MINI towing Mini to New Paltz? Yeah, this’ll work.
Photo by Iain Barker
Mini Meet East 2018
by Iain Barker
Mini Meet East (MME) in New Paltz, N.Y., was my first experience attending a classic car destination event. I’ve participated in a bunch of local car shows and driving cruises, plus one-day events such as the London-to-Brighton Mini Run back in ’92, but I had never gone to a multi-day event.
My first decision: Should I take the classic 1967 Morris Mini Cooper S, or the modern 2015 MINI Cooper S? I briefly considered driving my ’67 Cooper S the 220 miles from Cambridge, Mass., to New Paltz. The routes suggested by Apple Maps were either four hours on the highway, or six hours on back roads. The car is prone to overheating, and with a forecast for 90° plus I didn’t much fancy the chances of arriving with the head gasket intact.
Perhaps I could take both, towing the classic behind the modern? The MINI is not really known for its prowess in hauling loads. Tow hitches are available, but only for Class 1 up to 2,000 lbs. The combined weight of a classic Mini at 1,500 lbs. plus a lightweight trailer at 800 lbs. just wouldn’t work.
My wife had a thought, “You see RVs hauling cars behind them on their long Interstate adventures. Perhaps you could fix something up for the Mini?” Sounds like a project for a rainy weekend and fortunately I could see thunderclouds on the horizon.
So, having spent most of a weekend reading about flat towing and buying an assortment of angled steel bar and grade 8 bolts from Home Depot, I had a plan. This involved drilling out the front subframe bolts of the ’67 Mini and fabricating a parallel towing bar behind the front license plate, to which an RV-style flat towing trapeze from Harbor Freight could be attached. On the MINI end, it was a fairly simple job of removing the rear lights, bumper and crash structure to fit the Class 1 hitch.
The only problem came with hooking up the trailer lights. I bought a set of magnetic lights to fit onto the rear parcel shelf of the Mini, and ran the cable across a clothesline of bungee cords to the rear hatch of the MINI. But when I spliced the control box into the MINI wiring loom, all I got was “reverse light failure” displayed on the dashboard.
Hmm. It turns out MINI in their wisdom used a blue wire with a gray trace for the reverse light, and a gray wire with a blue trace for the brake light. Simple fix when I spotted my error, but really, BMW, couldn’t you have thought that through?
So, we were all set. Off to MME.
The drive was uneventful, other than a constant barrage of honking horns, thumbs up from other drivers and even some cars overtaking then dropping back to take photos! The instructions for the towing A-frame said to check the couplings every 100 miles. I didn’t fancy my chances maneuvering in a car park, so I pulled into the truck stop area of a highway service plaza, much to the amusement and curiosity of the big-rig drivers.
MME is technically a four-day event, Monday evening through Thursday evening. Originally, I planned to drive down on Tuesday. I expected the main event would be the car show on Wednesday, so I had only booked the hotel for three nights. After I decided to tow, traveling the day before seemed more prudent. Unfortunately, the host hotel was fully booked for Monday, but I managed to get a room in a hotel next door, literally just across the parking lot.
Iain’s car, tooling through the idyllic rural countryside of upstate New York.
Photo by Michael DiPleco
On arrival I was immediately impressed by the organization of Brits of The Hudson, the host club. They arranged everything perfectly for a speedy registration. There was a raffle for Mini- and classic car-themed prizes, so I entered a strip of tickets.
I spent the next few hours walking around the parking lot of the hotel, looking at the assembled Minis and MINIs, and chatting with a few of the owners. This turned out to be a mini car show all by itself! Then it was time for the first organized event, the Sunset Tour across local back roads, ending at an ice cream farm stand. The drive was well organized, with everyone assembling at the hotel to travel in a convoy. Even so, I managed to make a wrong turn (actually, following another Mini who went wrong!), but fortunately, my car being a Mini, turning around in the width of a narrow country road was no problem.
Now, truth be told, I had not put many miles on my Mini since rebuilding and fitting the original engine earlier in the year. I’d driven the 100 miles each way to British by the Sea and knew there was a small issue with oil smoke and a more serious overheating issue. Aside from that trip, the car was largely untested. So, the 40-mile-or-so Sunset Tour was a baptism by fire, but the Mini coped with it amicably. And more importantly, I had a great time. We even got to watch parachutists from a nearby municipal airfield skydiving across the sunset.
