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A Little Long-Term Project
* If you are short of time just scroll to pic at the bottom, this is a long introductory post!!*
I know you all like a good build project so thought I’d share my current one.
Seeing as I turned 40 at the end of last year and the last year or so has been very tough* I decided to treat myself to a big project, something to remember when I’m older and that would be hard to repeat. I’d started planning what I wanted to get from roughly the end of 2018 (2017-18 had been tough with mental health issues and problems at work) and had started squirreling away funds when I could. I managed to get a decent amount within a year so started hunting for what to get, with a budget of around £3k it was time to start drawing up a list. This went:
3 months in New Zealand with the bike.
A European summer road trip.
A classic car.
Top-end custom bike build.
Get my BRDC license.
The idea of New Zealand really appealed so I had discussions with my work about taking a 3 month career break in 2020/1 to allow the trip options to be done and this was all agreed for January-March 2021. Everything was falling into place and I had plenty of time to save up more funds. So early 2019 I was deep into planning a 10 week trip going right around the country in a camper with 3 weeks afterwards to spend some time back here relaxing before going back to work. All good so far, deposits paid etc.
Then the health of my parents started to deteriorate, especially my dad. Focus shifted to looking after them which ate up time and money so the savings weren’t going up anywhere near the rate they should be. No matter, time is on my side.
Towards the end of 2019 things were looking better all-round so the planning resumed and the savings started to grow again, the trip was on.
You can guess what’s coming now can’t you? Well, there was a bit before that. February 2020 was when we had two 100-year storms hit in a week. That flooded my parent’s house. Cue emergency evacuation and all the resulting chaos that goes with it all. Some of the savings was spent on them for essentials and emergency stuff while the insurers dealt with it all. I had one eye on the small news story of Covid19 but genuinely thought it would be like the previous SARS and MERS ones, not come to anything and be controlled within the year. Come the beginning of March the insurers had taken over the flooding problem so I was back to working towards getting the money for the trip. I was behind schedule but at worst I’d have to take a small loan out of £1-2k to make up the shortfall.
Then the bombshell came of Covid19 being much worse than we all realised. All through the next few weeks I was watching the world shut down, this hit my plans in two ways. Work basically dried up so I no longer could add to the savings pot and it also was blatantly obvious that international travel may be an issue next winter. No matter, I’ll look into pushing things back a year. My boss at work agreed with the delay and the travel companies I had booked with were happy to defer things too. Just have to sit down, do the right things and wait for the pandemic to be controlled.
Fast forward to May 2020. Work takes the decision to furlough my site, no major issue though as I managed to find some short-term work delivering groceries to make up the difference in wages and continue putting money in the savings account. All was good until the news from my main job came through in late June that redundancies were in the air. I wasn’t particularly worried as I did multiple roles at work and two of the three were not in the scope of the notice. Then early July that changed, they were going to look at shrinking the business by nearly 25%. A group conference call was set up for 13th July where I would find out my fate.
The day came and it was announced that my site was being completely shut with immediate effect. Earnings gone. Career break gone. Plans in ruins. I phoned the companies I’d booked with and explained the situation to them. Thankfully I still had only paid deposits so after claiming on the travel insurance I only lost just under £500.
So, back to the list. I knew I would get a decent amount of redundancy pay and I still had the savings pot available so decided to ignore plans for trips or anything likely to be cancelled at short notice. That left a custom bike build or a classic car. The bike build idea didn’t overly enthuse me as the thought of standards changing or my riding evolving in a different direction meant I could end up with a bike that I wouldn’t use or couldn’t get parts for. So by default it’s a classic car. But what?
Actually it didn’t take long to decide a shortlist! I had a few different knackered cars when I was young, back when you could pick up things with a few months MOT and Tax on them for £1-200 ie cheap fun. The list went as follows (in order I originally had one):
Renault 5 GT Turbo
Volvo 240 estate
Out of that list 3 stood out. A Mini as it was my first car and I always regretted selling it, the MR2 as it was brilliant fun and the Volvo as I had one I’d paid £20 for as a festival car for a summer during Uni and had always hankered after one as a bike lugger/stealth camper.
MR2’s were quickly ruled out as they are expensive to buy in decent nick and the rough ones are a pain for parts and actually working on them, especially bodywork thanks to the mid-engine layout. Volvo’s are just crazy money for some reason, leaving nothing in the budget for mods or repairs plus I didn’t have anywhere to easily keep something that big so renting a lockup would have been needed. So that leaves a Mini. Prices of them have shot up too! I was expecting £1k for a rough one with a short MOT but that was more like £4k now. I’ll need to be patient and see if I could find a bargain somewhere.
The next few months involved daily searches each breakfast for any cars that were on my list. Very few came up in my range. I did go and look at a cheap MR2 in September at a dealer but it had rot all behind the bulkhead. A Mini turned up in Bristol too but that was hiding a catalogue of issues and was not worth even buying for parts! Then a tidy Mk2.5 MX5 popped up on facebook for just over a grand so went to look at that. Great mechanically, lovely interior and low miles. The body could do with a blow-over but nothing major. That was until I looked in the rear arch areas. It was very well disguised but the front of each was basically tissue paper and obviously rotten underneath. A quick sneaky prod with a key told me that it was way too much work and as I didn’t have any particular connection with MX5’s (the one I had before only stuck around for 3 weeks before I sold it for a profit) I passed up on it. Another few Mini’s were popping up but they all had either major rot or were just completely knackered.
Roll onto November and I still had no luck finding anything I wanted. While helping my parents move back home after the flood damage had been repaired I found my old scrap book I’d had when I was young showing my perfect Mini. What colour, wheels, interior trim and other little details. All the stuff I’d never done to my original one. That set my mind that it was either a Mini or nothing for me now, it was an itch I had to scratch if I could.
