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Author: Subject: Would you recommend a mini and if so which one?
Mr Whippy

posted on 9/4/24 at 07:26 AM Reply With Quote
Would you recommend a mini and if so which one?

Hi, I knew this would happen as the old car is in far too good condition to satisfy my restless urge to tinker, so Iím looking for an old car to do up. For some stupid reason I seem to be looking at an old classic mini.

They are loads of cheap cars for sale and I quite like the idea that itís so tiny that it wonít take up much space in the garage. Iím aware they are your typical British junky rusty pile of rubbish with all the integrity of a soggy cardboard box, but they donít look to difficult or expensive to strip down or sort out. My youngest girl (who is only 10) is very keen i.e. nagging me! to do up an old car, I canít trust her on the Prefect but a little mini might be an interesting project for us to work on, although thereís a very good chance it might end up pink with a fluffy interiorÖ

I only want one with a carb, manual gears and with as little electrics as possible, Iím also quite happy with drums. Ideally I don't want road tax or MOT either... Is there anything I should be avoiding? although personally that would be anything with an ECU

Cheers.





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cliftyhanger

posted on 9/4/24 at 07:36 AM Reply With Quote
I bought a mini, and did a light resto. That was for my daughters to learn to drive in.
Fabulous little cars, like driving a go cart and a 1000cc goes a long way in one.
The shell seems well designed, so I would disagree about the integrity bit.
However, you are right about the rust bit. Ours needed bonnet, bootlid, one wing, 2 A panels, a sill, rear boot floor section plus a pair of doorskins.
The plus side is that everything is easily available. And if you buy the proper stuff, fits pretty well.

The weak spot once running is the distributor cap getting wet. Despit the rain shield, rubber glove trick and everything else, the solution was a spare cap and leads kept in the car. Daughters quickly learnt to swap it in seconds, and the wet one left on the hallway radiator overnight to go back in the car as the spare. But despite all that, they loved the car. They do bring a smile to your face.

I would recommend an MoT though. No matter how good you are, it is easy to miss stuff.

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Mr Whippy

posted on 9/4/24 at 08:09 AM Reply With Quote
Thanks, I just like not dealing with MOT's...

I do enjoy some welding, nothing really extensive where jigs would be required but sills etc are usually good fun. Yeah I was aware of the distributer cap issue, my usual fix on my VW beach buggy was to drown it in WD40 and that worked even with seawater blasting at it.

There's actually a car just up the road from me, it's a runner on black & white plates but needs new door bottoms and possibly a repair at the rear quarter as there's staining. I think the current owner has lost interest in it, it certainly has that feel about it. I walk past it every night with the dog, so might have a word with the owner.





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Slimy38

posted on 9/4/24 at 08:29 AM Reply With Quote
quote:
Originally posted by cliftyhanger
The weak spot once running is the distributor cap getting wet. Despit the rain shield, rubber glove trick and everything else, the solution was a spare cap and leads kept in the car.


Ah, fond memories of my wife's '79 mini and copious pairs of marigolds!!

One other thing that really helped was a second battery in the boot. Despite the original battery being brand new and big enough to start a diesel car, a second battery still helped. Thinking back perhaps I should have been looking at charging issues rather than just slapping a second battery on, but I was 200 miles away from my wife at the time so it wasn't easy to sort the car out long distance.

Her car was someone else's project car that looked remarkably intact at first glance, but the sills were cheap pattern parts that turned to mush after a few years. I vaguely remember three MOT's in a row where the sills had perforated, again in hindsight I should have had them cut out and replaced rather than patched.

She loved that car though, and as you say the 1 litre engine was plenty fun. I hated motorways though.

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Mr Whippy

posted on 9/4/24 at 08:37 AM Reply With Quote
Perhaps heavier cables might have helped? I always start with those and the connections, I bought a battery terminal crimping tool to do them correctly.

I went through the whole cheap pattern parts vs quality ones doing up the Beetles, the difference can be enormous. I even bought one OEM doors and they were amazing, like taken right off the VW production line quality. So I wouldn't even bother repairing an old door, just replace them.





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Simon

posted on 9/4/24 at 10:17 AM Reply With Quote
I did one about 28 years ago, put a metro turbo engine (1293cc ob) in with adjustable boost etc and did away with "ecu" (boost controller.

Good fun

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Simon

posted on 9/4/24 at 10:38 AM Reply With Quote
I did one about 28 years ago, put a metro turbo engine (1293cc ob) in with adjustable boost etc and did away with "ecu" (boost controller.

Good fun

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Mr Whippy

posted on 9/4/24 at 10:39 AM Reply With Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Simon
I did one about 28 years ago, put a metro turbo engine (1293cc ob) in with adjustable boost etc and did away with "ecu" (boost controller.

Good fun


My craft & design teacher squeezed a tuned 1500 twin carb Allegro engine in his, the bonnet was a tad bumpy it had a straight cut gearbox too and sounded like a jet.





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craig1410

posted on 9/4/24 at 10:45 AM Reply With Quote
Hi,

I cut my teeth mechanically on a 1978 Mini 1275 GT which my Dad bought purely so that he could sell on the number plate (JMS 9S). So he bought the car for £125 and sold the plate for £750 and was planning to scrap the car. It was burning more oil than petrol and was a bit of a basket case but I was 15 at the time and fancied something to tinker with.

Over the course of the next 5 years I did pretty much everything you could imagine to that car including various engine swaps and rebuilds, gearbox rebuilds, welding, resprays, space framing of the front end with fibreglass removable bonnet/wings, and then rebuilding it as a 1275GT Clubman again. I laterally also installed a Metro Turbo engine with various boost mods so it was putting out about 120-130BHP and went very well indeed!

