The first Mini MK1 Cabriolet

Mini MK1 Cabriolet – The Crayford Mini

The world’s first Mini convertible was the brainchild of David McMullan, sales manager at Lambretta Trojan of Croydon, and Jeffrey Smith from the company’s research and development department. The two men formed a lifelong friendship and partnership, united by their vision to transform the innovative new Mini into a convertible. In 1962, new Minis were still hard to come by, so David and Jeffrey could only afford a three-year-old 1959 model for their experiment. This car, registered as AFO 887, was worked on during late-night hours since both men needed to keep their day jobs at Lambretta to make ends meet.

Their days were filled with work at Lambretta, followed by nights spent laboring on the Mini in a lock-up in Stroud, Kent. Despite their busy schedule, David found time to visit his wife, who was in the hospital expecting their first child. On several occasions, David was reprimanded by the hospital staff for bringing oily hands and Mini parts into his wife’s room.

In August 1962, David’s first son, Sean, was born. Just minutes after the birth, David and Jeffrey headed to Stroud, where they drove their other “baby,” the now-converted AFO 887, on the road for the first time as a convertible.

David and Jeffrey eventually left Lambretta Trojan and founded Crayford with a joint investment of £20 and a toolbox each. Their first Mini convertible, painted light blue, was unveiled to the national press on June 3rd in the Daily Mail’s motoring section. The launch was a success, quickly attracting a network of dealers who began taking orders. The price was set at £690 for a new car, or £129 to convert a used one.

An early breakthrough for Crayford came when MGM featured the new Crayford Mini Cooper in the black-and-white movie “Night Must Fall,” starring Susan Hampshire and Albert Finney. Both actors drove the Crayford extensively throughout the film. When the movie was released, David’s wife watched it three times in one afternoon.

Crayford introduced variations based on Austin and Morris cars, and later produced a Clubman convertible. The early Mk.1 cars were completely open, with rear side windows that pulled out like those on a Morgan. They also offered a “sunshine” conversion with fixed sides, and created a one-off open beach car with jeep-like sides for the Managing Director of Bristol Street Motors to use at his villa in Spain.

Today, these early Crayford Minis are extremely rare, with only 15 cars known to exist. Due to high demand, there are also fake versions around, so be cautious of any car with roll bars, hoops, or T-bars.

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