Tuesday was the first full day of the meet. A driving rallye had been organized, but I elected not to risk my luck and instead drove straight to the second event, the panoramic photo. After a well-organized barbecue (including vegetarian bacon sandwiches for us veggies) and more socializing with owners (during which I learned who the mysterious Hrach was — thanks, Barb), it was time to go to the field for the photo.
It was a scorching hot day and standing on the field for several hours was not particularly comfortable. Eventually the photo was taken and we all retired to the hotel. But, not for long, because there was an evening organized drive. The weather had broken and thunderstorms were brewing. So, I decided to take advantage of being a two-Mini attendee, and used my modern MINI for the drive in the rain to the famous Walkway over the Hudson, a disused railway trestle bridge set in beautiful scenery. Almost immediately I regretted that decision, as the classic Mini drivers were having much more fun.
Back at the hotel, people gathered around a parking lot full of Minis into the late hours, drinking beers from the nearby gas station and chatting about classic car stuff.
What are they doing? Why, the Funkhana, of course!
Photo by Iain Barker
Wednesday was car show day. The show was well categorized, with a specific class for “external hinge” Mk1 and Mk2 Minis, which included mine. There was strong competition from an immaculate yellow Speedwell Mini and a replica of LBL6D, the famous Monte Carlo-winning Works Mini. I had a good day looking around the other classes, in particular the Brits of the Hudson line-up of classic non-Minis. There was also a small swap meet, including a rare Innocenti heater being offered for sale. With rather amazing serendipity, an Italian Innocenti 1300 Mini owner attending the show needed just such a heater!
I met a couple of folks over from the UK whose names were familiar from the on-line Mini forums. UK Mini expert Nick Rogers cast his eye over my car and the only fault he called me out on was the horn being mounted upside down (since rectified!).
The next event was the Funkhana. As a Mini Meet virgin, I had no idea what this was and didn’t enter — just as well, since it needed at least three people in the car to do successfully. As far as I could tell, the objective was to thrash your prized Mini around a parking lot while the passengers jumped out of the moving car to take part in various tasks. Kind of like an obstacle course for cars. It all looked hilarious, with Mini Mokes having a distinct advantage in the egress/ingress department.
The third evening event was an organized drive to a local ice cream parlor to watch the 4th of July fireworks. This again turned into an impromptu car show with so many Minis descending at once. Of course, we enjoyed showing off our cars to the locals. Afterwards we drove back in the dark. I hadn’t thought about that in advance, and it turned out my headlights do a good job of illuminating 5 or 6 yards in front of the car, with high beam adding at most another 2 yards! We arrived safely back at the hotel and held another parking lot post-event discussion. Some of the show cars had already been packed away in their trailers, but there were still plenty of cars and owners hanging around to chat with.
Thursday, the last day of the Meet, was split into two parts: an autocross at the local university campus, and the award ceremony banquet in the evening. The autocross had drivers race against the clock to navigate a course of cones and professional timing lights. Again, not knowing what to expect (and not being entirely confident in the reliability of my car) I hadn’t entered the autocross. But it was fun just to spectate, eat pizza, and watch the lunatic brigade thrash seven bells out of their engines, Turbo Dave in particular!
The evening banquet had a good turnout. It opened with clips from the Italian Job movie, followed by raffle results and then the awards. On the big screen was a photomontage of the entire event, including a rather stunning photo of my car taken by Michael DiPleco.
The drive home was uneventful, even though it was raining hard. In all, I had a great first time at Mini Meet. Next time I’ll know what to expect, hopefully have a better prepared car and be ready to participate in more of the events. I’d like to thank Lorine and Derick Karabec for organizing such a great event, and the members of Brits of The Hudson for making everyone feel so welcome — in particular, stewarding the evening drives which made them much more enjoyable.
Next year will be “Mini Meet East Meets West” in Colorado.
What a MINI fan sees in Big Bend at LRP.
Photo by Barbara Newman
Lime Rock from a MINI Fan Perspective
by Dave Newman
Barbara and I are big fans of the MINI JCW Team. Last year we traveled to races in Watkins Glen, N.Y., Mosport in Canada, Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn., and Road Atlanta in Georgia to see our favorite team in action. This year, due to attending Mini Meet East, we have only been to Lime Rock in July.
The MINI team has to be the friendliest and most fan-oriented team in IMSA racing. We see more fans hanging around the MINI paddock than at any other team, even the WeatherTech big boys. This year, same as last, MINI USA sponsored a MINI corral area where for a few bucks you had an exclusive parking area just for MINIs, a breakfast and lunch and soft drinks and coffee, paid for by MINI USA — and some of the best hillside seating to watch the race, on the end of the main straight with views of Big Bend and beyond. Big thanks must go to Tonine McGarvie from MINI USA who coordinates the team events. Tonine also held a prize raffle for MINI fans in the paddock. Barbara won a big bag of MINI goodies.
