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Iain's Resto Mod Mini

Resto mod mini Southend

This Story really starts by accident, and Oh I could rebuild that comment made about a poor forelawn looking Mini sitting in someone's front garden. This particular Mini was a 1996 Rover Sprite 1.3 SPI
Automatic Transmissions (XMSN)
Like a lot of people of my generation my first car at 17 was a Mini, and as an apprentice engineer it
was inevitable it was going to be tinkered with. That car was regenerated over the years into two
different bodyshells. The pinnacle of my Mini owning years was a Mk2 Austin Cooper S and Five
years competing competitively in Auto X and Rally X with a purpose built racing Mini.

I acquired the aforementioned Mini and the long job of rescue and restitution began. Almost at once a number of issues manifested themselves which would dictate the final specification of the finished car.
Firstly the engine was dead, this turned out to be an ECU (or as Rover called it The MEMS unit) not operating the fuel system at all. I did run the engine eventually with the aid of a shower spray bottle of petrol squirted down the open induction manifold.
The second problem was a little bit more of a frustration as I had hoped to retain the automatic xmsn.
It wouldn't drive. The Mini auto is a thing to behold and incredibly ingenious requiring many serviceable parts which are no longer available, not to mention specialist equipment to set it up.
I am no stranger to automatic xmsn but without new parts there was not a lot I could do. I even tried
the States and Japan to source parts, and as for getting professional help I was presented with sharp
intakes of breath and a shaking of heads.
With no reliable xmsn unfortunately the engine was of no use either as it is configured totally
differently to the manual xmsn. The answer was a 1988 MG Metro engine and later a ADO16 GT xmsn
with a close ratio gear set.

With the engine I had decided that horse power was not my prime goal, what I was after was an engine with oodles of usable torque low down in the rev range. I went with a 40 thou over bore (1310cc) with Federal Mahle slipper pistons, the crank only needed polishing at standard. Lightened Steel Flywheel and pressure plate and a Cooper S harmonic Dampener.  All rotating parts were dynamically Balanced.  The MG Metro camshaft is very good but I was in the quest for more Torque so I used the old  731 Special Tune camshaft from the Cooper S Rally days timed in at 110 Degrees ATDC. The head is ported with a larger inlet and exhaust valve.

Resto Mod Mini engine bling

1.3 : 1 roller rockers are used to aid the valve lift. I decided against twin carburettors as I still wanted the under-bonnet look to remain as close as possible to a standard layout, and in my quest for torque a HIF 44 single SU and Standard air box was best.  Exhaust is through a long centre branch manifold and single box. It's too loud and a twin box system is waiting to be fitted..

The XMNS was completely overhauled and a 3.44:1 final drive fitted.

She is going on a rolling road next spring for the final setup of the fuelling and timing and I can't wait to see the numbers. Have I got the torque I was after? Well she eats gears so fast you're in 4th before you know it and you can plant the accelerator in almost any gear and the engine pulls like a train, I am thinking of swapping the 3.4 diff for a 3.2 or 3.1 .

The body! Oh dear, this I thought was going to end up as a new body shell and yes you can buy new shells with bonnet boot and doors, but would it be the same car? We thought not.

At this point it would be easiest to just list the parts of the shell that were replaced.

Front panel, Front inner wheel arch where doors are mounted, Both A panels, Windscreen scuttle inside and out, Front wings, Bonnet, Floor from front to back both sides, Floor cross member, inner and outer sills, and lower door steps,  Rear subframe front mounting cross member, Battery box, Rear valance, Boot floor repaired, two new doors.

Rover mini Resto Mod 10"

I can weld but do not have the facilities to take on work of this magnitude, but I know someone who can. I must pay tribute at this point to my very good Friend Philip Wilkins. He owns his own business and has a history of building Minis, mostly my fault as he started his engineering career as my apprentice whilst I was racing. Took about a year to complete the shell with Philip fitting it in around his work. What a job, after all that bodywork the car is as straight as a die.

Next was the biggest single spend. I had decided to keep the original Rover colour of Electric Blue (JSA) and I was not going to spoil the whole finished car with a mediocre paint job.

£3,000 pounds later painted all over, inside and underneath in clear over base and baked as she would have been in the factory.

I now had the daunting task of rebuilding the car. All the suspension components were stripped back and painted and all bearings and bushes were replaced. All of the rubber bushes on the car were replaced with polyurethane so hopefully I’ll never have to replace them. The rear subframe was replaced, and the front one modified to accommodate the manual xmns.

I have classified the rebuild as a Restromod. She has been lovingly restored but as a 1950’s design I have also equipped  her to deal with modern day traffic and roads. To this end the brakes have been upgraded to Aircraft grade aluminium 4 pot front callipers and cross drilled rotators, and some of the suspension has been strengthened. She was on 12 inch wheels but now on 10’s as per original Mini. I think the car looks a lot better on 10’s The Wood and Pickett arches are period, as are the wheels.

For a car that has been out of construction since the year 2000 there are more parts and upgrades available now than in my day. I must confess. I was very much like a kid in a sweet shop.

As I said at the start there was no plan to take this project on and I did question a number of times whether I should do this in my mid Sixties and it was toward the end that the car got finished or my body broke.


A visit to Atspeed.

My quest during the engine rebuild had been for a drivable car with good low down Torque. What I didn't want was having to scream the nuts of it at high RPM. Just to mention Brake Horsepower has the ability to produce high top speeds, TORQUE is what actually accelerates (Throws) the car down the road.

Did I get what I wanted?

Well the numbers were far far better than I could have possibly hoped for, She was on the rollers for about an hour and on the last power run she produced 70bhp at 5,773 rpm at the road wheels, but that wasn't the whole story she was also punching an amazing 80 Pounds Feet of torque at 3,052 rpm at the road wheels. With a roughly calculated 17% mechanical loss through transmission and drivetrain that's an incredible 93.6 lb/ft of torque and 81.9 bhp at the flywheel, and that's all on a standard compression ratio and single carburettor.

I am convinced most of it is down to the cam and cylinder head. The poor old A series has always been asthmatic with its five port head. The Guy on the roller was impressed, and said it's unusual you see that, you have built yourself a nice little motor there. She is an absolute pleasure to drive now. I changed the final drive during the winter maintenance period from a 3.4:1 to a 3.2:1 and it suits the torque curve nicely. With all that torque I can actually now drive at 30 mph in 4th on a final drive ratio used on the MG Metro Turbo. Just goes to show you don't need high revs and big horses to have a nice compliant car to drive. Incidentally this will work on any BMC, Rover A or A+ series engine. Have a chat with me if you would like the full engine specification. It's not magic. It's about getting the right parts married up, attention to detail and being realistic about what you would like and what you can actually achieve.  For comparison (and yes to show off a bit) the MG Metro left the factory with72 bhp and 73 lb.ft at 4000 rpm

My Thanks and Gratitude to my wife Gillian for her undying support, My two Stepsons

POET Thomas Haimes RN. 3rd Officer Lewis Haines RFA and my Stepdaughter Emily Haines LLP who copped with all the post and packages of spare parts while doing her law degree.

Could I do it again, NO. Am I glad I did it, YES.

It's another MINI SAVED


A final note on the Registration Number.

Gillian and I have another hobby. We do American Civil War Re-enactment. Last year we lost an extremely close friend due to cancer. We all fought for F company 16th Regiment of Tennessee. Hence the Mini now carries the Registration F16 TEN and on the front plate it states.

To Clint a good old Reb.

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