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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!

That’s a question that most car buyers don’t ask after the fact… unless you just bought a Classic Mini in the United States!  Just about any other classic car, you pretty much know exactly what you got into.  This happens so often, and usually comes as a surprise for a new owner of a classic Mini to find that their pride and joy is not at all what they thought.  I wrote the following explanation to the question posed by a member on the Mini Mania forum:

You really must be careful on a public forum, and if you really did buy the car, not to be too specific…. that’s why some answers seem to beat around the bush.

Hypothetically speaking… Most Minis look the about the same for 42 years of production. At least to the average person. When an oppressive set of government rules exists to keep people from easily having the classic mini they want, there is great incentive to make cars seem OLDER so they can slip under customs import rules.  It is rumored that some people in countries where the cars are plentiful and unloved will replace the VIN plate with one from an older car, so that the “old” car can be taken to and sold in America, where there are lots of willing buyers.  It gets in because the particular customs inspector is NOT a Mini expert, and can’t tell that the car and it’s paperwork did not start out in life together.  It is even rumored that certain unscrupulous AMERICANS and/or CANADIANS have taken part in this practice over the decades, contributing to my opinion that more than half the Classic Minis in the US are such “revins”.

Think about it…. changing the car’s identifying serial numbers is what car thieves might do so that the stolen car is not “found” right away when the “new owner” goes to register it.  Our government then has strong incentive to DISCOURAGE the willy-nilly changing of Vehicle Identification Numbers, to the extent that a suspected stolen or ‘altered’ car can be confiscated and crushed as a way to protect public safety from these evil little cars.  If you don’t want to be the unfortunate owner made an example of in this way, you will not draw undue attention to the possible fact of you car’s identity crisis!!

Our only dog in this fight is to be able to provide you the right parts!  You will NOT be happy if you get all the WRONG parts for your “73”. Furthermore,  you will think that WE are idiots for doing so!   We are supposed to be the experts…. why did we send you all the wrong parts?  In MOST cases, it is because you unknowingly have the wrong CAR!

You can see the whole thread for this topic if you like… the original question and all the comments:

http://www.minimania.com/msgThread/118852/1/1/What_car_did_I_just_buy

Just look at this exceptionally clear and concise answer to a question posed by a member of our Classic Mini community on the Mini Mania Forum.   I have long thought that our forum is an exceptional resource to get a quick answer to just about all things Mini at just about any time you need it.  Members are some of the top experts anywhere in the world…. one in particular is the gentleman who answered this question about fuel gauges and sending units:

“Does anybody know the correct resistance range for an after-market fuel level gauge?  This would be installed in a ’65 Mini Saloon with the factory (AHU1029) sending unit in the factory gas tank  Several people told me that it was the same as the early GM cars — 0-90 ohms — but when I bought and installed one of those gauges, it reads Full with just 2 gallons of fuel in the tank. So that, obviously, isn’t the correct resistance range.  OR, my sending unit is frobbed!”

The answer provided by member “dklawson” (who incidentally has written several articles for us dealing with electrical issues… when he writes,  I READ!)  gives all the useful info to make the choice you want:

“Minis before late 1964 had the 0-90 Ohm (empty to full) range that you mentioned.  That is comprable to some GM guage systems.

From 1965 on the classic Mini had a sending unit with a resistance range of about 270 Ohms = Empty to about 30 Ohms = full.  These are nominal values.  If you measure a Smiths sending unit it probably won’t match these values exactly.

To use an aftermarket gauge with the bayonet mount sending unit you will need a sender meeting the industry standard range of 240 Ohms = empty to 33 Ohms = full.  Your gauge will show empty a bit sooner than true empty but consider that a safety bonus to prevent you from running out of fuel.

Alternatively you can order the fuel gauge wizard from Spiyda Design in the U.K.  It will allow you to match almost any gauge with almost any sender.

Spiyda Design Link

Fuel Gauge Wizard Link

If you use an aftermarket (non-Smiths) fuel gauge you are not likely to need the voltage stabilizer.  Most modern aftermarket gauges have their own voltage stabilizer built inside.”

Here is the whole thread with comments about this topic:

http://www.minimania.com/msgThread/118851/1/1/Fuel_level_gauge_resistance

You will likely see many comments and posts by me (with my real name “Jemal” as my user name).  I try to answer questions and maybe provide a little humor and fun and keep the conversation going.   Forums like ours are very uncommon!  Besides the invaluable and timely answers to questions to help with your project,  where else in the world can I say I have so many friends I’ve never met?  You are welcome to join me here by posting a question or comment, or on the forum if you want to make yourself a user account by going here.