The MINI JCW Team competes in the ST class of IMSA’s Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge. The Lime Rock race was a two-hour event, but there are three other events on the schedule, at Daytona, Watkins Glen, and a newly-added “Encore” race at Sebring, that are four hours in length, testing the MINI race cars to their limit.
The cars in ST (for “Street Tuner”) are basically the same as the MINIs you can drive every day. They are MINI Cooper JCW models, with racing tires, racing brakes and a fuel cell instead of a gas tank for safety. The interior is taken out and a roll cage installed along with fire and safety equipment and a team two-way radio. But the engine and drivetrain is pretty much street-spec with a race exhaust.
The sad news this year is that the ST class is going away for 2019 as IMSA specs change. Where our favorite MINI Team will be competing is up in the air at the time of writing. It may be in the Pirelli World Challenge series with MINI Coopers, or in the TCR (“Touring Car”) class in the IMSA series with a bigger MINI or something different. We shall have to wait until the end of the season to find out. After three years of ST class racing, we have grown very fond of “our” team. MINI fans are like that.
We were sitting in the MINI corral hillside, with our old Motorola police surplus radio programmed to listen to the team radio frequencies, wearing David Clark surplus headsets, and enjoying some fantastic weather for a race. Listening into the communications is fun. Keeping what you may hear confidential is just plain gentlemanly.
MINI JCW Team owner Luis Perocarpi (right) with his most dedicated fan.
Photo by Barbara Newman
We had been keeping our fingers crossed that the plague of broken CV joints (axles) that ended the runs of some of the cars in previous races this year would not happen again.
Before the race, I spoke about this with the team manager, Luis Perocarpi. He explained it was the rubber boots that kept ripping and causing the grease to leave the CV joints, causing them to snap. For some reason it only happened this season, leaving the team scratching their heads. Perhaps it was the stress of racing or the heat build-up from the brakes — or even a mid-year production change by MINI to the rubber boot composition? But for Lime Rock, all three cars had brand new MINI axles installed, and that seemed to do the trick. Thinking about this as a MINI JCW owner, we would almost never experience this failure in a street-driven MINI as it would never be stressed for two or four hours straight at top speeds.
The team had never won at Lime Rock. Last year some difficulties kept them off the podium. But this year was simply grand. After a hard-fought two-hour race, MINI #73, driven by Mike LaMarra and Mat Pombo, took 1st place in ST, and MINI #52, driven by Colin Mullen and Mark Pombo, took 3rd place. MINI #37 came in 4th, driven by Nate Norenberg and Derek Jones.
Luis was thrilled! The bubbly was being sprayed at the Winner’s Circle! The fans surrounding the podium all got to take pictures holding the trophies and with the drivers and team.
Yes, this team is friendly and approachable. They take time to talk with fans in the paddock before the races and during the Grid Walk right before the start and then after the race at the Winner’s Circle. I tend to believe that MINI fans are the best in IMSA, too.
Come to a race, meet the team, have fun! The last race is at Road Atlanta in October. Why not fly down and enjoy yourself? We might do it again this year. And with MINI’s lead in the Manufacturer’s Championship after Lime Rock, they are the favorite to take the series this year at Road Atlanta.
P.S.: A few weeks later at Road America in Wisconsin, the team finished 2nd (#73 car) and 3rd (#37 car).
Russian-built Moskvitch had a close encounter of the bear kind!
Graphic by Kate Lane
Minis and Micros and Bears,
by David Schwartz
NEWTON, Mass., July 6-8 — The Goulds’ 23rd Microcar Classic weekend ran like a well-oiled machine, not to mention a well-oiled driveway, garage floor and street.
Friday afternoon the rain cleared out and we had great weather all weekend. Saturday it was in the low 70s, the perfect temperature for a caravan of 40 microcars and minicars to make the 120-mile round trip drive between Newton and the summit of Mount Wachusett. Sunday at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum (LAAM) was hot and sunny, with a good turnout of cars and the public.
NEMO was out in force, with eight classic Minis and two Mokes on the lawn of the Museum. A couple from Florida trailered their classic Mini to Newton and participated in all the weekend events.
