THE MINI THAT’S NOT REALLY A MINI
UDino Dalle Carbonare
PJuly 20, 2012
Nothing is as it seems at Gatebil. One thing you can be certain of however is that pretty much every car there might as well deserve its very own feature. I have never come across an event quite like it and I felt like a child in a candy store when it came to picking what cars to concentrate on. But one that was high on my list of priorities even before getting to Rudskogen was the Mini Quattro. It wasn’t until I checked the car over in the paddock and talked to its creator that I realized this was even less of a Mini that the name actually suggested, yet even more of an extreme car that I initially imagined.
You see, under the Mini-like cladding, is a completely bespoke spaceframe chassis that was built around the adapted AWD driveline from an Audi A3. Is this beginning to sound crazy enough? Not at all, it’s just your typical Gatebil find of course!
But before we get to the oily bits lets concentrate on the exterior, pretty much the only aspect of the build that bares any resemblance to the Mini it’s named after. Utilizing a fiberglass Monte Carlo wide body from UK Mini specialist Z-Cars, the Mini Quattro boasts massively flared arches, lightweight doors, easy to remove front and rear sections and lexan glass all round.
Due to some unexpected misfiring issues throughout the weekend the Mini Quattro was unable to spend much time on track but when it did it certainly looked like no other Mini I, or most people at the event had ever seen. To see a little car like this shoot out of corners with such fierce acceleration looked almost unnatural, sort of like seeing a remote control car defy physics!
While traction is phenomenal with all four wheels putting power down, you can never have too much stability and downforce at speed, which is where the large rear adjustable spoiler…
…and diffuser come in.
The stubby front end may not be the most adapt shape for penetrating through the air efficiently, but when you have raw power, who cares about aerodynamics! To generate some front downforce, a little protruding lip was bolted in place and further secured by two DTM-style splitter holders.
This car doesn’t really try to hide the fact that it’s sporting some obvious links to Audi…
…something that became easily visible once the owner removed the tiny hood that barely fits over the motor!
Considering there is so little space within the custom tubular frame, it’s pretty incredible that everything managed to fit! The engine, along with the complete AWD driveline was lifted out of a 1999 Audi A3 1.8 Turbo, adapted and swapped over into the Mini. Needless to say a ton of work was required to make everything function properly…
…which started with a bit of tuning. The donor engine was taken apart and fitted with a billet crankshaft from a 1996 model Audi A3, deemed stronger and therefore more reliable to accept the higher boost levels the upgraded turbo would deliver. Joining it are a set of Verdi connecting rods and some custom made pistons. With the exhaust side of the engine towards the firewall, it meant there was very little space to play with when fabricating the exhaust manifold onto which both the turbocharger…
…and Tial external wastegate are fitted. Channeling spent gasses to the back of the car is a full 3-inch stainless steel exhaust system.
Lots of complex piping was obviously needed to plumb the Kollevoll intercooler core in place, which was also fitted with custom end tanks. When you remove the hood its probably the intake manifold that you notice first, its cylindrical shape able to flow a bigger volume of air and at the same time still manage to fit in the compact engine bay. Fuel is delivered courtesy of four 900 cc/min injectors which are in turn fed by a pair of Bosh 044 external pumps, picking up fuel from the racing fuel cell located in the rear.
The engine and all its ancillaries are nothing short of a packaging masterpiece! The Mini uses the stock Audi A3 transmission, which due to the higher power levels has been fitted with an upgraded single plate clutch. The A3′s complete all-wheel-drive guts where adapted to fit the shorter wheelbase of this “Mini,” sporting GKN custom driveshafts and a modified Haldex center differential. The owner, wanting to recreate the fixed 50:50 front/rear torque split of the old Audis from the golden era of rallying, got rid of the clutch pack and replaced it with a solid ring gear, which he machined out of a billet. The result is full-time 4WD.
When fabricating the tubular frame, a lot of though was given to suspension geometry, all mounting points welded into place at the right sort of caster and toe angles to get the best grip out of the front wheels, not to mention traction when exiting corners. The front employs Mobek coilovers…
…while the rear sports Bilstein dampers…
…with the springs located separately. An adjustable anti-roll bar keeps the rear from rolling excessively through the turns and can be adjusted directly from the driver’s seat. Since we are looking at the rear end of this crazy Mini Quattro…
…there is a lot more to check out back here like the rather large aluminum enclosure fabricated to direct air towards the rear-mounted radiator. With absolutely no space available up front this was the only solution, a great position for the core that, thanks…
…to four rather large air intakes, gets plenty of air circulating towards it. When the car is stationary electric extractor fans take care of things.
It isn’t until you start looking at the actual numbers that you realize what an absolutely insane car this Mini must be to drive. So on top of the featherweight spaceframe construction, the fiberglass body…
…a transplanted AWD driveline it’s the performance levels that define this car. At a boost pressure of 1.5 bar the modified A3 engine develops 450 HP at 5,900 rpm with a nice and usable mid-range torque curve which tops out at 5,000 rpm with an explosive 369 lb/ft (500 Nm).
Now you begin to understand why that rear wing and diffuser are a needed part of the car!
Classic-looking 5-spoke Revolution Wheels were chosen to maintain that authentic Mini look; the same size is used at each corner, 8Jx15″ with an offset of +20. Rubber is from Nankang with 185/45R15 Ultra Spot NS-II, the only tires that the owner was able to find in this size.
Gotta love the stretch!
The functional racecar feel is continued inside, a pretty cozy place to sit in. With the Sparco buckets mounted right against the rear crossbars of the chassis there is virtually no space for anything else, except for the driver and his passenger. The dashboard…
…and the center console have been neatly fabricated in aluminum, a perfect place to locate all the switchgear and auxiliary Auto Meter gauges for things like boost, water and oil temperatures.
The big rev counter is probably the most important piece of instrumentation…
…fitted with a big bright shift light programmed to flash at the right shift up point.
The thick rimmed Sparco steering wheel…
…and the adjustable pedal box are pretty much the only thing the driver needs to worry about, positioned perfectly for the optimal driving position.
It’s hard to portray just how small this car really is, it’s almost hard to believe that two people are actually able to…
…fit inside! It’s a real pity that it was plagued with some issues during the Gatebil weekend. It had a short outing on Friday morning at which point a misfire developed. The owner spent the next two days replacing the ignition coils but even that didn’t fix the issues.
To think that this car was all built privately and most of the work done by the owner it certainly deserves a lot of respect, pretty much like every single other car that was present in the paddock at Rudskogen last weekend.
The only thing the Mini Quattro can be compared to is sort of like a scaled up go-kart, a go-kart with so much power that a custom adapted AWD system was required to actually unleash all of its potential. Just one small example of why Gatebil is so great and why those Scandinavians are probably the craziest people on this planet!
-Dino Dalle Carbonare
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