Most days, I talk to people ordering parts that seem mismatched for a particular Mini. Our expertise with these cars enables us to notice when something like that jumps out at us, and often we are able to make a correction that can save the customer a great deal of time and money.
Today I had a gentleman ordering parts for his brother’s Mini in South America.  I noticed it was a rod-change 998 from the engine bearings and shift stub-shaft seal kit. So when the order included the larger Hardy-Spicer axle seals, and the very expensive Pin-drive Cooper S oil pump, I contacted the customer to get the real scoop. I was able to correct the order BEFORE it got shipped to Peru, saving the customer hundreds of dollars, and weeks of delay that would have resulted from getting a few wrong parts!
So many mistakes can be avoided by doing a little homework to properly identify your car, and thus be able to specify the right parts. Our own Chuck Heleker has written one of the most definitive articles for identifying a classic Mini…. Don’t let the level of detail intimidate you, simply scroll through to the sections that make sense to you! This information should enable you to identify just about ANY Classic Mini, and certainly enough to be able to order the RIGHT parts:

http://www.minimania.com/Mini_Identification

I have written a much simpler article that lets you identify which transmission and shift-linkage style you Mini has, which in turn, tells us the era your Mini, or at least it’s running gear came from. This lets us identify the major mechanical parts you need to be able to take care of most maintenance and repairs:

http://www.minimania.com/How_do_I_know_which_transmission_my_Mini_has

I know so much has been written over the years about this topic…. just look at the previous posts here! Still, not a week goes by that I don’t help a new owner figure out what they have, to give them the best chance of ordering the right parts! We want you to feel good about your Mini, and trust us to help you take care of it.

Well, we have not updated this blog in a few years, so I thought I would jump in and see if I can make it useful by talking about a variety of relevant and current topics… Perhaps more detail about a hot topic from our forum, or it may turn into a conversation, a way to ask me specific technical questions that I can go into detail about, and make the answers ‘findable’ so if you don’t need ’em now, you can search for the answers when you do!

Speaking of searching for answers, we have a vast collection of technical articles that are easy to search…. You’ll notice a drop arrow to the left of the “search box” at the top of virtually all pages on our website…. simply click that arrow and select “Articles”, then type a few words in the search box to describe what you’re looking for… you might say something like “Brake upgrade” or “coil spring conversion”. when you click “Go” or just hit ‘Enter’ on your keyboard, any articles relevant to your search should be displayed. You can also go right above the search box and ‘hover’ over “Articles” and select from the drop menu what you want to see! Here is what the main “Articles” page looks like:

http://www.minimania.com/article_list.cfm

So try it!  Feel free to comment or ask me a question.  What would you like to see?

Dealing with Rust.  

  

Rust and Minis have a great affinity for each other. Sooner or later all owners of non-restored old Minis will have to tackle this problem. This article covers rust detection, prevention and repair.  When checking a Mini over before purchasing it is important to check carefully for rust.  The diagram below shows the typical areas that rust on a Mini. (Continue Reading…)

For one week only, we’ve put all panels on sale!

Hurry, sale ends Friday, January 25th, 2013.  If you happen to run across this article after the sale date then don’t fret!  Use promo code RUST10 and get 10% off Classic Mini Panels.  This discount does not apply to special order items or items already on sale.

                    

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Minis in the House

Contributor: Alan Rigby

The walk downstairs at the Rigby household steadily reveals the effect Alec Issigonis has had on our family.  The toy cars and posters adorning the upper level could be mistaken for poor attempts at quirky decoration, but then the steps reveal the oil-slicked iceberg hiding beneath that innocuous tip.  As you cross the threshold into the basement proper, you see the first parts, interior trim taken from less fortunate minis than those that fill the garage.  There’s the Tweety-Bird monogrammed seats that sit slightly crookedly on the concrete floor, testament to the amazing survival of a couple involved in a high speed head-on crash in a fiberglass Domino Mini-based kit. Laid against the wall behind them are the outer skins of a pair of van rear doors, the last remaining metal of another mini sacrificed to the all-devouring god Oxidus.  Engines sit idly awaiting rebuilds, each one a planned engineering masterpiece, just paused while free time and money are slowly accumulated.  Mechanical mementos of misfortune abound, but all are good fortune here, with the promise of renewed life in a future project.  A short distance away resides the garage, home to three slightly healthier minis.

Kabluey, the 1966 Traveller from New Zealand, that has lived up to his title (and unfortunately his name as well), taking us   on trips from mountain to river valley, from Kentucky’s blue grass to Florida’s sandy highways.  He always starts on these journeys, and sometimes even finishes them without the aid of a tow truck.  K even took us from single to married, backing down the aisle to deliver us to a united life.

TB, the 1984 Mini 1000, with his boy-racer faux carbon trim and coffee-can exhaust tip shows the less mature side of the mini game.  Officially her car, he remains oddly free of the power windows, air-conditioning and automatic gearbox she thought she couldn’t live without in the days before minis.

The newest resident of any place usually winds up giving some things up to fit in, and this is definitely true of Lil’ Neck, the New Zealand ute conversion of a 1974 sedan.  Hopefully his giving nature will be fixed soon, before all his working parts wind up shared between K and TB.

Beyond the boundaries of civilized garage life, in the unredeemed wasteland known colloquially as “the backyard,” rest two more potential supercars; Shelley, the 60’s bodyshell not quite solid enough to be made in to a Grassroots Motorsports 2009 challenge car, and her newest partner, Sheldon, another early shell with less metal remaining than he had when he starting along Longbridge’s assembly line.

Mini Cooper Forum

Here in our house is a place where minis are far more than simply conveyances, as in their cheeky external seams lie the past, present, and many of the future hopes and plans of our family.  Don’t call them funny little cars, those are our kids you’re talking about!

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