Every year there are surprises, and this was no exception. Dmitry Bykhovsky, general manager of AlphaCars in Boxborough, Mass., brought four Russian cars his shop has for sale, Lada being the only brand I had heard of. My favorite was a 1962 Moskvitch 407. Passengers complimented the comfortable ride and spacious interior. Coincidently, while descending Mount Wachusett, the Moskvitch encountered a black bear. Is it just me or is there something funny about the Russian car encountering the bear?
Other new and unusual cars included a 1935 Austin Seven, a Westfield kit car with a Miata drivetrain, an Autozam AZ-1 gullwing kei car, a nice green-and-white BMW Isetta and a 1947 Crosley sedan. The Autozam was built by Suzuki and sold by Mazda. Now that the model is 25 years old it can legally be imported to the US.
At the summit of Mount Wachusett a community access cable TV crew greeted us. They videoed our arrival and departure and interviewed Jon Chomitz and Charles Gould. On Sunday, a different cable TV crew was on the field at LAAM. Wendy Birchmire, Alex Daly and I were interviewed about our classic Minis.
Queuing up to give rides around the LAAM grounds.
Photo by David Schwartz
NEMO member and first-time attendee 6-year-old Nuala Barker had been asking her father Iain about the microcar event for months, knowing that she would get to ride in the cars rather than just hanging out at the show. Nuala took lots of rides, held several tea parties in the Robbins’ VW camper van, petted many dogs and had her face painted. She invited people to take rides in Iain’s classic Mini and enjoyed riding in the wayback of my ’68 Mini Traveller. It is safe to say that Nuala had a blast.
It was great fun to watch the Austin Seven give rides around the Museum grounds on Sunday. Many NEMO members gave rides in their cars. Bruce Vild responded to a special request for a classic Mini when other members were taking a break to cool down both the cars and drivers.
When awards were handed out for the Mini class, Wendy Birchmire took 1st for her 1990 Mini Domino Pimlico convertible, Bruce Vild’s 1967 Austin Mini 850/1100 received 2nd, and Bob Brownell took 3rd place with his 1963 Austin Mini Cooper S.
In the Minicar class, 2nd place was awarded to Elizabeth (and Michael) Crawford’s 1933 MG J2. Six-month-old Camden Crawford picked up the trophy with his mother and promptly started teething on it.
Many thanks go to the Gould family and all the volunteers that helped with car repairs, food preparation, clean-up, registration and vending. Thanks also to Kate Lane for providing visual proof of the bear sighting. Kate is a Microcar Classic regular and is writing a children’s book inspired by the event.
MINIs regroup outside Fenway.
Photo by Wendy Birchmire
‘The British Are Coming’ MINI Rally
by Wendy Birchmire
BOSTON, Mass., June 30 — Despite the 90° weather forecast, I joined MINIs of Boston on their annual Summer Rally through Boston, Lexington and Concord. If this were a rally for classic Minis (no air conditioning) it would be a different story! A highpoint of the rally was a tour of the US Coast Guard Base in Boston. We had to submit an application for permission to enter the base.
My husband (who hates hot weather) and I arrived at the Base at about 7:45 a.m. and had our IDs checked at the gate. We passed inspection because they let us in and directed us to the wharf where a lot of MINIs were already parked. Owners were doing their usual inspection of other cars and chatting with fellow enthusiasts.
At 8 a.m. the USS Constitution (which is anchored across the water from the Base) fired off one of its cannons. The ceremonial “Morning Colors” (hoisting and lowering of the flags) was then conducted on the Base. The MINI assemblage removed their hats, most of which were emblazoned with MINI logos.
Our tour of the Coast Guard Base began shortly thereafter. The 270-ft. Seneca, a famous class medium endurance cutter, is berthed there. Josh Amato arranged for us to get a guided tour of the vessel. We broke into small groups, had our IDs checked again and boarded the cutter. We viewed the space where Jayhawk helicopters land and then entered the ship. It has air conditioning, which was good news on such a hot day.
Our group of 20 started on the bridge, where the captain, helmsman, quartermaster and lookout work. We learned about the cutter’s twin V18 diesel engines and that the Seneca can travel at 22mph. We descended three steep, narrow stairways down to the officers’ dining room and the mess hall. I had forgotten how claustrophobic I am, but remembered quickly. The thought of 100 people (86 enlisted men and 14 officers) being on the cutter for extended periods of time shocked me. I couldn’t stay on the Seneca for a half hour without having an anxiety attack.
