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:


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!


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:


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:


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:


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.