Then in the space of 2 days two Mini’s showed up on eBay. One was a 1974 850 that had been completely rebuilt and looked spotless. The guy selling it had other Mini’s but was selling this one due to space issues. I couldn’t go see it though due to Wales being open but England not and it was just over the border. Decided to watch it and see where the price went while I checked out the other one. This was only 25 miles away and the right side of the border so I arranged to see it and check it out despite the advert being a bit light on detail, not always a good sign. The viewing went well, apart from when it wouldn’t start as the battery was connected backwards when I first arrived (terminals both labelled +ve on the clamps and the battery having no clear marks on it either!) but after a quick diagnostic check of everything it fired up and ran sweetly straight away. I spotted a few things on it that the owner either didn’t mention in the advert or know about**, all of which added value to the car. The only obvious downside was that the car had been resprayed a few years ago cheaply and was really in need of being done again. There was also the usual bits of rust in the usual places but it was all minor surface stuff that flaked off if you brushed it. Basically a solid base to work from. It was obvious from talking to the owner that he had bought it for that summer as a toy and just used it then was offloading it as he was unwilling to do a bit of remedial work body-wise. Mechanically it was solid and drove really well** (ignoring the comedy-small steering wheel) with plenty of scope for me to build it into what was in my old scrapbook. The auction still had to run and the owner said he’d put a full 12 month MOT on it prior to payment for whoever won it, as stated in the eBay ad. He even took it to the garage he used straight after I viewed it. Something to think about definitely but there was still the 850 auction running.
That Tuesday the 850 auction was up to £4000 with a day to go and a lot of watchers and bidders. It looked like it would go for well above my total project budget plus I wasn’t overly keen on getting a small engined car in yellow. It would be a great car but I just know I’d want to take it away from original. For the right price I’d have it but I thought it would go for £6k or more judging by other similar cars. Decided to have a think about the one I’d seen instead and started to work the numbers. I knew what price I was willing to pay for it and vowed to not go a penny over that.
The next day I overslept and woke up 2 hours after the yellow 850 auction had finished. Checked my emails and it had sold for it’s reserve price, £4600. Someone got a proper bargain there and I would have bought it for that if I’d known! Would easily be able to use it for a year or two, keep it in top condition then sell it on for more. Oh well.
Thursday and the auction on the second Mini is ending. I had kept in touch with the seller about how the MOT had gone, it had failed for dodgy indicators, rust on the rear subframe (one small part was crusty but the rest was solid) and a wiper blade, all of which he was fixing.
20 mins to go and it had 27 watchers but no bids. The starting price was £150 under my limit so it was now a case of waiting and seeing what happened. As the listing stated that it was sold with a full MOT I knew I was protected to an extent from buying a full-on lemon so with 30 seconds to go I decided to bid my maximum and just see if I won. I did, the only bidder so got it for a good £1k less than any other MOT’d and running Mini I could find. Now just for the seller to get the MOT sorted.
It passed the MOT that Friday so it was arranged to collect the car Monday with the garage delivering it for me after I had done the final check it was all good and paid the money. That weekend I went to my parent’s house and cleared a space in the garage for it, that took a LOT of work as they’re both hoarders! But I got that done so was all ready for Monday.
Monday came so I met the seller at his house where he proceeded to give me a load of spares from his garage, some worth a few quid too like a full tailored car cover and extra bits of chromework. We went to the garage and I checked the car over, all was good and as it should be and all the documentation was correct. He had even fitted a new alternator for me as the garage had spotted it was not pumping out the full power but was still charging the battery fine. Happy with that as it saved me £60 or so! Paid the seller the money and then it was time to get it home. I had already arranged for the garage to flatbed it home for me, it was cheaper than paying for a month’s tax and a day’s insurance plus there was salt on the road and I didn’t want to have to deal with cleaning that off before the dreaded rot set (it is a Mini after all!).
Arrived at my parent’s house and seemingly everyone was outside for some reason, all the neighbours and even the postman. So much for keeping it hidden until the spring. Even had one offering to buy it off me for more than I paid.
Once everyone had poked and prodded it, told me all their stories about their old Mini’s and asked for first dibs on a ride when it comes out in the spring it was time to put it in the garage and start to make pans for preparing it for the release of lockdown and a few adventures.
It’s a 1989 1000, it was some sort of basic special in grey originally. I’ve been slowly working away on it since then, grabbing an hour or so every time I’m at my parent’s place while helping them with their care, running them to hospital appointments etc. I’ll detail that in further posts if there is any interest in the project on here, if not I’m not worried as it’s for me not something to show off etc.
The plan this winter is to sort out a few things to make it better and reliable for this summer. Either next winter or the one after that (depending on whether it stays reliable, passes the next MOT and a few other things) I will be doing some bodywork ready for a full respray. This is where the long-term project bit comes in. Now I’ve got a Mini I can work away on it when I can and when funds allow. It’s probably never going to be worth less than I paid for it and possibly go up in value so this is the last chance I’ll probably have to build that Mini I detailed in my old scrapbook. It’s not going to be anywhere near the level of a Binky build, I just want it to be mechanically sound, look tidy and be usable. If I had a concourse car I’d be afraid to use it and pick up a scratch, this is going to be a car that if it gets a scratch or a small dent a trip to the bodyshop won’t be the end of the world.
Hope you all like it, I certainly do!
*Tough doesn’t come close. I genuinely don’t know how I’ve carried on at points the last few years! This project is a big help in getting me through a lot of the fallout from all of this, add in the pandemic and I can genuinely say buying this and working on it these last few weeks has kept me alive.
