Lifestyles of the rich and famous. Minis have found famous homes over the decades, but for some buyers, such a popular brand could never offer the required exclusivity. For those wanting to express individuality and pocket depth, there has only ever been one name (well, two): Wood & Pickett.
Founded by craftsmen Bill Wood and Les Pickett in 1947 as a semi-traditional coachbuilder, one of the company’s first projects was to convert three Daimler-based ambulances into motor show-destined luxury display vehicles. This set the trend for what was to come. By the ‘60s, the automotive industry was moving away from separate body and chassis vehicle construction. While this signalled the end for many coachbuilders, Wood & Pickett identified a niche that not only provided a business lifeline, but that etched its name in history. From that point, the company would be famously associated with the Issigonis classic.
Although it diversified to best suit customers’ tastes, adapting Rolls Royce, Range Rovers and Mercedes, for example, The Margrave special edition Mini provided the springboard for the image associated with Wood & Pickett today. With grille-inset spotlights and even bullbars, The Margrave offered owners instant differentiation and the world’s first – and smallest – Chelsea tractor. Inside, they could enjoy a redesigned dashboard and any number of interior options, including electric windows, numerous seat, wheel and upholstery options, including leather and, of course, the irresistible allure of Draylon. The only real limits to vehicle specification were taste and budget.
Deseamed exterior? No problem. An extensive redesign that includes oval rear side windows? Not a problem, Sir. Alternative front-end treatment for your Clubman? Suits you.
The service Wood & Pickett offered its host of wealthy customers, including famous television and film stars, was a work of genius. It arguably led the way for the modern level of customisation on offer by cars such as the Fiat 500, and its timing could not have been better. The oil crisis of 1973 was a guilt-trip emotional hurdle for anyone contemplating the purchase of expensive, fuel inefficient vehicles. Where could these buyers turn to display their wealthy yet environmentally astute outlook? Wood & Pickett. The Mini was a chic, popular blank canvas and Wood & Pickett offered the acrylics to customers’ imaginations. Some of the results were suitably surreal.
The 1990s brought a change of ownership and direction for Wood & Pickett. The company steered away from vehicle conversions and focused on offering suitably diverse Mini accessories, although it did complete a conversion for the Crown Prince of Jahor, which, in the image of the 90s, packed a karaoke system, TV and fridge within the Mini’s diminutive shell.
Which was your favourite Wood & Pickett option? Did you specify your own or do you have a film star’s Mini wish list tucked away in a lockup?