A Mini Estate Of Mind

Real car enthusiasts are something of a rarity.

I’m not talking about those who are just doing it for the ‘gram – they shouldn’t even be worth mentioning, but are referenced here for the sake of clarity. I’m talking about all of us, the self-confessed car enthusiasts and hunters of speed around the globe.

So often, we describe ourselves as car enthusiasts, when in fact we’re just fans of one particular automotive sub-genre. As one self-aware friend recently told me, “I don’t really like cars, just Japanese ones produced between 1980 and the early 2000s.”

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I’ll put my hand up and admit that I’m just as guilty of this as the next person, although I do strive to learn and understand more about other car-related subcultures that might have passed me by otherwise. The result of this though, is that I often feel a little bit ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ when documenting cars, their owners, workshops and events.

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Part of me remains envious of those who have dedicated their lives to every aspect of one particular manufacturer or model, and can list obscure part numbers off the top of their head. But, I still believe the sweet spot is someone who is capable of all of this, but is willing to stick their head over the fence to see what others are doing, and to incorporate a little bit of this into their cars.

I wouldn’t be surprised if a picture of James Kelly appeared beside the word ‘Mini’ in the dictionary, nor have I ruled out that he might have an altar dedicated to Nick Swift at home, but he’s one of those rare types that despite being clearly infatuated with Minis, is very much aware of the world beyond his own.

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My mother’s first car was a Mini, but that’s pretty much where my connection with them ends. So, when James starts going through his other cars with such passion and detail I should be overwhelmed, but instead I’m caught up in his enthusiasm for them. There’s a red JDM-spec factory Mini Turbo, an original and immaculate aqua-coloured Mk3 Mini Cooper S which was one of only five ever sold new in Ireland, a cafe racer styled 1961 example with 1,380cc power and a Honda B16A-powered Clubman.

Then there’s this – James’s company car and daily driver, a supercharged 1980 Clubman.

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There’s a decent bit of variety in his current list of projects (some of which we will try to visit at a later stage) but this is as good a place to start as any. James originally believed he was just buying a shell, which turned out to have a van full of parts waiting nearby. Over the course of 12 weeks, the car was fully built from that shell.

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The patina is genuine, having been retained for novelty. Most of the panels on the car are its originals, but it did require new front floors, sills, door steps and a rear valance. The driver’s door is still the original, having been repaired.

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The car’s original colour, Snap Dragon Yellow, has been reapplied underneath and also features subtly around the car. James describes the arches as being “weird European ones.”

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The ABS Motorsport front splitter is a Mk1 Golf design adapted for a Mini. Of course, there are other details, like the Raybrig 7-inch headlights.

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The wheels are Force Racing 10×6.5-inch three-piece units with Yokohama Advan A032 tyres.

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The mesh design obscures slightly the KAD 4-piston billet calipers on the front, paired with KAD vented and grooved discs with EBC Greenstuff pads. The rear drums wear Mintex shoes, with all four corners being served by braided lines, a late Mini brake servo, bias valve and pedal box.

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Despite its diminutive size, the Clubman still packs considerable punch. Within the de-wired Lamborghini yellow-painted engine bay lives a 1,330cc +60 overbore motor wearing an Eaton 63 supercharger sourced from a Mercedes-Benz CLK. There’s also a Jonspeed Racing Stage 5 Unlimited road/race cylinder head.

The exhaust system starts with a heat-wrapped Maniflow Stage 3 large-bore manifold which feeds into a 2-inch Maniflow system with twin DTM-style pipes. Cooling is taken care of with a Radtec alloy radiator and a 13-row oil cooler lurking behind the front license plate.

All told, it’s a setup good for around 150hp on standard boost levels.

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The driveline features a rebuilt gearbox with a X-pin differential, central oil pickup and new bearings. A Metro Turbo clutch with an unsprung disc is used for engaging and disengaging the power train. It also has a neat shifter.

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On the suspension side of things, the spec continues to be quite thorough. There’s Spax gas adjustable dampers all round, with KAD rear camber plates. Mini Spares supplied rose-jointed tie-rods and bottom arms along with a full poly-bush setup front and rear, and there’s an MST Japan coil spring conversion, too. Bros Garage Japan adjustable front shock mounts have also been used.

With regards to steering, there’s a Mini Sport 2.2 quick-rack, with Mondo Sport bump steer-correcting steering arms.

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The interior can be succinctly described as fun. James has gone a bit wild in here with a snakeskin headliner and door cards that have been trimmed in the same material as found on his local bus service. The front seats are Recaro LX fishnets, mounted with Juran seat rails.

There’s a lot of audio as well, including a 1,000W Pioneer amplifier and dual MTX 12-inch subwoofers in a sealed box. The head unit, being located on the passenger side of the dash, can be remote control operated. Not that it’s very far to reach.

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To come back around to the original point, I think that to be a proper car enthusiast doesn’t mean that you must never worship at only one altar, but just be willing to acknowledge and appreciate what other people in other areas are doing. When you combine passion and knowledge with creativity and inspiration, wherever it might be found, I believe it’s always going to be a great recipe.

I’m curious if I’m alone in thinking this, so would love to read your thoughts in the comments below. Should cars and builders always keep it within the family, so to speak, or should we all seek more variety from other areas in our projects?

Paddy McGrath
Instagram: pmcgphotos
Twitter: pmcgphotos



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Beautiful, beautiful car with bags of personality.