**Back a few years before I had seen a similar Mini on a friend’s street that a student had used. They were regularly working on it and I’d even chatted to him about it a few times so knew what work he had done to it and how well it had been done. After viewing this one I’d gone back through photos and found that it was that exact car so I knew what bits it had fitted to it. When I went to pick the car up I had another cheeky look to see what was on it and all the bits were there, I could even tell on the test drive that the engine was still in the condition he had left it. All will be revealed in later posts.sc-xcFull Member
Sounds like a nice bit of light at the end of the tunnel, I look forward to this thread developing. I had 2 minis (B508RDH and E337PFK – funny how I can remember those but not the reg of my last car) and they were great fun.
Well done chap,knowing what you have been through this last wee while I hope you enjoy every single minute of this project.
Oh and post a photo of the scrap book dream build 🙂faddaFull Member
Still needs a like button…
Volvo 240 Estates are surprisingly expensive aren’t they! If we ever get allowed out and I come down your way it would be good to have a poke round.sharkattackFull Member
That’s a long post even by my standards!
I once got the train to London to buy a Volvo 240 for £400. It survived the journey back to Newcastle and then the gearbox blew up.
That was me done with 240’s. Now they’re 10 times the price for some reason.dirkpitt74Full Member
So do I get this right – you had seen the exact car years earlier? How amazing is that!
I never had a Mini but always had a soft spot for them.
Looking forward to seeing the progress.jwtFree Member
funny how I can remember those but not the reg of my last car
When I was young my parents had three Mini Travellers (estates) – 891 BXN, KNU 40D, FRA 804H – but I can’t remember my last car’s plate either.
And OP – that may be an ’89, but that isn’t an ’89 grille, is it?
(B508RDH and E337PFK – funny how I can remember those but not the reg of my last car)
I remember every single one of my reg plates for may main cars but not some of the cheap ones I had for a few weeks. Your B reg one is the same age as my original one, a Red City 1000 B132 BNY that is still alive somewhere.
Well done chap, knowing what you have been through this last wee while I hope you enjoy every single minute of this project.
Oh and post a photo of the scrap book dream build 🙂
The scrap book is staying hidden until it’s finished, partly to not spoil the surprise but also so that I can change my plans if I feel like it! Working on it so far has been a massive boost to my mental health, even when things have gone wrong. 4 months of unemployment living alone in a 1-bed flat during lockdown has been incredibly tough, this has given me something to aim for.
Volvo 240 Estates are surprisingly expensive aren’t they! If we ever get allowed out and I come down your way it would be good to have a poke round.
Definitely. might even do a road trip up your way if it’s allowed in the summer.
That was me done with 240’s. Now they’re 10 times the price for some reason.
Mine cost £20 out of a scrap yard with a second one free. One was a runner with 6 months MOT but no interior and the one it was on top of was rotten but had a mint interior. It was either £100 for the runner lifted down and the interior removed out of the other one or £20 for both if I could get them out the gate by 6pm. Cue a few hours dragging the pair out using my Clio and a few hours in the evening swapping the interior over. Left the spare car by the gate for them to cube. That car in that condition would now be worth well over £3-4k amazingly!
So do I get this right – you had seen the exact car years earlier? How amazing is that!
Yep, it lived opposite my friend’s first house for about 3 years just after it was painted black. I wasn’t sure initially but the stickers in the side and rear windows were pretty unique and a quick look on Streetview at the right time showed it there and you could make out the reg number through the blurring. I remember at the time it made me want a Mini again, didn’t think it would be that exact one.
And OP – that may be an ’89, but that isn’t an ’89 grille, is it?
It’s got a Mk1/2 ‘moustache’ grille on it, minus the side trims that extend round the wings. I don’t like it on a Mk3/4 shell so it’ll be changed back at some point. It’ll need a new bonnet though to do so as the later grille top trim screws onto a lip on the front of it and that’s been removed. You can attach it without the lip but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.
That’s a long post even by my standards!
I did warn everyone at the beginning!
Good to see others like it, will get the next update done after the weekend hopefully. Got quite a bit done already.
Seeing as there’s interest in this I’ll move onto the next bit!
Now it’s home safe it’s time to start having a deeper look at what I’ve got.
Starting with the obvious stuff, it’s clear that the rubber stuff had suffered a bit. The front and rear screen seals are showing signs of going hard and brittle but hadn’t started to split yet. The chrome inserts have gone a disgusting shade of yellow though so new rubbers and inserts are the first things to go on the list.
There was also the matter of removing those stickers on the windows too, they just look cheap so a few minutes with a Stanley blade is in order at some point.
The wiper blade arms are also very baggy in the joints, usable but not great. I have some spare ones in the pile of bits the seller gave me so will swap over to those if they fit the blades, there are two sizes of arm and blade fitting on Mini’s so will see how that works out once I get to that stage. Either way they will be chrome as the black ones just look crap when the car has chrome bumpers and grille.
Next on the list is the surround round the fuel filler opening, that is completely perished and most likely the original so a new one of those and a foam pad that sits under it goes on the shopping list.
It’s something a lot of people overlook and will lead to water in the boot and hidden rust behind the tank. This one looked fine when I viewed it and passed an MOT where the rear subframe mount is down there so not expecting anything more than surface rust when I do that job.
The other notable thing is the aforementioned cheap paint job causing issues. The job is obviously cheap as you can see that all they did was rub down the original paint, use it as a primer and put a few layers of black directly on top of it. This has held up ok on the big panels, the roof is actually glass-smooth, but where there are sharp creases it is starting to lift as the bond between it and the original coat has failed. The two major bits are the seam by the driver’s door mirror and the seam below the fuel cap. On both you can see that the original paint underneath has not been sanded correctly to give the black a chance to bond, as the seams do flex when driving (they’re actually push-on covers over the actual spot-welded seams for those of you that don’t know) so it’s flaked off.