The Seneca’s jobs include homeland security, enforcing fishery laws, enforcing drug laws, search and rescue missions, and alien migration interdiction (illegally entering the country by sea). Though the Seneca was commissioned in 1987, she recently went out on a 70-day, 15,000-mile deployment, combating international drug trafficking and performing migrant interdiction operations. The ship’s crew, along with an armed helicopter crew, intercepted five vessels carrying cocaine from South America bound for the United States. The interdiction of these vessels resulted in the apprehension of 15 suspected narcotics traffickers, and approximately 3.5 tons of cocaine with a street value of nearly 63 million dollars!
We returned to our cars and found it was hot enough to fry an egg on their bonnets! We split into groups of 10 cars and set off through Boston’s North End. Some cars got stuck at red lights while others whizzed through the narrow, winding streets. We motored by Paul Revere’s house, Boston Common and then on to the Fenway Park area and a short stop to regroup.
After a tour of Back Bay (yes, we did a bit of circling around), it was on to the dreaded Storrow Drive. I say “dreaded” because it is difficult for me to follow the group when everyone spreads out into different lanes. No need to worry, we made it to Panera in Cambridge unscathed. A rest stop was certainly appreciated by this time.
After briefly cooling off, we drove on to Lexington to view historic sites along the Battle Road. A photo stop and a quick look at the Old Manse in Concord put us right on time for our lunch reservation.
At 12:15 p.m., 40 hungry MINI owners arrived at the picturesque Colonial Inn in Concord. There we were able to purchase well-needed cold beverages and lunch from a varied menu. At the restaurant we resumed our earlier conversations. All over the dining room, addicted MINI owners discussed their favorite MINI topics. I got pointers on opening the convertible top on my car. Now I know why the car displayed a strange message about the top not being totally open.
Sharing information is an important part of a rally! The drive and camaraderie made venturing out in the heat wave worthwhile.
Phil picks up new-to-him 1380cc engine and parts.
Photo by Phil Darrell & Iain Barker
Advanced Life Support
by Iain Barker & Phil Darrell
The patient is a 46-year-old with breathing difficulties, low energy, and problems retaining bodily fluids. Diagnosis: major organ failure. Prognosis: terminal.
Well, that’s how it started, anyway, with Phil’s purchase of a 1972 Mini 998cc Mk3 Super Deluxe. Even before the deal was done we knew the engine likely had issues with smoke and emissions, as the “for sale” photos showed that a previous owner had disconnected the crankcase breather hose and blocked it with a half inch bolt. What we didn’t realize is that it was also leaking oil from the differential seals, most of which deposited itself onto the garage floor at a friend’s house after a 20-mile drive.
Fortunately, a plan was afoot. Iain had recently removed a good 1380cc A+ engine from his 1967 Cooper S Mk1, so a deal was done to buy the engine and ancillaries and use them to resurrect the 1972 Mk3. (Cue the opening scene from The Six Million Dollar Man, “We have the technology, we can rebuild him,” etc., etc.)
In addition to upgrading the engine, something would need to be done about the brakes. Twin leading shoe drums might have been adequate (barely) for a 998cc engine with 38bhp, but they would never be a safe match for the 90bhp-plus of a 1380 — and besides, these brakes were not exactly in factory prime condition.
The Dunlop D1 alloy wheels were looking rather tired, with big chunks missing in places. They also suffered from an unsympathetic refurbishment courtesy of a rattle can of silver paint. The wheels stuck out much too far from the side of the car, neither safe nor aesthetically pleasing. The tires were good, though, and could be reused on new wheels.
It was time for Phil to get busy with his credit card and start ordering in some parts.
As with all Mini projects, it’s best to have a goal in mind so the project doesn’t drag on interminably. June 2nd was chosen as the completion date, so that the car could be driven to “British by the Sea” in Connecticut on the 3rd. Phil picked up the engine, exhaust, headers, tools, and a box of miscellaneous parts from Iain, and was ready to start work.
Iain immediately went on vacation for two weeks in Europe trying to forget that he’d talked himself into fixing up yet another Mini (unsuccessfully, as it turns out). While in the UK he picked up a few of the harder-to-find components and brought them back as hand baggage.
It was early May, and with parts ordered from the usual UK motor factors, it was Phil’s turn to do the vanishing act for a week in Chicago. By mid-May we had a looming deadline, a large pile of parts, and a long, long way to go.
Phil stripped the drum hubs, exhaust and most of the ancillaries off the car during weekday evenings, and on weekends Iain drove the 100 miles or so to help with reassembly. First thing was to pull the old engine and separate it from the remote gearbox. The gearbox was in good condition and could be resealed and reused. As with most US Minis of that era, the gearbox had been previously replaced with one from an ADO16 Austin America, a very robust unit more than up to the challenge of a 1380.
