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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!

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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

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Compromise is a word used quite a lot when it comes to classic Minis.  One of the big ones is to decide if highway driving is a priority over back roads and rapid acceleration.  Most of us really want to be able to drive our Mini places, and that means on the highway…. at least a good part of the time.   To accomplish this with most of the standard 4-speeds that virtually all versions of the Classic Mini came with,  we can choose to install a taller final drive to get our top gear RPMs down to a more reasonable number.

But, even with a big engine making plenty of torque, there is a compromise to be made!  Those nice high final drive gears for freeway driving now make it harder to get off the line, because they affect ALL the gears.  A very common complaint with Minis is that the clutch can get hard to engage smoothly, known as “chatter” or “judder”.   A high first gear will take more slippage to get the car moving, and the relatively primitive clutch of the Mini results in glazing the flywheel, disk, and backplate.   This will make your Mini shake and buck, particularly while reversing!  It’s not a coincidence that Minis that work great on the highway can rattle themselves – and your nerves – and your engine mountings with violent off the line shenanigans!

The solution?  The same one all modern cars employ!  Give the car longer legs with an extra gear!   Over the decades, a lucky few have experienced some of the custom 5-speeds that have been offered for the Classic Mini.  They have never been cheap or common…. remember, it was viewed as a major automotive milestone to package the Mini engine with FOUR speeds.  It was the first successful mass produced transverse front wheel drive layout after all!

Unfortunately, some of the 5-speeds have been frankly awful.   Poorly executed design and attention to details meant some could be nearly impossible to shift!  And if you needed parts?  Often, you needed a machine shop to make them!

But, take a look at what we managed to get and have in stock and on sale even…  probably the most refined of the five speeds for a street car, these have a lot more purpose-built components, rather than modified used parts harvested from the standard 4-speeds as done ‘back in the day’.  They feature very well thought out gear ratios with custom made input gear (also called ‘first motion shaft’) matched to it’s own laygear with revised tooth counts to achieve a very close match in 1st through 4th to the Cooper S of the 60s. 5th is a true overdrive, and with the 3.44 final drive results in an effective final drive of 3.03,  perfect for the highway!  And all in the latest A+ helical cut gears for durability and quiet operation. The MSG4 in stock has the standard open diff.  Also available for order is the MSG5 featuring a street-friendly cross-pin diff,  as well as other versions with full straight-cut gears and LSD.  These have been made for at least two decades by MiniSpares in the UK,  improved and refined over the years,  and have been the best supported and serviceable of the 5-speeds:

http://www.minimania.com/part/MSG4/A-5-Speed-Helical-344-Final-Drive

One of us had one on order for most of a year and when it was ready we were informed that another one from the production run was still available.  So we grabbed it to be able to offer it to you, so your Mini can be happy on America’s highways!  Over the last few years it has taken many months to actually get one, but here it is!  No compromise 5-speed overdrive means you don’t have to give up acceleration and back-road performance to relax on the highway!   Call and talk to me if you have any questions!

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Seems like only yesterday that we just heard about the GoPro Hero Camera for sports activities.  The numerous videos I watched on You-Tube convinced me that this would not only be helpful for work but what a great toy!  I don’t think I have meet a single person in any sports activity that GoPro Hero Cameradoes not like to share what they do with other.  The Gopro people really hit on the name when they called it the “HERO” camera.  We all want to see ourselves in action.
We looked at both the wide angle and the standard lens versions of the camera and in the end decided on the wide angle as we wanted to see as much as we could around us.  Over the years we had tried a number of different general video cameras only to find we had  tunnel vision to say nothing about how horrible the stability was.  Vibration was the real downside of everything we used prior to the GoPro.
The first one of the GoPro cameras we bought we installed in the Mini Mania “Monty Mini Cooper” vintage race car.  The installation seemed complex only because of the unbelievable number of mounting options. Because of the wide angle we considered mounting it beside the driver so that we could view both the steering wheel input and the road in front, perhaps even the tach.  The kit we used included the roll bar mounting option as well as the various articulated joints that all you to ‘stick’ GoPro Camera Mountvarious quick-disconnect mounts on lots of different surfaces including the front windshield. Well after some degree of experimenting we ended up with a stick on mount right under the rear view mirror on the windshield.

While it would be nice to have had a remote control for the camera as after you strap yourself into a race car it is not possible to reach up and find the 2 buttons that had to be pushed to start the camera rolling, we found an easy solution.  The typical vintage race is only about 20 minutes long and thus we simply started the camera when we go into the car in the pits.  The 2 meg memory card was more than big enough and we simply kept a couple of them on hand for quick change.  This process did have it drawback!  A 20 minute video is extremely boring to show to your friends and relatives as you are trying to be a ‘hero’ and then if you add the time it takes to get yourself strapped into the car and wait for the race to start, the results have to be edited. But then you-tube only allows a 10 minute video anyway so editing is just a way of life with this kind of hero stuff!  PS- I taught myself how to use ‘Windows Movie Maker’ in about 10 minutes and have loved it ever since.  The self editing I think has become a real part of being the hero of the show!  There is a sense of satisfaction in racing, a sense of satisfaction in being able to record it and a yet another great satisfaction in making your own video!

The first videos we did were not bad and in fact pretty good given our lack of experience.  BUT sorry to say that racing and being able to make your self into a hero go hand in hand, just as it seems as though you can never have enough Horsepower, you can never have enough video to tell the complete story.

So it was that we ended up with 4 camera for 2 Mini Coopers at the last race of the season.  Granted that using 2 per car seems like an extravegance but as it turned out the Monty Mini Cooper had problems during the very first run of the week-end and thus we found ourselves with 4 GoPro Hero Camera in ONE car!  So we actually ended up with 3 different angles inside the car and one outside.  We chose to mount one on the rear windows shooting backward, we mounted another on the windshield below the rear view mirror. The windshield cameras as aimed back at the driver to watch his hands, shifting, etc. The third camera was mounted on the roll bar just beside the driver’s head with a great view out the front of the car.  The fourth camera was mounted outside the Mini on the bottom corner of the grille. All the cameras are the wide angle version.

We found from a practical standpoint that we would start all the cameras very early and simply let them run for the duration.  As a precaution we would change both the memory card after every race and the batteries at the end of each day- we use the good rechargeable ones that seemed to not have a problems lasting for the 2 sessions we ran each day, probably less than 2 hours per day.

The results speak for themselves!  If you really want to enhance you racing experience you would never again go to a race without one of these installed!

Most of us like to bench race but there is no hiding the truth in video, even if it is all great!- spoken like a true HERO

And of course if your fellow competitors also have a GoPro hero camera you can do this kind of thing:

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Mini Cooper Sunroofs

Ernest,
We received three sun roof kits recently. Two are replacements for the British Open Classic and the third is a Webasto. The British Open Classics are specifically to replace the motor and slider on a car already equipped with this type of sun roof. They do include the frame and would not suit your needs.

The Webasto is complete and what you could use.

The Product Search on the web site for “sun roof” will result in all of them!

Chuck@Minimania.com

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