The correct way to paint a shell is to do it without the strips on, paint the strips separately then press them on using the clips. Preferably with some rust-preventative underneath as putting them on inevitably scratches the paint and water can run inside them. They obviously didn’t do that and just painted straight over them, the cheap plastic-like paint doesn’t help! I knew this before so it’s not a major issue as I plan to respray it at some point in a different colour in the future. With that in mind I’ll just apply some suitable black touch-up paint to stop rust setting in after I’ve done all the other work this winter as I can guarantee I’ll knock a few more chips in it along the way.
The interior is a mixed bag. Unfortunately this is an ‘89 car so it doesn’t get the traditional centre oval speedo my original ‘84 one had, instead it’s got the basic 2-dial dash above the steering wheel. Not a big issue as it’s period correct and not out of place.
When I do a full interior for it I may do the conversion but that will depend upon funds at the time. A new pod, dials and the wiring harness conversion is about £250 so not exactly cheap! The decision will be made when I decide on a dash for it as you can get different versions for centre and 2 or 3 dial later models. When the dash is wood or alloy both look much better so it will come down to funds and personal choice at the time.
The carpets are fine as are the dash pads, apart from the colour. They’ll be fine for the time being and will be changed when I do the respray to match whatever colour I go for (the scrap book has 2 options). The passenger’s door card has a slice in it but that will be patched using tape for now.
It’s also got a comedy 10” steering wheel which makes turning very hard and super-direct!
That will be changed for a 13” one before it’s allowed out. I preferred a 12” one in my old Mini but that had standard 145/70R12 tyres and this has the larger 165/60R12’s on wider rims so the extra inch will be handy without going too big.
It’s also got a cheap Bluetooth stereo fitted in a bit of wood wedged in the dash with some 6×9’s in small boxes wedged under the rear seat, all of that will be removed immediately as I don’t plan to have a stereo in it. A Mini is just too tinny to hear one properly and if I do any long journeys in it I’ll just use some in-ear wireless headphones or a portable speaker. In all reality though I’ll just drive it without tunes, motorway and dual carriageway use will be very minimal. This is a car for lazy, wandering days or B-road buzzing, neither of which are in need of music except for the exhaust. I’ll most likely move the rev counter over to that space instead.
Yes, those seats are going. They’re horrible and really don’t suit the car. New seats are on the order list, at this point I’m undecided between two different sets but I know I want it to have traditional style ones, no modern rally-spec bucket seats for me!
Now for the major job I intend to tackle this winter ready for the summer: the engine bay.
This is the part that really lets the car down visually. It’s actually pretty normal for an A-Series to weep oil over time, especially if it’s running the older style cork gasket on the rocker cover which this one is. It’s a design originally from the 50’s when they didn’t know engines didn’t have to sweat all the fluids out slightly but this one has obviously not been cleaned in a long time. When the student owned it I know the engine bay was reasonably tidy so it probably hasn’t been cleaned since he owned it. The cooling system, while holding pressure and cooling fine, is obviously not in the best of health. The mix of alloy pump and fittings, cast iron block, copper radiator and the odd steel connector means you realistically only get 10 years out of it all before corrosion really takes hold. I would always fit an alloy radiator anyway as it really helps keep the temperatures down and that really helps the engine run smoothly. 10 Internet Points for anyone who can spot what’s wrong with the fan, it’s meant to be yellow but there’s a classic Mini mistake visible in the photo if you look closely.
So that’s the basic plan of attack laid out for the winter:
Clean the engine
Clean the engine bay
Refresh the cooling system
Replace window rubbers and trim inserts
Replace fuel filler rubber
Touch up flaking paint areas
Renew all fluids
There’s nothing for it now but to get stuck in with the spanners! Time to see if I can remember my passwords for the Mini Spares and Mini Sport websites.
First thing to do is to strip the engine and the engine bay of the cooling system and ancillaries. This also gave me an opportunity to inspect the various upgrades the engine has or needs compared to stock.
Starting from the top it’s off with the air filter housing to get at the carb. The first thing that stands out is that the inlet manifold is an alloy heated one instead of the original combined inlet/exhaust cast iron one, except that it’s not plumbed in to be heated.
That can be corrected when putting it back together, provided the connections are sound! It may sound strange having to heat the inlet gases but it does have a benefit of making the flow consistent across all air temperatures. The heat is fed via the cabin heater pipework so when you open the heater in cooler temperatures it automatically heats the inlet. The heat doesn’t actually heat the incoming air, more it stops the atomised fuel forming a small coating on the inlet walls, changing the air/fuel ratio. Not needed on an injected car but with carbs it helps to keep things stable.
Now the access to the bottom of the radiator is a little easier I can drain the cooling system. The colour of the water that comes out:
Not unusual for an A-series but still disgusting! Why does it always smell of rotten fish?
The next few parts come off easily, namely the brake system, clutch circuit, alternator, fan, radiator, it’s housing and the starter motor. The distributor comes out and also gives up a little secret:
That’s an electronic points conversion hiding in there, an expensive but good upgrade. Add in the uprated coil (pretty much every Mini will have one these days) and that means that the engine needs different plugs and plug gaps to work at it’s best. Basically a stronger spark that is more controlled means a better burn and better running.