However, before the gearbox could be installed, it had to be cleaned. It was caked in engine oil and accumulated road grit, literally up to half an inch thick in places. With no access to a parts washer or even running water, we scrubbed off the mess by hand using rags and wire brushes. It was a very, very long couple of hours, making for quite blistered hands.
Finally, the gearbox was ready to mate with the replacement engine. Being a race-build MED engine, the 1380 had been drilled and tapped for 5/16” crankcase bolts rather than the standard 1/4”. An attack with an electric hand drill quickly solved that problem by re-drilling the holes in the alloy gearbox casting — there was no going back now!
Iain installs the rebuilt carburetors.
Photo by Phil Darrell
The primary oil seal, differential oil seals and all gaskets were replaced with new premium items from Mini Spares. We used Permatex aviation form-a-gasket to ensure a good seal on the gaskets, then proceeded with final assembly of the power unit and reinstallation into the car.
A long 10 hours after starting, it was very late in the evening and we were tired. A misaligned oil filter dumped a pint of Miller’s best Mini 20/50 on the garage floor. When everything was finally ready, a flat battery prevented starting the car that night. Still, we had accomplished a lot, so the next visit should be plain sailing.
Phil got the tires swapped to the new wheels (a nice shiny set of Minilites) and prepared the car for installing disc brakes. The new wheels and brakes are Cooper S-spec (10 x 4.5” deep offset wheels on 7.5” discs) so they fit properly within the bodylines of the car, a very nice upgrade. The exhaust, a Pico straight-through double-chrome center box, was also fitted. We changed the rear brake hydraulic cylinders to the smaller bore used on the Cooper S so the car would retain correct front to rear balance. Oh, and a new battery.
By now it was Memorial Day weekend, just one week before the BBTS deadline. This was the last chance to get the car on the road. Phil focused on the exhaust and rear suspension while Iain worked up front on the discs.
What should have been a simple swap soon became complicated, as the CV joints would not separate from the drive shafts. After some thought, we removed them with extreme prejudice, using an angle grinder to cut the balls out of the CV. The problem was the internal circlip had jumped out of its groove and jammed on the inner race, a simple fix (of course, both sides had the same fault).
Finally, the car was down on all four wheels and ready to be started. After torquing the head, setting the valve clearances and double-checking the ignition timing, it was “go time.” The twin SU HS2 carbs that Iain had refurbished (see May article) were deliberately set to run rich for start-up, and amazingly the engine fired up and idled on first turn of the key. Success!
A quick run down the road confirmed we had very little in the way of brakes, and the front wheel alignment was very toe-out, but at least the car was moving under its own power. In fact, the toe-out was so severe that Phil decided to utilize his AAA Plus towing privileges and had the Mini flat-bedded to his local mechanic, who upon seeing the situation had no choice but to put off all his waiting customers and get the car on the lift pronto. He freed up the stubborn tie rods and got the alignment set. There was even time for an additional brake bleed.
Now all that remained was to balance the carbs dynamically, set the mixture, and head off to British by the Sea. Not necessarily in that order.
Field repair at British by the Sea.
Photo by Phil Darrell
Epilogue: Phil’s car stalled out at a gas station on the way to BBTS due to running over-rich and flooding. Fortunately, he was able to get it restarted and made it to the show.
We balanced the carbs right there on the show field. Phil disconnected the carb linkages, and I used a piece of spare fuel hose as a listening tube to get the airflow at an even hiss by ear, referring to the diagram in my original 1967 Mini Cooper Driver’s Handbook! Then we warmed it up and set the fuel mixture on both carbs, again by ear, using the SU lifter pin to tickle the carb pistons up and listen for the change in revs. Phil then locked the linkages and reassembled the air cleaners.
Dave Black suggested using the plug insulator color to confirm the settings. Phil sent me a photo of the spark plugs last week after a hot run, and it was a nice brown/beige color just like the photo in the Haynes manual, so we must have got it fairly close. Not bad without any proper measuring equipment!
The thermostat housing on the classic Mini.
Photo by Iain Barker
Regular Engine Maintenance:
Mini vs. MINI
by Iain Barker
I normally write articles about the trials and tribulations of restoring and maintaining my classic 1967 Morris Mini Cooper S 1275. But I am also the owner of a 2009 MINI John Cooper Works R56 as my daily driver. What follows is a bit of a “compare and contrast” for some common maintenance tasks on both models.