As an aside, I surely can't be the only one who gets tired of the write-ups addressing the same supposed 'conflicts' in automotive culture, day after day, year after year.

'Being a car fan is about liking ALL kinds of car culture.'

'The best car fans BUILD not BUY'

'People who BUY are good too'

'Everyone should be allowed to express themselves their own way.'

Etc., etc.

I don't think your readers would mind if you guys skipped all that stuff. Car culture's not like politics, it's not some constantly changing landscape.


I also get tired of hearing about car culture "conflicts". There are several websites I can no longer visit because of the negative outlook. Luckily Speedhunters has gorgeous photos that allow us to skim over the obnoxious op-ed articles lol

Paddy McGrath

I just think it's important that we encourage the community to stay together. Car enthusiasts are dwindling in numbers and by further sub-dividing ourselves into different communities, our collective voice weakens.


Fair enough, I hear that.

I guess that as someone who engages with the car community primarily online, I notice the factionalism within car circles a lot less. A part of me feels though, that as car enthusiasm becomes more niche I'm finding that more and more of us seem to be fans of cool cars in general, be it hot rods to VIP to dub to mini trucks etc.


Yeah, you ARE the only one.

Michael Rinaldi

He's not alone lol... my sentiments side with Llalan here. I was literally thinking the exact same thoughts as I started into this article.


Ahaha, I stand corrected then!


Thanks for this article! It was really good. And I completely agree with you that the sweet spot for a car nut is a little bit of everything. I myself am that way, I can relate to that. But we couldn't possibly do without all those people who specialize in one small area. If everyone was just a jack-of-all-(automotive)-trades, there would be no Speedhunters, and we can't have that, now can we?


BTW Llalan, you'd do better to keep your mouth shut. As my brother used to say, "If you don't know what you're talking about, then just don't talk."


I feel like if theres any reason for the tribalism described in the article, its clowns like you getting aggressive over discussions about cars and car culture.

You'd do well to relax, Im more than passionate enough about car culture to be entitled to an opinion without being told to keep my mouth shut.


Clown am I?




Yeah, OK, so I was being a clown. Sorry for getting my dander up. Honestly though, once I actually though about WHY I was mad with you in the first place is that Speedhunters is one of the last car websites that DOESN'T bring up all the conflicts in the car culture world, and I didn't want you saying otherwise, no matter how true it wad. So, sorry, Llalan. That wasn't very Christian behavior. I'll do better next comment. :')


If you look at something with interest you form some sort of opinion? you can try and learn or let youself get in the way, but if you learn and share the world will reward you with shinny new car parts.


I like almost anything car wise, and even if I don't I will always appreciate something about them.


nice car with lots of details. but... rust, the number-one enemy of car. what's the point of rust on this kind of builds? personality?! showing creativity?! fashion or something... ?!! for the sake of coolness?

Paddy McGrath

It's to retain the car's story. This is (kind of) what the shell looked like when he rescued it, but the structure underneath has obviously been repaired and painted. The panels with surface rust have been clear coated as well.


I like hearing the stories of each build - like the details and story for each part. For example, I think everyone would enjoy hearing more about that shift knob or the details of the exhaust....


I really like these cars, but man I can't help but think how much better this one would look with the body repaired and a fresh coat of paint on it.

Paddy McGrath

You would really like his other cars if that's the case :)

Herbert Berger

Do it all, whatever is calling you at the time. Step out of your comfort zone and never stop. I thought I was allergic to FWD and I am truly loving my GTI.

Steffen Hansen

Now I want a Mini Estate... I even have the garage space for it ( :


Love it. Always look forward to reading your articles. A++



Where was the first picture taken? Wouldn't be close to Sally Gap by any chance?

I still miss my clubby saloon since the day it was stolen. I wouldn't dare to leave it as it is, since they rust quicker then you can build them., but I like it non the less.

Paddy McGrath

It's actually not a that far from Sally Gap, just much closer to Dublin City.


I though as much. I drive there whenever I'm going from and to dublin airport Roads down there are a blast!


I personally think a car enthusiast is someone that simply enjoys cars. Might be a certain type of car, or it might not. I've met people who've gone through a multitude of different brands and types of car, who couldn't honestly pick one that was there was their favourite. I've also met people who like all sorts of different cars, but will stick to a certain brand of car because it's what they know or it's what got them into cars in the first place. The cool thing that I find that at some point these different meet, which will open up a dialogue, meaning ultimately that everyone should learn something new. To me one of the best things about car culture is learning and interacting with people like minded and otherwise. It's diverse and it's different from place to place and person to person, to me at least, that is the way should be.


That door card fabric is about the coolest thing I have seen in an interior in forever! I am so going to ask my local bus driver if they ever throw out their bus seats! hahaha
I love and respect anyone that stays true to the make/model they are passionate about but variety is truly the spice of life and having a Mini, sitting next to a Skyline and Mustang and Ferrari and... in the same garage is equally as awesome!

Great article Paddy!


My god, it's like all my favourite cars I've owned distilled into one! I absolutely love this.

My fist car was a Mini which I've spent the last 17 or so years wishing I'd not sold. I then had a slew of JDM imports and BMWs including a very ratty E30 - and now I drive an AE86 Trueno full of period correct JDM bits.

I always loved how versatile a canvas the Mini is, you can litterally apply any style to it and it works - 60's, 70's, 'tuner', rally, Japanese, hot rod...