Next it’s time to take the wheels off so that the driveshafts can be released from the gearbox. The wheels in question are a set of Revolutions, diamond-cut rim with black spokes. There is also a spare in the boot which is one of the original Minilite alloys:
A set of Revolutions with black spokes was what I listed in the old scrap book but in 10″, actually prefer the look of the 12″ ones now though! Behind the wheels lurks this lot:
That’s a machined billet 4-pot brake with vented and grooved discs. Above it is a Gaz adjustable damper and just in the background you can see what looks like a HiLo adjustable suspension trumpet. I knew the car was lowered but was unsure whether it was adjustable or not. I want to run it a bit higher than it is now so adjustable is a good thing!
Split the top ball joint and the steering arms off and I can swing the hubs outwards, pulling the inner driveshaft joints out of the gearbox. Then it’s just undo the two lower engine mounts followed by the two steady bars (one just below the head, the other down by the clutch) and the engine is ready to be lifted out.
You can now see just how oily the engine is! The rear is covered in a thicker layer mixed up with dust, horrible stuff!
You can also see the state of the firewall in the background. If you know your Mini engines you can also spot something about the inlets, they’ve been machined, presumably to match the alloy inlet. There is also the signs of an exhaust leak on the middle pipe but that is easily explained from what I found when unbolting the manifolds:
That’s a Maniflow 3-2-1 manifold which needs to be shimmed to clamp together with the inlet manifold correctly. If you don’t the centre is either too tight and you get inlet leaks or too loose and you get outlet leaks. Easy to solve but if you don’t know about it you don’t do it.
So that’s the engine out and ready for a damn serious clean and degreasing!
I’ve a couple of classic minis
A 1293 spi cooper and a 89 checkmate.
I’ve had a 72 clubby before.
Good effort. You keeping the 998?dove1Full Member
My first car was a 1969 Mini (NDW 652G) that I took over from my mum when I was 17.
Loved it and looked after it the best I could for a few years but I had very limited funds (Kwik Save didn’t pay Saturday boys too well) and eventually the tin worm made a meal of it – driver side floor, boot lid and door bottoms all rotted.
I sold it to a guy who said he was going to restore it but saw it on the back of a flat bed being delivered to a scrap yard a couple of years later with the rot still evident.
Good luck with your project, @reluctantjumper. Sounds like your plans will result in a cracking car. 🙂
Yes, the 998 is staying. As long as it produces around 50 bhp (standard is 40) reliably it’ll have enough to not be a snail but still be a Mini, if I wanted a faster car I’d have gone for one of the late Mpi cars but they really suffer with very poor quality metal and they are a pain to work on due to absolutely no space! Or a VTEC swap.
@dove1 – that’s just normal rot! Pity it wasn’t saved, never nice hearing about a car being sold on for someone to restore then it being scrapped. Was really worried my old Mini met that fate but it turned back up all taxed and tested over 10 years after I’d last seen it around. It’s off the road now with a lapsed MOT, hopefully just due to lockdown but I still worry it’ll be killed.
Mpis rot like you wouldn’t believe.
And the have box issues as the idle shaft case hardening is sub par.
Believe it or not the scuttle on post 88s is thinner steel than pre.
You putting a 12g940 head on and pocketing the block? That n a 266 cam should see a genuine 50ish bhp for not so much cash.
Still got a few mates back from the minifinity days I’m in touch with.
Good effort OP,nice to see you getting stuck in to it.
It seems to be a 12g940 head on it as it’s an A+ but there are a few different types with that stamping plus this one seems to have had a bit of work doing to it so it’s hard to be sure exactly what I’ve got! I’ll only really know by taking it off but I don’t want to do that at this stage, run it as-is, see how it performs (was certainly above standard on the test drive) and look at options that I can do while the bodywork is being done in the next year or so. I’m not going for a particular spec of engine, as long as it’s fast enough to keep up with general traffic and reliable I’ll be happy.
My memory might be out but I thought the 240 was the 1275 head but it’s been 10yrs since i did any real A series builds.
295 and 202 are cooper numbers. I remember that.
If you need parts shout I’ve a few bits stashed
I’m massively rusty (ahem…) on the numbers, used to know them really well too! I should be fine for mechanical parts right now, just done a final order for the odd bit and bob( that’s cursed it!), the bodywork is the next target.
So with the engine out it’s time to remove the subframe. Easy enough to do so it comes out easily, well once I’d bought a suitable socket for the two main bolts for the suspension towers anyway!
It doesn’t look too bad at all, just a bit of surface rust around the brake hose joint and a few scabby patches here and there. Nothing a bit of time with a wire wheel on the drill and some rust prevention paint won’t sort.
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Should be good for a while now, especially as the car won’t see any salt and very little in the way of rain too if I can help it!
While sorting out the surface rust I spotted that the passenger’s side CV boots were looking a bit sorry for themselves so I took the opportunity to replace them while they were easily accessible.
The new outer boot is actually a genuine NOS MG Rover one! The other side ones look pretty new so they can wait until they need doing.
While doing all of this I was periodically soaking the engine and gearbox in degreaser, scrubbing and rinsing it down then repeating. Took 4 cycles of this to get it looking presentable and there was a mini oil slick in the water at each stage. Once it was clean it was time to remove the water pump and see what the internal passages are like. From the state of the water pump it’s obvious regular coolant swaps haven’t been done.
It actually still spins ok but the hose clamp area is quite badly pitted and as they’re only a few quid it’s churlish to not replace it for a high capacity one so it’s put aside and a new one ordered. All of the hoses are in poor shape too, the heater take-off is rusty and the reducer between the heater return and the main hose is not much longer for this world!
