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This is definitely a topic that keeps coming up!  What wheel and tire combinations can be made to fit a Classic Mini?  Just a few days ago, had a customer call for “175/55-10”  as though they could just be picked off the rack!   Hmmm, I’ve never seen such a size, except maybe on a Yamaha Banshee Quad for doing burnouts!

I thought it would be a good time to update what combinations are currently available, and a little bit about fitting them to most Minis.  It’s been pointed out by me and others, that all the common combinations end up having about the same overall rolling diameter.  I did some measuring and comparing sizes in a post on the Mini Mania Forum to show that the most popular 10 inch wheel and tire combination is only about one half inch smaller in overall height than the popular (and really the only!) 13 inch tire that fits a standard-ish Classic Mini.

Now that seems to make it sound rather easy to just bolt up what you want, when in fact, very careful set-up is needed to ensure clearance  from the body, and safety for brakes and handling.   Almost any increase in size will require careful consideration.  Is the extra width “inboard” or outward as the popular deep-dish look would result in? Obviously, the former might have the tires contacting the inner fenders during turns, and might require wheel spaces or limiting the steering travel as Rover did with the big wheels of the late 90s.  The ‘deep-dish’ look will certainly require clearance be cut in the front fenders in front of the tires as the ‘scrub radius’ will get much wider.  Depending on enforcement in your state, and how much you drive in the rain, you may need flares to cover up big tires that stick out too much.

Most clearance issues will be with the front wheels, as the only thing you can do for the rear is to be sure you don’t have inside contact and that the car sits high enough to avoid contacting tires that are at all wider than stock. Even when big flares are installed, the rear wheel-arches are seldom trimmed, as loosing the seam results in very flimsy sheet metal.  Stiff suspension keeps the amount of deflection in check, and many of us want our cars low enough that we know there is a danger of contact with the body if driven aggressively or with more weight in the car.  The dry rear suspension had no bump-stops, relying on the rubber cone spring itself to limit travel. Depending on your set-up (say with coil springs and wide tires), you might consider the aftermarket kit we offer C-SRP015 to protect your investment in tires and paint!

Here then in a nutshell  are all the common choices:

10 INCH WHEELS:  Most Minis produces before 1984 came with 3.5″ x 10″ rims and 145/80-10 tires.  This was about the only size that ever fit within the fenders with no flares and not much chance of contact with the body!   Ever the Cooper S and 1275GT models had the little tires on 4.5″ wide wheels to barely clear the fenders and fit within the spare-tire well.   A change to the popular 165/70-10 tires required the (usually Hydrolastic) suspension be in top shape, and most often small flares to contain the tires.  Just about any aftermarket wheel would use the wider tires and require the installer to verify clearances, and that means make sure the suspension is up to snuff.  For 6″ wide wheels, body clearance and some kind of flare is almost always necessary.  I like the skateboard look too, but you’ll throw water and road debris all over your car and at anyone nearby!

12 INCH WHEELS:  By 1984, the Classic Mini finally got some decent disc brakes as standard across all models.  With the bigger rotors and calipers, the standard wheel size had to grow to 12 inches.  Many find these Minis with 12 inch steel wheels to look rather clumsy as they were tall and narrow, and the scale of it is not as ‘pleasing to the eye’ as the beloved 10 inch wheels were!  Luckily, the aftermarket provides an alternative that might just be the best compromise.  The Yokohama A539 in 60 series is just about the same overall height as the 10 inch combinations, fills the wheel openings nicely, and provides a less harsh ride than the 13 inch option which MUST use a 50-series tire.  Body mods will likely be required, at least in front, as the tire and the resulting scrub radius are considerably wider.  A lower cost tire in the same size is available from Falken.  Wheel sizes are either 5″ or 6″ by 12″ for the 165/60-12 tires.  Obviously the 5″ is much more likely to clear the body, and/or work without flares.

13 INCH WHEELS:   Finally, the size many love to hate!   The only commonly available tire for the Mini for 13 inch wheels is the 175/50-13.   We stock the Yokohama A539 as well as a lower cost Nankang tire from Taiwan.  These tires will reasonably fit wheels from 5 to 7 inches in width, with 6″ being ideal.  I run the Yohohamas on my own modified 66 Cooper S with 13″ by 5″ wheels and no flares!  Yes they stick out a bit, and yes the front wheel opening has been enlarged to allow the car to sit quite low without hitting the tires as long as I’m reasonably careful.  I re-formed and welded the seam to keep the required stiffness of the front wings, and Hi-Los let me quickly raise the car up a bit when my 300 pound brother-in-law wants a ride!   Rover offered a 13″ by 6″ wheel with this tire size as an option for the “Sportpack” model of the late 90s.  Those models had larger fender openings, extra ‘stiffeners’ to support the front wings, taller joint knuckles to raise the ride height, limited travel steering racks, AND huge flares to cover the tires!   So yes, body modifications are required for just about any 13 inch wheel combination.