Other than the vastly increased complexity required for modern computerized engine management, the most obvious difference between servicing these two cars is the recommended service intervals. As always, the mantra to follow is air, oil and water.
Replacing the engine air filter on both eras of car is trivial. Unscrew the top of the air box (one or two wing nuts on the classic, three Torx screws on the modern) and replace the paper element (or re-oil if using K&N). Change the filter about once a year for normal highway use in New England, or every 3 or 6 months if you live in the desert or go rallying on the back roads. Elapsed time, 5 minutes.
The classic Mini uses the same oil for its engine and gearbox, and the Morris 1967 handbook recommends a conventional oil change every 3,000 miles/3 months, or 6,000/6 if using multi-grade. In practice I suspect most of the 5.3 million classic Minis built only got an annual service, at best.
BMW recommends 12,000 miles/12 months as the oil service interval, but the onboard computer on my Gen2 MINI seems to recommend service every 15,000. That is far too long, in my opinion generally I change the oil every 6,000/6 months, which is reasonable for a turbo engine.
So in reality, despite over 40 years of progress, nothing has really changed. You service the oil regularly to avoid engine problems. Of course, actually performing that service is a little different.
On the classic Mini, unscrew the gearbox drain plug and remove one bolt to drop the Purolator oil filter (or spin it off using a pipe wrench if your Mini is Mk3 or later). Replace the filter/element, wipe off the accumulated metal shavings from the magnetic drain plug (and worry briefly about where they might have come from), then refit the plug and refill with oil. It’s an easy 10-minute job.
On the MINI, draining the engine oil is just as straightforward, although the gearbox oil is “lifetime transmission fluid” per the BMW sticker (whose lifetime, mine or the car’s?) I suggest replacing it every few years. For a bi-annual service, only the engine oil and filter need to be changed. The oil filter on the MINI is a little harder to access than on the Mini, since it is tucked away underneath the turbo. Unbolt the cooling radiator expansion tank and move it to one side to gain access to the oil filter. In all, about 15 to 20 minutes for drain and refill.
The other regular maintenance task on any car is to flush and replace the coolant and replace the thermostat. Generally I do that once per year when bringing the classic Mini out of winter hibernation, although every couple of years is probably sufficient on the MINI, as alloy generally corrodes less than cast iron.
On both eras of car, draining and flushing the coolant is the same. Place a large kiddie paddling pool under the front of the car and drain the old coolant. On the MINI it is easiest to disconnect the joint in the bottom radiator hose. On the Mini, unscrew the radiator copper drain plug if your car is lucky enough to have one, or remove the left road wheel to gain access, and then disconnect the lower radiator hose via the cutout in the inner wing. There is probably an official pressurization tool for the job, but I just flush the system with a garden hose to wash out the corroded detritus (make sure the heater tap is open on the Mini), then refit the hose/plug and refill with new coolant via the radiator cap.
On the MINI you also need to bleed air out of the screw on top of the thermostat housing. On the Mini you can do the same by loosening the heater tap hose. Both cars take about the same time, 15 minutes or so.
‘Jarvik’-style thermostat housing on the R56 MINI.
Photo by Iain Barker
What is definitely a very different task is replacing the thermostat. On a classic Mini the thermostat is located at the top front corner of the cylinder head and is retained by three studs (most A/A+ engines) or bolts (late A+ engines without a bypass hose). It has one inlet (from the head) and one clamped outlet hose (to the radiator). Ideally, the hoses should be replaced at the same time as the thermostat. Generally, the hardest part of the job is getting the alloy thermostat housing off the steel studs, due to the dissimilar metals corroding electrolytically over time. Total time to replace is around 10 to 15 minutes.
For the MINI, the thermostat isn’t listed as a service item in the handbook, but they all seem to start leaking after a few years. I found I had to change mine when doing the most recent service.
An R56 MINI thermostat has no less than seven hoses connected to it. Others have compared it to the Jarvik artificial heart. It certainly looks that complicated (see photo). To make matters worse, it is buried in the engine bay on the side of the block, and several layers need to be removed before it can be unbolted.
First, drain the coolant and remove the expansion tank for access. Next, remove the cold intake tubing and the air box, the turbo air pipes, and the noisemaker from the bulkhead. Finally, disconnect about a dozen engine management electrical connections and lift the ECU loom away from the engine.
Now the seven hoses can be unclamped and the thermostat unbolted. As with the classic Mini it is retained by three bolts, but this time the thermostat housing is made of plastic so there are no bi-metal corrosion issues to be concerned about. Of course, using plastic in such a hot environment could be why it degraded and leaked in the first place. Just sayin’.