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The engine block produces a lot of crud and rusty water for a surprisingly long time while I flush it through multiple times, something tells me the cooling system was on it’s last legs so it’s a good thing I planned to upgrade it! That’s silicone hoses, new fittings and a new radiator added to the list. The original radiator is leak-free but a standard one that is battered and cosmetically challenged so I’ll switch it for an alloy, high-capacity one instead. With the tuning the engine has it’ll run a bit hotter than standard anyway so it’s a sensible choice for reliability if anything.
With the engine block cleaned it’s time to take all the tinwork off. It all has surface rust but there is nothing that needs replacing apart from the two engine subframe mounts. An evening or three back home with a wire wheel on the drill, some sandpaper and Edd China’s old favourite, the satin black spray paint (although I used etch primer too) turns it all from crusty to shiny:
That’s going to look a lot better when the bonnet is lifted!
At this point I’m waiting for the engine and cooling system parts to turn up so the next job on the list is to paint the engine bay. That’s for the next update.
To get the engine bay looking better I need to take everything off the bits to be painted. I could do it all in one go but it’s easier just to work one section at a time, means I can keep track of the various nuts and bolts far easier.
First thing was to drop the steering rack as I want to paint behind it. This revealed some very tired rubber boots. The ball joints got damaged separating them from the hubs anyway so may as well do a minor reconditioning of it! Joints off, boots, off, degrease and dry out the rack itself, fill with fresh grease new boots and joints and voila.
The windscreen wiper mechanism got a similar treatment but I forgot to take any pictures of that, nothing much changed visually anyway so no big deal. I do know that the ‘park’ sensor is broken though and that there aren’t any currently available so that’s a job for the future. Manually parking them in the correct position isn’t exactly a hardship though as I don’t plan on taking the car out in the rain if I can help it!
Now on to the engine bay itself. No real issues here, just methodical work front to back. Start with the easy side panels that just needed a solid degrease to expose the original paintwork, a few minor rust patches to treat before roughing it all up and putting the paint on. The same for the firewall except it was a bit more involved round the clutch and brake master cylinder areas due to spillage over the years. I also came across two seized nuts, one on the brake master cylinder and one on the clutch master cylinder. These both proved to be right buggers to remove so seeing as they were both in good working order I left them, easy to remove with a grinder but doing so would mean replacing both, not cheap! It does mean that the bracket they both mount on to can’t be refurbished so that’s a bit annoying but it’s a simple job to do when everything else is in place so that can wait until either one of them fails or it annoys me enough to just do it anyway!
Took a good fortnight to paint everything as plenty of time had to be left between rust treatment and the two coats of paint. The paint is a black semi-solid one used in boat engine bays applied by brush or roller. It’s similar to Hammerite but a lot tougher with a bit of flex to it. If I was going for concourse standard with this car I’d get the bay sprayed at the same time as the car but I have always preferred a tough coat of something to keep rust completely away and that can stand up to knocks and nasty fluids well. I also prefer a black engine bay for some reason. I’ve seen it’s a ‘thing’ in the US and Japan, mainly to make the engine and ancillaries stand out when you open the bonnet. Others may not like it but it’s my car so my rules.
The finished result:
Time to bolt the steering rack back in, making sure it’s centred using the drill bit in the inspection hole technique, and the engine bay is looking a lot better.
The pictures really don’t do the change justice, it’s gone from a greasy, horrible mess to a clean, practical area to work in and around. The effect on my motivation for the project has also taken a big boost from seeing a marked, visible change for the better, it’s a visual reminder that solid progress is being made. Anyone who has done any project will know the feeling of getting to a certain point, looking at the chaos and thinking ‘How the hell am I going to sort that lot out in time!’!
So that’s the engine bay all done and ready to wait for the reintroduction of the engine. It’s a little way off but a decent milestone to get to.
Time to get the engine done.
While I’ve been doing the work on the engine bay I have applied lots of degreaser to the block, agitated and rinsed then gone again until all the grimy much was removed. It didn’t look pretty afterwards with very little of the original mustard yellow paint left. It’s not a colour I like anyway so might as well change it for something a bit more pleasing to the eye. I considered dark blue, plain black or that olive green that they used on early cars but none really suited what I have planned in the future. Blue clashes with the external colour I plan to use, black will just look crap in a dark engine bay and the olive green only really works on cars that are kept standard or are high-end. Part of me wants to have a few things on this car that hint back to other cars I’ve owned over the years and as I used to own a Nova and a Corsa where the engine of choice was always the ‘Red Top’ that’s what I’ve decided on:
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It looks even brighter in real life than it does in the pictures but enamel usually darkens when repeatedly heated so over a few runs it should calm down slightly, not a problem if it doesn’t though!
All of the mounting surfaces have been scraped of excess paint and I’ve taken the chance to renew a lot of the parts that were tired while reassembling it so there’s now new sensors, plugs, thermostat, heater take-off, water pump, studs and gaskets. It has completely transformed the look of it, so much better to spot issues and, more importantly, to work on.
Then it’s a case of popping it all back onto the subframe ready to be installed back into it’s home again! I also fitted the radiator which caused a small headache. The original bolts are AF thread and without thinking to check (I’d even ordered new, shiny ones) I put the first one in, tightened it up and without noticing it slowly bind up it snapped the brazed on alloy captive nut inside! The only way to get that bit out is to destroy the radiator end plate so I epoxied it back in roughly where it should be but couldn’t wind the bolt back out so had to hacksaw it flush so that the radiator could still fit in the cowling. I didn’t make the same mistake on the other 3 but it was a tough time finding bolts short enough to fit correctly so ended up having to cut some M6x10 bolts down a few extra mm and tidying up the threads. The fit in the cowling is perfectly tight even with just those so it should be fine as-is, if not there is an extra thread on the radiator about an inch above the broken one (for Clubman cars)but it would need a hole drilling in the cowling. If it does cause issues I can always do that but it’s in there completely solid so I’ve left it.
