Professional musician Simon Ayton – owner of a 1968 classic Malmo Mini Van – knows that the story of his Mini is a little bit different than most.

When Simon inherited his historic Malmo Van in 1995, it had only clocked up 78,000 miles – but it had some stories behind it. After spending 20 years as a commercial vehicle for a farmer friend of Simon’s grandmother, it was filled with soil and converted into a mobile mushroom and potato farm. Simon’s uncle stumbled across it in 1995 – and, immediately recognising the iconic Mini grille, knew he had to have it. He gave the farmer a greenhouse in exchange for the Malmo, and started restoring the vehicle.

That’s where Simon comes in – he bought it from his uncle to carry his drum kit to practices and concerts but, seeing Malmo was still worse for wear, so Simon took it upon himself to completely restore the vehicle.

“My better half sighs and bids me farewell when I mention going down to the garage,” Simon confesses. It’s all too clear that working on Malmo is hugely rewarding, and he takes great pleasure in documenting the progress.

So far, Simon has rebuilt the engine, the gearbox, suspension and steering, refitted the seats, installed new brakes, reconstructed the temperature and pressure gauges, beaten dents out of the siding by hand and completely resprayed it in original Malmo green.

“I’ve also fitted a hidden 500W multi-speaker sound system with the amp and sub under the rear floor, the speakers under seats and tiny high frequency drivers up in the corners of the windscreen,” Simon said. “You can’t see the sound system unless [it is] pointed out and it just has a simple hidden jack for connection to any player.”

The vehicle has proved a challenge for sourcing original parts, so Simon used as many NOS (‘New Old Stock’) parts as he could to stay faithful to the original design.

“The aim was to use as many New Old Stock parts as possible to keep the character of the car, but hopefully improve the reliability and driveability by switching to electronic ignition and an alternator which doesn’t change the look but seriously helps keep the car working.”

The Mini community has been an integral part of Malmo’s restoration, and a little book learning was also necessary. 

“Mini meets are good to find owners of similar cars and we keep in contact via email. I’ve also asked questions like, ‘Where’d you get those wheels?’ My girlfriend has bought me a few books including Mini: The Definitive History which I used as a guide to make sure parts I get are from the same period.”

A labour of love is never really finished, and Simon has ideas for a few more adjustments, including a new fuse box and some exhaust mounts. Though he’s happy the heavy lifting is behind him, he’s sure that Malmo will continue to improve indefinitely.

But for now, this beautifully restored classic Mini can be seen happily cruising the streets of Sydney with Simon behind the wheel and a van’s worth of music gear in tow.