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MINIS FROM THE ITALIAN JOB
What happened to the Minis?
For 50 years, it's been the million-dollar question: what happened to the Minis from the Italian Job?
For 50 years, it’s been the million-dollar question: What happened to the Minis from The Italian Job? Ken Morris recalls he left a number of Minis in Turin, surplus cars intended for throwing down the mountain.
Ken Morris: ‘I still had something like six Minis left ... All I did was just [leave] the garage, lock the door and head to the airport. Whatever happened to those Minis, I have no idea. Whoever owned the garage had the Minis.’
Once filming was completed in Turin, the six hero Minis were returned to England. One set was still required for interior and back-projection shots at Twickenham Studios.
Richard Essame: ‘The blue Mini – I had to take it back to England after the filming was finished.’
Barry Cox: ‘David, Richard and I were asked to take the Minis back to London. So, we decided to race each other!’
David Salamone: ‘We had an altercation with a Swiss gentleman in a Citroën DS, who was proving difficult to pass. Every time we tried to overtake him he went faster, and the Minis don’t have a great top speed. Eventually we both passed him but in the process slightly knocked him off the road. What we hadn’t calculated was that ten minutes down the road we hit the Swiss border and we were having our passports checked and I could see this guy coming in the mirror with all his headlamps flashing trying to attract the attention of the police. We just got our passports back and roared off. The Minis got home in one piece.’
Barry Cox: ‘The problem is you have spent three months in Turin driving a Mini Cooper getaway car, so by the end we were driving with a bit more vigour. So, I return to London with this beautiful Mini Cooper. I take it home to show my family and was arrested in the process [for] having overtaken the police inspector of Chingford! What I hadn’t realised was the tax disc was a prop and not real, and so were the number plates. I was thrown into a cell and was questioned about the car. And being a clever-clogs, I said “I work for Paramount Pictures.”
‘After two hours the police walk me out into the yard to where my white Mini is parked. They took me around the back, open the boot and it was full of gold. Fake gold of course. That really did take their breath away! Eventually David came to rescue me.’
But what happened then to the six hero Minis – NOC 72F, NOC 73F, NOC 74F, NOC 75F, NOC 76F, MON 795F – once filming wrapped at Twickenham Studios?
Derek Kavanagh: ‘The Minis from BMC had to go back, and we had to pay for damage done to them.’
David Salamone: ‘At least three of them had kinks in their roofs. The chassis had bent. The three cars used for the roof top jump had serious sustained damage, the bodies had kinked. You could still drive them, but BMC would never have been allowed to sell them. So they must have been destroyed. The second set was ok and there was talk of doing a promotional tour with them and I had agreed to do it. [But] it didn’t happen, and I never saw the Minis again.’
NOC 74F can be seen fleetingly in Dunlop’s promo film, Vive Le Sport (1969) – complete with leather bonnet straps and Cibié lights. However, there is no trace of any of the six hero Minis after this point. According to a government registration check with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, the cars are no longer on their system. However, the DVLA’s records only go back as far as 1978.
For security reasons, the British Motor Museum archive at Gaydon, who hold BMC’s papers, do not allow general access to the Mini Cooper Mk I register – to avoid attempted duplication, or cloning, which has happened with Coopers in the past. Interestingly, they did confirm that there are no dispatch records for the cars on the ledger. There are also a further ten Mk I Coopers in red, white, blue and grey (close in sequence to the six hero cars) without BMC dispatch records. Could these cars have also been used in the making of The Italian Job?
Paying homage to the original cars in the film, there are at least three replica sets, and a number of individual Italian Job look-a-like Minis, in the UK.
The number plates HMP 729G, LGW 809G and GPF 146G were not genuine registration numbers at the time of filming – when the picture was in production, the UK registration letter for 1968 was ‘F’ but the production team put ‘G’ plates on the cars so that they were contemporaneous with the film’s release in the summer of 1969.
In recent years, the DVLA has raised funds by issuing number plates of interest, and the three fictitious ‘G’ registration numbers were snapped up when they were auctioned by Cheffins on 26 January 2006. They were promptly affixed to one of the replica sets of cars. The media has often and inaccurately reported that these were the Minis used in the film.
Extract taken from The Self Preservation Society - 50 Years of The Italian Job, by Matthew Field, Published by Porter Press International