the end result.

    A number of MINI variants have been built outside the UK for a number of years, likely because Cowley is actually running at near full capacity and there isn’t the scope to expand the assembly plant. The bulk of MINI production is still undertaken at Cowley and this is very good news for the British economy and jobs in both the assembly plant and the supply chain.

  9. Good that BMW has not forgotten the Mini’s roots.

    Bad that the UK government is not doing more to make Cowley expansion possible.

  10. If anything the production in the Netherlands will be at the expense of the Austrian production at Steyr, as the old DAF factory is much more convenient for the engines and pressings that will come from the UK , so the workers at Hams Hall and Swindon will be happy.

    These small ckd plants show the nonsense of the import tariffs that presumably must have existed after the war!

  11. Well i cant think of anything better to look forward to when your workday consists of restoring a piece of motoring History,do the origins matter?

  12. Nothing good ever came out of the Nedcar plant (look at the poorly built Mitsubishi Carisma/Volvo s40 for one, or the awful Volvo 440!) MINIs should be built in Britain and designed by the British, otherwise they become what they fast becoming now, watered down, ugly and lacking in image…

  13. Re 11: Expansion at Cowley faces the same problem it always has – where can it expand to? It’s essentially land-locked. This was made worse by BAe when they flogged off the Morris Motors sites – North and South Works, now a hotel and various new industrial units (including Harley Davisson’s EU HQ). The only possible site of any expansion would towards Horsepath – and this has always been out of the question. The land owner has refused to sell since the 30’s!

  14. Re 14: The BMW MINI was originally styled in California, and engineered in Germany. BMW closed/disposed of the UK design offices when they ditched Rover/Land Rover. They have no UK engineering capacity.

  15. Hi, i am from Holland. I have been checking this site a lot over the past years. Not only for my 85 targa red vitesse but also for my pristine rover tourer brookland (a real one with the green interiour and wooden gearknob an steeringwheel).
    And to be honest: i feel great about this. The build quality is great there. The most comon cars here that were build between 95 and 2004 are infact nedcar build S40 s. They just wont stop going.

    Maybe they can do the same with my vitesse as they did with the mini 🙂


  16. @16 It’s many years since I last visited it, but Cowley adjoins the (previously Morris/British Leyland) Unipart Garsington Road warehouse complex and (very ugly) office block. Sometime ago the site was advertised for sale on Unipart’s own website so presumably this could be be reviewed and if Unipart moved them BMW could expand into that area?

  17. @15 – What parallel universe do you live in? – Watered down, lacking in image? I’d ask someone to buy you a razor for Christmas I think. Without your beard (you must have one) you would realise what an unbelievably stupid rant you have just made. The Mini’s image has never been stronger and the cars are properly built, well developed and reliable. Not something you could have ever said about the shoe boxes that limped out of Longbridge for 50 years.

  18. @15 and @17
    I repeat…the classic Mini was built in many overseas factories with no harm to its image. Also the Mini Moke!

    Including Australia, South Africa, Slovenia, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Spain, Seneffe in Belgium, Amersfoort in Holland, and the Irish capital Dublin as well as at Longbridge and Cowley…..

    The R50/R53 MINI was mainly engineered at Longbridge and Gaydon by Rover…..
    New MINI – more cool Britannia than BMW will admit?

    The New MINI (R50) – Preparations to build it at Longbridge:

  19. Some of the commenters here need to modernise their blinkered attitudes and face the realities of global markets. Products are made in many countries not just the country where the brand may have originated.

    One example – how many readers realise that there is a Renault vehicle built in Britain ? In a similar arrangement to Mini’s the Renault Trafic van is built by Vauxhall at Luton, along with its Nissan, Vauxhall and Opel stablemates. (Deserving an article on this site, Keith).

    Then there are the BMW 4-cylinder engines built in Brum.

    Building British-badged cars in foreign climes for sale in Blighty is nothing new. 30+ years ago there were Hillman Hunters built in Ireland and Minis & Allegros in Seneffe, Belgium. Or even foreign-badged cars like the Slough-built Citroens. I’m sure commenters can list numerous others.

  20. @6 Neil: a friend of mine comes from a place that sounds a bit like “Boingamum”. He claims they make cars there.

  21. Re 19: Since BMW have chosen to expand Mini production elsewhere, it’s probably safe to assume that they’ve chosen to ignore the Garsington Road site. Certainly, the local authority were looking at the site for housing a year or so back.

  22. Well, as someone who brought MINI around Dublin to see the various sites where the original was produced, I think it shows again how they value the history of the brand itself.

    Some people will never be satisfied and life really is too short to argue with them.

  23. @15. Poorly built Mitsubishi Carisma? I have one. Now done 140000 miles and very reliable. Yes the odd squeak and rattle from the trim but hardly poorly built. Not the most exciting car. Dull but extremely worthy. And it has a Renault diesel too!

  24. Note the size of the original mini to the new one,its purity of design.

    Some folk may point out that the new MINI is bloated like some dead tramp dragged from a canal after three weeks because of crash worthy issues,or are we getting fatter?

    You may get some Chartered Engineer (still a nobody in the UK) accusing anyone with a vestige of critisism about this car as a “beardy type” but you dont need hair around your mouth to talk like a c##t do you?

    So we have a car built in the UK with German money and healthy profits going to the fatherland which is all well and good.

    But lets not try the same trick with the MG3 eh? shamelessly milking the brand for all its worth plastering its roof with a union jack and calling it fun and selling it at the right money-whatever the options.

  25. The simplicity of it all. Somehow you appreciate the ingenuity more than you might with some item of 2013 technical wizardry.

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