There have been very few cars like the original Mini, and in so many ways. However, in today’s world they’re outsized, outgunned and their weaknesses are highlighted by everyday use.
But then again, that’s just fighting talk to a Mini owner.
They’re a special breed, and before you think anything untoward, I owned a couple of Minis way back. But in the last few decades, the sheer size of modern cars has towered over the Mini’s proportions, and as everyday cars have grown, the sense of the Mini being an underdog has too. It’s always been one for surprises, from Monte Carlo Rally wins in the early ’60s to sleeper status in the ’00s.
Underestimating just how capable they can be is a massive mistake. Of course, I’m talking about the classic Mini, rather than the more modern BMW version, which I’m also a fan of.
Personally, I think the original Mini has got a certain purity to it; it’s only got what you need and no more. In standard form there’s seating for four adults, space for a couple of bags and enough power to get you where you need to be. Roadside maintenance? Yup, sorted. That’ll be the tool kit in the back and the kind of mechanical knowledge that every dad had in the ’60s.
The sheer numbers in which these things sold means a high proportion of people have a story about a Mini, but again nowadays you have to be a little more dedicated to own one. Which means like Chris, the owner of this example, you’ll want to personalise the experience through modifications.
As Chris has owned the Mini for 11 years, there’s been a lot of time to get things just the way he wanted. It was on the road for around three years when he first bought it, and if I remember rightly it was actually his first car. But for the last eight years Chris has been building it up into what it is today.
That is, a B16-engined warrior. With so many more cars from the ’80s and ’90s through to today being front-wheel drive, engine swaps in the Mini have become very popular. The Honda B-series route is a tried and tested one, but what stood out for me when I spotted Chris’s car at the Forge Action Day in September was the period feel the obvious modifications have given it.
The pastel yellow exterior hasn’t got a load of chrome fitted to it, just simple black accents that spill over to the interior. But it’s not like a ’60s homage in here; Chris hasn’t slavishly tried to fit in with one genre.Built For Attack
From the rear you might pick up on the larger exhaust, or the silhouette of the front seats and rollcage through the back window. But what about the twin fuel fillers? Or the four Dzus fasteners on the boot lid? I like that it’s not wearing any badges or shouting about what’s inside though.
Look through the side windows and stuff gets a little more obvious; normally the two fuel tanks are kidney-shaped and mounted in the rear corners. Not that you’d see them, as in standard form there’d be a bulkhead and rear shelf hiding them from this angle. With the cage and bracing none of that is needed anymore.
It’s surprising how many people walked on by as the one-piece, flip-front was lifted up; maybe they had no idea what it would have originally looked like underneath there? I was joined in my vulture-like circling of the Mini by David Murphy who organises the excellent Retro Rides Gathering, and as he took a few phone pics we agreed the subtly was definitely one of the things we liked the most about the car.
Actually, scratch that – there’s a load of stuff I like about this Mini and life is too short to limit the list to favourites. Driving it must be hilarious; to have so much time and money rewarded in that way is what car ownership is all about for me.
Chris mentions that he’ll be spending this winter converting the running gear to four-wheel drive using Honda parts, so I really hope I bump in to him again and get to see the Mini in action. It just gets better and better…
This was great on so many levels. Brilliant to get some more details about the car and the build. Hope to see it out and about again.
Clearly the highlight of the feature is those awesome sneakers :)
Please cover project binky whenever they decide to finish it lol. The mini to rule all minis. ps the build videos are more entertaining than most things on youtube!
Here's one of the nicest VTec-powered classic Minis anywhere. It is currently for sale here: http://www.minimania.com/cars4sale/13282/1961_Austin_Mini_SEVEN_Sedan
K20, k23 awd trans, custom front/rear subframes, cage
B series vtec minis are amazing too.
Has anyone seen the rwd vtec minis w/ the mid engined config?
I believe my favorite thing about these original Minis is that they were, y'know, mini. There is just an undeniable charm about them, a David in a world of Goliath. This one has hit all the notes in what I would like to see in a spirited focus, and a Honda engine just makes so much sense. Can certainly imagine all the fun this giant-slayer would provide!
Sudden urge to make myself a sandwich rising..
Nice car! I still want a VTEC mini in the future. I was very close to buying this example back in 2009
I take my hat of to Chromzey for building this himself from the ground up, absolute dedication and shows what can be done today when you put your mind to it.
P.S. it's not a B16, that went bang on the dyno when mapping so it's now a fully forged B20, I have a dyno sheet printout if anyone is interested, I think the figures would surprise anyone!
@Jack YatesDale Ahh, thanks for the correction. And yes, completely agree it's a real credit to him. Share the dyno sheet, would love to show people what it's capable of.
Awesome feature! :D Wondering whether I should strip my mini out now, although my carpet is hiding some rust :P
Also I've been around castle combe in my B18 mini, got some footage here! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhtvpjfJens Please excuse the shoddy driving, this was my first time on a track hehe
@BenXL No excuses needed, anybody getting out there and doing it has nothing to explain! Nice Mini :)
sweet! With the ITBs directed at the firewall there must be a hell of a noise inside. The right kind of noise.
@Dhikaz It might have got my attention :)
Keep on writing Bryn, I have enjoyed your articles just about as much as your subjects ever since I found speedhunters!
keep it up!
@NickZietlow Thanks Nick, I really appreciate that. Other work commitments kept me from publishing anything here in the last five months and it's been painful. 2016 will be different :)
@Matt Burgess Ahh, I didn't see him at Rallyday, I was commentating there. This has taken longer to get on the site than I'd hoped (entirely my fault), so hopefully he'll see it and let us know how the 4WD swap is getting on.
@Speedhunters_Bryn He was parked in the paddock near the Golden Wonder SD1 and Goodrich stand if I remember rightly :)
Are you heading to Race Retro this year?