As for what to look out for as a starting point, that is a difficult one to answer and largely depends on your goals. You could try to find a genuine Mini Cooper Mk 1 from the 1960s, or you could look for a mundane Mini 1000 from the 1980s/90s. There are loads of special/rare cars around such as the ERA Turbo which is effectively what I was trying to recreate with the Metro Turbo engine.

I'd suggest taking a look at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mini and try to decide whether you want to start with a fairly clean late 1990s car and just make it into a good, fun little car, or if you want to try to restore something a bit more special. In either case you'll get more or less the same driving experience dependant on choice of engine and suspension setup. Obviously different year cars will have different legal requirements around MOT and Tax etc.

Common rot spots are (IIRC): Front A-panels, sills, door bottoms, scuttle corners where the scuttle meets the front wings, subframe (esp rear because the front is often covered in oil!), subframe mounting areas on monocoque. Also check the roof gutters for rot.

They are very easy cars to work on although you will develop some scar tissue on the top of your head courtesy of the bonnet hook!

I never really had any issues with the distributor getting wet but I tended to clean it regularly and polish it with car polish to make any water bead off. I also had an electronic distributor latterly rather than the crappy old points dizzy. In fact mine was a home made capacitive discharge ignition which was literally "lethal" if you touched it. Another mod I would recommend is to get the front disc brakes from a Metro because they are really nice 4 pot callipers and make a huge different to stopping power. I'd stick with drums on the back to ensure you keep a decent handbrake. You can get ventilated drums if you need more stopping power though.

I could go on and on but will stop there. Good luck with the project and feel free to ask if you need any more advice. My knowledge is a bit rusty (pardon the pun) but it's in the back of my brain somewhere and specific questions will probably bring specific answers. Oh, if doing any work on the engine, get the "Bible" by a guy called David Vizard. ( I think this is the latest edition - I had one that was blue in colour: https://www.amazon.co.uk/TUNING-ENGINE-3RD-definitive-performance/dp/1859606202/ )

Good luck!

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Theshed

posted on 9/4/24 at 10:46 AM Reply With Quote
We had this one in the garage I share... EVs are your thing are they not? Big DC motor grafted onto a mint transmission (it still had gears and a clutch (god knows why).

mini
mini

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Mr Whippy

posted on 9/4/24 at 12:02 PM Reply With Quote
quote:
Originally posted by craig1410
Hi,

I cut my teeth mechanically on a 1978 Mini 1275 GT which my Dad bought purely so that he could sell on the number plate (JMS 9S). So he bought the car for £125 and sold the plate for £750 and was planning to scrap the car. It was burning more oil than petrol and was a bit of a basket case but I was 15 at the time and fancied something to tinker with.


Good luck!


Thanks for that. Very helpful, as I'm not really a mini guy, I'd be happy with any version that works and is cheap to own. I'll have a look around and see what is available. But I'll stay away from total basket cases.





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Mr Whippy

posted on 9/4/24 at 12:06 PM Reply With Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Theshed
We had this one in the garage I share... EVs are your thing are they not? Big DC motor grafted onto a mint transmission (it still had gears and a clutch (god knows why).

mini
mini



hmm I doubt that was an improvement to the car, but I could be wrong.





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MikeR

posted on 9/4/24 at 12:20 PM Reply With Quote
I helped my dad maintain our 1973 mini thousand, and then drove it for a few years to get to uni and back.

NEVER had a problem with the points, although we serviced the car every 3k miles or 6 months and kept ontop of maintenance as well. Seemed to always be doing something in my head.

Did have to do the rear radius arms due to it crabbing.

Prior to me helping dad did a full restoration which wasn't the first one he'd done, this included all the usual sills etc and a complete respray.

Engine was sweet as anything but the economy really dropped when i started driving it till we got the carb serviced (and purely coincidentally I also stopped driving my placing my foot to the floor all the time)

Drum brakes worked but weren't great, not sure i'd be happy having a child driving a drum braked car these days.

Clutch swap with the engine in place is challenging, so make sure you don't accidentally refit the old pressure plate and have to do it again.

As the years increase the complexity increases, look at the engine bay of an early 70's and compare to an 80's or 90's car.

Early 70's seats fitted by 6'3" frame, 80's cars with 'modern' seats didn't fit so well.

Think about the crash survivability of the car and your children - they were poor in the 60's and 70's. Roads are faster, traffic has increased. The metros that replaced them were renowned for being rubbish. Do you really want your child in one as a first car?

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Mr Whippy

posted on 9/4/24 at 12:55 PM Reply With Quote
oh my kid will not be getting the car for her first car, she'll either be using the Leaf or the S60 if I still have those. It's more just for a project to work on in the garage that we can do together, maybe even take to shows. We may even sell it after to buy another project car, it's 7 years till she can even legally drive!





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nick205

posted on 9/4/24 at 01:02 PM Reply With Quote
Personally never been a fan of the classic Mini or the BMW Mini. They've just never been my thing.

If you can pick a classic one up for reasonable money that only needs light restoration then go for it. You've probably got nothing to lose as you'll be able to sell it on for the same or more.

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Mr Whippy

posted on 9/4/24 at 01:54 PM Reply With Quote
yeah I'm not a huge fan but they seem nice and small, small enough to pick up and roll over to work on the shell. Prices don't seem stupid and repair panels generally are still cheap enough to justify sorting out a half decent car. As for the BMW one, I've never considered that to even be a mini.





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jacko

posted on 9/4/24 at 02:02 PM Reply With Quote
On vintage voltage tv program they fitted a Tesla motor in a mk 1 mini

I had a Ford v6 3000 Essex in side a mini not for road grasstrack





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