Now comes the fun bit: lining up the subframe, engine and body without damaging anything!
Getting the car up high enough was a little bit of a struggle as the front of the shell isn’t really designed to take that kind of load and my trolley jack and axle stands can’t go that high either so some creative use of old bits of wood and some luck finally got the front up high enough to wriggle the whole lot underneath.
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It took a solid hour of playing with the angle of the subframe, the alignment of the mounts and lowering it all back down relatively safely to get the body halfway down over the engine. This gave me just enough slack in the speedo cable and just enough access to connect it to the gearbox. Normally you’d disconnect the cable from the dash but I have the brittle two pod one that is notorious for snapping when you do so this is the better option. This picture is taken through a hole just over 2 inches in diameter with another a similar size to the right. I had to battle with a pair of long nose pliers and a part grabber to get it all reconnected!
Then it’s a case of the final lowering, doing all the mounts up loosely, letting it all take the weight then tightening it all up.
Then undoing it all, lifting the body back up and starting again as while fitting the speedo cable I forgot to fit the exhaust manifold! No way of getting it on with the engine fully in. The whole lot took just over 4 hours to do but now it’s done it shouldn’t need to be done again for a long time!
The end result is worth it though.
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With all the new parts and everything being fitted back together correctly it should make maintenance a hell of a lot easier! Now it’s just getting it back up and running…chewkwFree Member
Nice Mini project.
Now the engine’s in it’s time to put in the fluids and connect all the electrical stuff up. First thing is the engine oil, which has to be a specific high Zinc content one otherwise it can lead to very rapid gearbox wear (the gearbox is in the sump).
If I didn’t know this was the right oil for the car I would genuinely think it’s something out of a ‘Cars’ movie! I may have had Lightning McQueen’s voice in my head as I poured it in. Also did the coolant while checking for leaks then it was on to the brakes and clutch. The clutch immediately sprung a leak at the pipe going into the master cylinder, down to the pipe metal going hard and brittle so it now has a hairline crack on it. It’s now replaced with a braided line instead for reliability, plus it was cheaper, free upgrade! With that working now it’s on to the brakes.
Took the rear wheels off and found that they both had 5mm spacers on them.
That would explain why they stuck out of the arches right up to the limit of cheeky then. They won’t be refitted now but I’ll keep them aside as I may fit the larger Sport Pack arches at a later date. Good news is both wheel wells are completely solid and have recently had a new coat of protection applied, one less job to do for me.
Had a real struggle with getting the fluid to come out of the rear brakes which turned out to be blocked nipples, nothing a clean and poke with a paperclip couldn’t sort. It was all going so well, clean fluid coming out and plenty of pressure at the pedal. All the way up to tightening up the last nipple on the front brake. Didn’t even get to tighten it one last time as I accidentally leant on the spanner while removing the bleed hose and it sheared off the nipple!
Thankfully the caliper has a second sleeve nut that the nipple bolts into so a quick call to Mini Sport and a new set were on their way to me. Of course by the time it had arrived enough fluid had drained out through it that I needed to do the whole bleeding procedure again as the master cylinder reservoir was empty despite me clamping off the hose.
With the stopping sorted it’s back up to the ‘go’ bits. Have fitted a basic pancake air filter instead of the giant original thing as it looks better and the induction noise is addictive. It may not be a fast car but it can still sound good! I’ve also replaced the throttle and choke cables as they were not returning to their rest positions smoothly. The vacuum advance hose has also perished so that’s added to the final order list.
Then it’s just working from the top down reconnecting everything and tidying up the odd crusty connector. Doing this bit of cable tie work was immensely satisfying:
Moving to the boot I have to sort out an issue that reared it’s head back when I viewed the car originally: the earth strap.
So much wrong in this picture: frayed cable at each end, loose screws and a +ve stamp on the clamp!
That’s so much better!
While doing that little job I drained the fuel tank so I could fit the new neck gasket and foam ring. I was really hoping not to find too much of a horror story behind the tank as the old gasket was so cracked there was no way it was preventing water getting into the boot.
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Very surprised to find it near-mint! The small rust marks are just dust which wiped off, a real result. The tank itself is a bit crusty inside but perfectly usable so that’s one less thing to worry about.
At this point I had to leave the car for a fortnight as other things took over my time. I’m at the final stages now though, just the exhaust to do before getting the engine started again. The rest should be cosmetic stuff ready for it’s first drive!!
That’s more than I’ve done in 10yrs on mine😛
Is it on the road? If not then you’ve wasted the opportunity of the lockdowns in my book 🤣
Get some pictures up of them, always good to see what others have. Actually saw a suffix T blue pickup out and about while on a bike ride earlier in the week. Spoke to the owner and he’s owned it for decades, was his work van but he’s now restored it and was just getting it loosened up ready for the summer. Would love a pickup or a van but I’d be far too tempted to convert them to RWD with a Rover V8 in the back on an Ultima subframe and suspension 😁
Eurgh, Sportspack arches. Horrid things, plus they only look ‘right’ with 13″ wheels and no-one in their right mind runs a mini on 13s. Each to their own though.
Lots of progress, love the tiny pancake filter. I had one on mine and the induction sound is epic. I expect it’ll slow down once you’re allowed on the bike again?
Undecided on the sportpack arches, the issue is the front brake upgrade pushes the wheels out just a tiny bit too far for standard ones. I can get the offset changed on the rims as there’s plenty of clearance for it inside but I’ll see what options there are at a later date.
