Just when you thought we might have used up our reserve of Mini specials, along comes the Bulanti. Here is a car that looks like nothing else. Built by Brian Rawlings, who had worked at Elfin and Nota, this special was a change from his usual Clubmans to a closed car. The body on the car in the picture is the first car built, in 1971, and was made in alloy. Moulds were taken from this car and subsequent units were done in fibreglass.
In this series titled “Alchemy”, which means turning metal into gold, we will review cars and drivers who helped to make MINI a legend.
The Bulanti was just over one metre high and used the same track and wheel base as the Mini, which caused access to the cabin to be awkward, once inside there was a surprising amount of room with lots of legroom. The body of these cars was quite strong due to the wide side pontoons and triangulated rear section that also carried the engine. A modified Mini front sub-frame complete with Mini power-plant and suspension with locked steering, was integrated with the chassis behind the cabin’s rear bulkhead. In the advertising, the vehicle was credited with being mid-engined.
Some other parts were also borrowed from the Mini, but the windscreen came from the Triumph Herald and the front lights from Hillman Hunter. The doors had Mini external hinges and like the proper Mini, two-piece sliding windows.
The road tests at the time of release attributed these cars with exceptional road holding and handling and they could be allowed to oversteer at will, depending on throttle position! That would be a surprise to Mini owners who are used to torque steer and understeer.
Only three of these cars were made, as Rawlings decided not to proceed with production after the first three. Many inquires were received about the little coupe, but he thought that “it was just too much trouble”. “All the fiddly things like getting the noise down, doing the electrics and upholstery and one bloke wanting ashtrays in it, get you down” said Rawlings.
The first car is still in existence, and is owned by Henry Draper from Northern Mini Parts in Melbourne. He also has the original moulds. Henry intends to restore the car as he considers it an important part of the Mini’s history. Henry tells me that he thinks the two other Bulantis are still around. If you have the chance to own one of the other two, they would make a great toy and would a good investment.
Another Mini special surprise next month.