Is it blasphemy or a very cool look for a “resto-mod”?  I’m often amazed by how militant some people get about other people’s modifications.  I’ve made no secret about my own preference for larger wheels… Besides the advantages provided by simple physics – the ability to run bigger brakes, a more favorable contact patch,  I LIKE the look of a low-profile tire on a larger diameter wheel to achieve about the same overall circumference!

It has been suggested that I feature another of my posts from the Mini Mania Forum, this one dealing with considerations for different wheel and tire combinations in all the popular sizes one sees on Classic Minis.  It started as a discussion of the WEIGHT of the different combinations, so I weighed as many wheels and tires as I could get my hands on.   I took one of my 13 x 5 “Minators” with the Yokohama A539 175/50-13,  and my original S 10 inch spare off my own car, and put them on the FedEx scale.   Here’s the post, a thread that actually goes back several years:

http://www.minimania.com/msgThread/112670/1/1/Tire_Comparison__10__12__and_13_inch_tire_weights

This once again illustrates the gold mine of information that is so easily searchable on the Mini Mania Forum.   Informative topics and posts disappear off the “Front Page” in a few days,  but that info is right at your fingertips by searching a few key words.  You can even search by name!  Here’s what you get by just searching for “Jemal”  (or you can search for any other username if you remember WHO posted it!):

http://www.minimania.com/Search_Results/jemal/Forum

 

Those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are feeling better as our days are noticeably getting longer. We have a few hours after work during the week to contemplate our Minis and what we might do next!

Last week, I had a number of questions about replacing or updating the suspension springs or cones, so it seems appropriate to have a quick look at all the options available for most Classic Minis.

I can speak from experience here, because I’ve done a number of coil spring conversions, including a “wet-to-dry” on my own 66 Mini Cooper S.  The coil springs are available in two rates for the intended use of the car.  I went with the red springs providing a nice firm ride for a high performance Mini with 13 inch wheels that I still set up to be very low.  The stiff springs minimize the deflection of the wheels, keeping them from hitting the body in normal driving.  I have specified the blue springs for early cars that have the stock 10 inch wheels, or where a nice gentle ride was the first priority for the owner.  These coil springs are a great choice to improve durability over even the basic rubber cones, as most can install them and forget about them…. we’ve never seen one collapse over time under the weight of a Mini.  They are also very easy to install, not requiring even a spring compressor when coupled with the basic Hi-Lo adjustable “trumpets”. I do highly recommend this method since it allows very easy and precise ride height adjustment with a box wrench without lifting the car, even for very low cars!

Another very trick way to set up a Classic Mini Suspension is with a  SPAX coil-over kit.   SPAX from the UK has made these for many years, and they provide additional adjustability of spring rates by using different springs, typical of how race cars are set up.  They also feature adjustable ride height and can really simplify the Mini suspension by putting the springs and shocks on a common mount, and doing away with the standard Mini springs altogether!  I happen to know that we have a kit IN STOCK that was ‘orphaned’ by somebody that ordered it!  A real opportunity for someone!

Of course, many of us like our Mini to be “the way it was designed” so you can still just replace the rubber springs with either the stock rubber cones, an “uprated” quality type that provides more durability, or a full-race type that is really too stiff for most street cars!

Another very well engineered option for the rear of just about any Classic Mini is the rear coil over ‘subframe’ made by the VTEC guys over at Minitec.  This is a fully adjustable (toe, camber, castor, and ride height) unit that completely replaces the rear subframe with a coil-over design that is gaining favor with Classic Minis even without the Honda engine package!  Call us and talk to me about any of these options!

….And HARDLY anyone else does in the Americas!  I talked to a gentleman from Peru A short while ago who confirmed that indeed, hardly anyone there had ever seen another one!  Amazingly, it was a runner, with all the lights and switches and windows still working!  It had suffered a failed thermostat of all things, and overheated, so he was hoping to pack his suitcase with what he needed for it while on a trip to the US!