I’m actually quite far ahead of the posting, aiming to catch up smack on time for the first drive. Kind of not too bothered about the riding for a while though as it’ll be crazy busy everywhere once restrictions ease (I don’t like busy that much) and will most likely focus on specific days with mates at bike parks rather than smashing out miles every week. Still aiming for doing the SDW in under 12 hours but I’ve got Zwift to help with that!fossyFull Member
My dad was an ace on doing up Mini’s. He loved them. My sister had two as her first cars. They are go-carts on wheels… good fun, if not that fast….
We had loads as a family as second cars.
No both in bits….
Still building a garage at the new place so looking good for 2035….
I’d check n clean the fuse box they corrode for fun.
I’d be on grp2 arches btw😀
Fuse box! Forgot to order one, thanks for the reminder. Mine’s missing the cover and is a bit crusty, will get that done today.
Next on the job list is a load of little, easier jobs.
Undersealing is one job I strangely find therapeutic so that’s the first one. The priority is to protect the bits that are still completely sound. That’s basically the floor, inner arches and lower firewall. The rear of the car has recently been done so I don’t need to do anything with the rear arches or boot floor thankfully as that would mean removing the rear subframe, that’s known to be pretty crusty and will be replaced soon anyway so it’s just a case of monitoring that over the summer. So the front inner arches get a fresh coat of sealant as does the floor. The floor is incredibly well preserved but the factory coating is flaking off so it’s out with the scraper then coat it in fresh stuff
While working under there it’s time to sort out the exhaust. While it’s a full 1.5” stainless one the joints had been badly out together so it was blowing at both joints.
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The person who had fitted it had basically tried to stretch the length of it to get the maximum amount of tailpile showing out the back. Reseating it correctly with new clamps and assembly paste means it’s now leak-free and the tailpipe looks correct.
Moving inside the car it’s a case of doing a bit on housekeeping ready for the carpets and seats to go back in. Except I found a problem.
Looks like the heater matrix has blown. I was sort of expecting it (hence the bowl underneath) as when flushing it a ridiculous amount of rusty water and a few big lumps came out of it. For the time being I’ll just bypass it and replace at a later date, running out of time now and I want to get the car running ready for Easter!
While reconnecting all the switches and controls I noticed that certain things weren’t working correctly, at all or intermittently:
Hazards very slow
Indicators not at all
Headlights very dim
No screenwash pump
Thinking it was just a low battery I switched it for the good one in my daily driver, still the same and the Mini’s battery was fine in that car. Time to dig the multimeter out! Cue a solid hour of chasing voltages, tracing wires, continuity checking and basically frustrating diagnosis. What made it worse was that every time I moved and made the car rock the results would change. 12v, 3v, no volts etc, I had visions of having to replace whole parts of the wiring loom. I had to leave things at that point and restart it all another day.
Then I spotted something that @duncancallum said: fuse box corrosion.
For some reason in my mind I’d ordered a new one and replaced it when doing the engine bay. Except it was out of stock at the time and I hadn’t. The next time I got to the car it was the first thing I checked:
That doesn’t look good. How the hell I didn’t spot it when chasing voltages and continuity I don’t know. Actually I do, I was measuring at the connectors and as I put my weight on them they would work, move to another part of the wiring and they would work for a bit then disconnect as the car moved about. 30 mins with a bit of grit paper and a small file to clean the contacts up and it looks 10x better:
Suddenly everything is working perfectly! The two electrical issues I noticed on the test drive before buying, namely slow indicators and very dim headlights, have both gone too. When I order some more stuff for the car I’ll get a new fuse box and also replace the connectors, something easy to replace on a wet day and I don’t fancy taking the car out.
With that sorted I can now get the engine running! Which goes completely hiccup-free. It was just a case of:
Adjust the tappets – two are loose, one tight
Top off the engine oil
Check the spark plug gaps – all at 0.5mm instead of 0.8mm
Fit distributor roughly in place
Turn engine over without plugs to get the fuel pumping to the carb
Put plugs in
It fired up on the fourth revolution! A quick tweak of the distributor to get it running smooth and it’s settled down and idling nicely. Let it get up to temperature then it’s time to check the timing. Was 2 degrees out of spec. I’ll play with the timing at a later date but for now it’s set at the standard 8 degrees at idle with the vacuum advance disconnected, once I know everything is happy I can take it out and adjust that forward a bit. With the spec I have on it I should be able to go forward to as much as 12 or 14 with the full advance up around the 30 degree mark ( if you’re interested there’s a good video on the process here from Steveston Motor Co )
So that’s the car capable of running under it’s own power! All that’s left to do is refit the interior trim, install some new seats, fit the new steering wheel, put the front and rear glass back in and give it a damn good valet.
Very near the finish line and just about on target for my first run in April.
Random reposting glitch, ignore!
if that’s your idea of a long term project….. took me 8 years to restore my Spitfire. Brilliant effort.
My headlights used to turn off due the fuse box corrosion😂
I fit 2 one on the other side symmetrical and use it for spotlights, alarms and non standard wiring.
Means everything can be loom taped up nicely and no shonky inline shite needs to be fitted.
I wish one of the previous owners had done that, instead they’d botched the stereo, spotlight and a 12v socket wiring into random bits of it all. The first job was ripping it all out!
The long term bit will be getting it ready for a colour change in a year or two, that will involve new body panels and a few repairs. The aim for this year is purely to sort out the mechanical and electrical stuff and have a few adventures in it first. I fully expect the next stage to take a decent amount of time due to various constraints!
Oh and when you undersea get to doing panel work unbolt the front shock mounts from.the wing.
They never painted behind them. Genius or what
I’ve spotted a few places the factory never painted so far!
That’s why they had leaky engines- inbuilt anti-rust measure!
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