Car of the Month : June 2004
Despite being a dyed-in-the-wool Mini adherent, Ian has never adopted the blinkered views so often espoused by dedicated car enthusiasts.
He is well aware of the car’s inherent shortcomings, but he firmly believes that no other car can deliver quite the same driving experience – and of course, he is by no means on his own in that respect. Ian has made it his mission to create the ultimate road-going Mini, and when his much-loved 1995 Cooper was sadly written-off in an accident in 2003, he brushed himself down and in no time at all set about creating its replacement. Here he reveals the details of how he achieved his goal. You can also see his previous car in all its pre-crash glory.
H829 FLE started life in 1990 as a Rover Mini Cooper RSP. The RSP Cooper was a limited edition of 1600, reviving the Mini Cooper after 19 dormant years. Following this, Rover launched the 1990s Mini Cooper as a standard production model.
I bought this car in 2003 following the unfortunate demise of my previous 1995 single-point injection Mini. I have substantially modified the car. The interior now has late 1980s Metro GS seats which are very comfortable, a wood-rimmed Mota-lita steering wheel complete with Morris badge and an Exim wooden dashboard. Instead of going for rock-hard suspension I have had fitted the excellent Alex Moulton-developed Minisport Smootha-ride suspension.
The engine is even better! I have retained the standard 1275cc unit, but have had fitted the superb Swiftune SW5 camshaft – similar in profile to the Kent 276/Piper 270, but not lumpy at idle – and high-lift rockers. The cylinder head was modified by TMW Engineering somewhere in Norfolk and features 36mm inlet and 30mm exhaust valves. One of the advantages of having a pre-1992 car is that I can dispense with restrictive fuel injection systems which hamper tuning the later injection Minis, so I have used the good old SU carburetter… or two, to be precise. I have had fitted two 1½” SU carburetters mated to some performance air filters. This specification is completed by a Maniflow exhaust system. The whole package was assembled by Robert Kitchen, owner of a former Car of the Month.
On 3 November 2003 I took H829 FLE to Wilshers Garage in Cambridgeshire, home of the rolling road run by ace Mini racer Peter Baldwin. Peter used his expert knowledge to fine-tune the car and it ultimately achieved an amazing 98bhp at 5500rpm, and yet the car is very driveable at low revs.
Going far: the twin fuel caps aren’t there just for the sake of symmetry. Ian’s Mini is fitted with dual petrol tanks, giving it the range of, well, a normal car!