I’m often amazed by the number of first calls we get from people who either have, or have just acquired a Morris Minor!  They seem to have found their way to every corner of the world!  It might be a rumor, but I’ve heard they might still be building them in India!  I’m fond of saying that just about every small town in Idaho seems to have a couple, tucked into old barns!  There are even a number of right hand drive Minors here in our small town, which means they were likely imported by their owners from when they lived in RHD countries!  These things are like members of the family!   There aren’t many NEW cars one can say that about!!

As such, we have done considerable work to update the MorrisMania part of our site. We have separated the MM part numbers so that all “classic” parts are not lumped together, making searching for parts much simpler.  We have put the entire original Morris Minor Parts Catalog on the site the same way we did our original Classic Mini “bible“, complete with exploded-view diagrams to help folks identify specific items when they don’t know exactly what to call them!  With these relics turning up in far away lands, a picture can go a long way to overcome a language barrier!

I think it should be pretty easy to post a comment or a photo on here.  If you have an interesting story or a Minor you’ve built, including crazy ones with V8s and wheelie bars, post about it, or send me an email to jemal@minimania.com

Intuitively, we know it probably won’t get much better going forward.  We have a hard time finding complete engines and components, but we ARE able to order a complete body shell!  It can really be hit-and-miss, and kind of surprising that we can still get certain things, while other seemingly common items are disappearing fast.

This week has been interesting… we can’t find any 1275 crankshafts for rebuilding an A+, but are able to order up obscure English Moke body parts!.  In the not too distant past, we could source used powerunits by the pallet-load.  Now it seems we must ask you to be patient, as the waiting list for our good tested engines  can be a few months deep!

The best advice is to allow some time!  Don’t leave yourself in the position of needing something right away, and waiting till the last minute to get it ordered.   Don’t overlook NEW items when we can’t find used ones!   We’ve had a screaming deal on brand-new A+ 1275 crankshafts with bearings…. probably less than the cost of getting and re-conditioning a used one!

In particular, if you hope to pick up parts when travelling to the US,  PLEASE allow us time to order items!  I am astounded that folks will call me from South America and say “I’ll be in Florida on Friday, can you send these parts to my hotel”!  We are happy to help, but if parts have to come from England, we may need a few weeks to get items to where you’ll be!  Allow time for shipping too.  Overnighting lumpy items cross-country can cost TEN TIMES or more the cost of ground shipping!  We want you to get the best value for your Mini Bucks!

Yes, you may have noticed, we have been hard at work updating our website to make it more universally compatible with more of the devices you folks are using.   It’s called “mobile friendly” so it reformats to fit your screen.   I showed you how to find this blog from just about any screen… and that’s still the case, but it’s moved slightly… now you can find me under the “Resources” tab….  I was under the “Home” tab last week!

CaptureBIG

 

 

Because of the confined workspace, there are a few tasks that have owners groaning and rolling their eyes when their Classic Mini needs work in these areas.  A big one that I have to do on my own car is the steering rack.  I’ve had the typical banging noise under the toe board as the car rolls over bumps and I can move the front wheels against the steering arms and see and hear a bit too much free-play!  The steering rack was about the ONLY thing I did not change as I restored my 66 Cooper S from the body shell up.  It seemed fine and the car only had about 50.000 miles on it.   Still, when you consider that you can change the rack in about 10 minutes on a bare shell, and how cheap the replacements are, it’s very much a false economy to hope that it’s fine!

Now, I have to at least drop the front sub frame a foot or so, and while not terribly difficult, it can be a bucket of worms as I’ll have to separate metal brake lines, clutch hose, shift linkage, engine stabilizers, some of the wiring harness, the exhaust system, fuel plumbing…. I’ve about talked myself out of it just thinking about all the things that could get stuck and make the project bigger!  The good news is that the steering rack and tie-rod ends are usually in stock and not at all expensive… here’s the close-ratio LHD unit for my Mk1:

http://www.minimania.com/part/C-FAM7307/Steering-Rack-Mk-Ii-Left-Hand-Drive-Quick-Ratio

Another notoriously maddening area to work on is the radiator.  Most models are a very tight fit to the fan and the surrounding sheet metal. But it’s ether try to finesse it out,  or pull the whole engine out WITH the rad!   The good news here is that we’ve scored a good buy on the most common radiator, and are passing the savings on to you…. a NEW rad for less than the cost of cleaning out an old one.  That should lessen the pain of banging up your knuckles to install it!

http://www.minimania.com/part/ARP2000/Radiator-3-Core-Standard-Mini–Mini-Cooper-Cooling