At this point you will feel some measure of confidence that the whole endeavor will be successful. Unfortunately, that feeling is likely premature. Inspecting the removed part, you will most likely find evidence of leaks around the O-ring seal of the water pump to thermostat transfer pipe, again made of plastic and prone to degradation.
Unless you have arms like Stretch Armstrong, you will need to remove the inlet manifold and throttle valve assembly for access to the water pump coolant transfer pipe. The passenger side road wheel will need to be removed for access to the lower manifold bolt via the cutout in the inner wing. I guess some things never change.
With the transfer pipe and thermostat replaced, refitting is, for once, the exact reverse of removal. Elapsed time is around 2 hours for disassembly. After refilling and bleeding air from the new housing, allow another 1 to 2 hours for reassembly, depending whether you changed the transfer pipe.
In this case, 40-plus years doesn’t seem so much like progress. But despite what many people say, home servicing is still possible on modern cars — it just takes longer than it used to.
Enjoying MetroFest 2016. This year’s event is on Saturday, June 16.
Photo by David Schwartz
by Ken Lemoine
Join us for the MetroFest Arts, Music & Food Truck Festival on Saturday, June 16th, at Bowditch Field in Framingham, Mass. That’s right, it’s a food truck festival with 20 trucks from across New England, plus 130 vendor booths, a climbing wall, a beer, wine and hard cider tasting tent, an electric bike test track, and “Kids Town” with fire trucks, DPW vehicles, a pair of ambulances and a SWAT truck to climb through. And, of course, there will be classic cars from NEMO members and friends.
Admission is free, and it runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Bowditch Field is at 475 Union Ave., Framingham, and the link to the event is www.metrowestvisitors.org/explore/MetroFest.cfm.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (508) 259-6314 about including your classic car at MetroFest. There is space for 20-plus cars this year and participation, as mentioned, is free. Plan to arrive at Bowditch Field around 10 a.m. We will enter the field through the iron gates right at 475 Union Ave. There will be a guide to get you settled in. The event runs until 4 p.m. but if you need to leave earlier they understand and exit access is very simple.
MINI JCW #73 charging hard at Mid-Ohio.
Photo by Jake Galstad, LAT Images, courtesy IMSA
MINI 1, 2 at Mid-Ohio
by Dave Newman
The MINI JCW Team finished 1st and 2nd in their class on what was otherwise a lackluster day for British cars in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race at Mid-Ohio, “the Mid-Ohio 120.”
The two-hour endurance race included cars from the GS (Grand Sport) and new TCR classes along with the ST (Street Tuner) class, where the MINIs were competing against a Porsche and a BMW.
The Mid-Ohio track is 2.4 miles long with 16 turns and many elevation changes and blind corners, perfect for a MINI. It was the first time the team had raced at Mid-Ohio, as the last time IMSA was here was in 2013.
The recently married Nate Norenburg qualified 1st in class in the #37 MINI JCW. At the start of the race, he initially fell back but fought his way to the front before the driver change, with Derek Jones taking over.
The MINI JCW Team has technicians from different local MINI dealers helping out at races as part of MINI USA’s Service Tech Education Program (commonly referred to as STEP). This race had four techs from Cincinnati MINI and one from way down south, Tom Bush MINI in Jacksonville, Fla.
The STEP techs noticed that the #37 MINI JCW had a torn CV boot. They could not fix this and still be competitive, so while Derek was sent back out onto the track, they probably were not surprised when the CV joint (axle assembly) broke with about 30 minutes left in the race. Derek was forced to retire.
This left the race up to the #52 MINI JCW, first driven by Colin Mullan. At mid-point Colin handed the car off to Mark Pombo, who would run a close, bumper-to-bumper race in 1st or 2nd for the last hour with the team’s third car, the #73 MINI JCW.
Number 73 started with driver Mike LaMarra, who swapped positions back and forth with the #52 car, eventually passing his MINI to Mat Pombo (keep your Pombos straight here!). Mat led the race with his brother Mark in the #52 on his tail for some fantastic racing in the last half hour.
The television announcers clearly love the MINI team and the competition between 1st and 2nd was tight. Mat in #73 MINI crossed the finish line inches in front of Mark, bringing home the victory.
Luis Perocarpi, who campaigns the three MINI JCW cars for MINI USA, runs a tight and focused team. Except for the CV joint problem on #37, they had the perfect race. For those of you with a MINI: have you checked your CV joint rubber seals lately?