May 2020

[1-May_20_Block_Before.jpg] The block before cleaning.
Photos by Iain Barker

Social Distancing, Workshop-style
by Iain Barker

The engine in my 1967 Mini Cooper S is worn out. I threw it together quickly a couple of years ago with what I thought were ‘good enough’ tolerances. The cylinders were overbored by 20 thousandths of an inch (+20 thou) and measured wear at around 3 thou, so I just de-glazed them with a honing stone and re-ringed the original pistons. In retrospect, that was a mistake. I really should have had the block rebored while it was stripped down. Sure, the engine ran and the initial compression was good. However, cylinder bore ovaling soon caused excessive oil consumption, producing an embarrassing amount of blue smoke while driving.

I didn’t want to lose a driving season while I stripped and rebuilt the original engine over the summer, and my rented storage lock-up has no electricity nor any heat, so working over the winter is not viable, either. I decided the best option was to try and build up a spare S block in my basement slow-time, so that when completed it would be ready to drop into the car along with my recently rebuilt gearbox. This would minimize the time my car would be out of commission.

Due to the COVID-19 mandatory lockdown in Massachusetts, I now have rather more time on my hands than expected. So, I guess there’s nothing for it but to start a new build.

My goal is to build up a complete 1966/67 specification short engine (everything below the head gasket) for an Mk1 Mini Cooper 1275 S, using all new old stock (NOS) or original manufacturer/reproduction parts. Not an easy task, considering that engine specification had a unique cylinder block and was only in production from 1964 to 1967. So spare parts are not available off the shelf.

Part 1 — Internal engineering

An early break enabled me to source a thin-flange S block in good condition from Seven Enterprises (7ent), the exact same AEG312 type as the original in my car. Apparently, it came from Doug Peterson, Mike Kearney’s racing partner from the Fortech Mini days. It was machined +0.030” oversize, and then put aside as a spare for the racecar. Fortunately, it was stored indoors for 30 years and retains the original main caps. It appears that it was also lightly skimmed to increase compression.

The block had just a little surface rust, but needed a good clean-up and camshaft bearings fitted before it could be used. A good scrubbing with a brass wire brush was followed by soaking in a gallon of CLR (Calcium/Limescale/Rust) dissolving solution. I also removed the rusted freeze/core plugs and all the brass screw plugs on the oil/water ways for access.

Then I used a gun/rifle barrel cleaning kit to pull helical wire brushes through all the drillings to clean out the rust and muck. It was pretty filthy, but there was no significant rust penetration. The water jacket only had some loose rust flakes behind the core plugs, which were easily dislodged and flushed out.

May 2020

[2-May_20_Camshaft.jpg] The new camshaft.

With the block now in usable condition, it was time to hunt for the rest of the Cooper S-specific parts. Since we aren’t actually living in 1967, ordering from BMC isn’t an option. So, I hit up the main USA and UK Mini parts vendors, plus eBay and the Mk1 Mini Forum for the harder to locate items.

My shopping list:

Crankshaft — A good EN40B S crank, courtesy of Nick at min-e-bitz UK.

Connecting rods — A used set of original S-type AEG521 con-rods off eBay.

Camshaft and followers — Sourced from Mini Spares UK.

New bearings (cam/main/big end/thrusts) — Sourced from 7ent and Mini Mania.

Front plate — Sourced from eBay UK (surprisingly hard to find Stateside).

Tinware — Sourced from eBay NOS and 7ent used parts.

Duplex timing gear — From Mini Spares UK.

I already had a set of +30 “County Brand” pistons (an AE Hepolite clone) on the shelf, in preparation for a rebore for my original engine. Gudgeon/wrist pins attach pistons and con-rods using an interference fit, also known as a press fit. The tricky part would be fitting the new pistons to the used con-rods without having access to a hydraulic press.

A technique I’ve used before is to put the new pins in the freezer overnight in a sealed bag with some uncooked white rice. The cold makes the pins thermally contract and the rice absorbs any water vapor from inside the bag. Then, I use progressively shorter bolts to wind the pins through the piston from one side, into an over-sized impact wrench socket used as a die on the other side.

For the camshaft, I really wanted to stick with the same AEG510 profile that I used in the previous engine. But Mini Sport has stopped selling their ST510/CA1 reground camshafts, so instead I went for the Mini Spares “Evolution 1” camshaft, which has a reputation as being drivable with good torque.

With the block cosmetically clean, it was time to refurbish its internals. I’ve never installed cam bearings before. It is always good to learn a new skill and the tools are available cheap on Amazon.

I bought a set of NOS bearings from eBay and tried installing them. After fitting the cam bearings, I found out the hard way that the original BMC parts require reaming to the finished bearing clearance size after installation. Lesson learned, I drifted them out again and fitted a set of modern repro bearings that I had also purchased for my previous engine build.

The crank was already ground 10/10 and just needed the journals to be lightly polished with 2000-grit emery paper to clean up some small rust marks from years of storage, plus new -10 bearing shells. Likewise, the bores needed minor surface rust removed with a light hone in an electric drill. Then the new pistons and rings could be installed — which, without the use of a ring compressor, takes more time (and fingernails) than one might expect.

The last job for fitting the camshaft was to plug two of the three-hole oil pump threads with 1/4” grub screws and blue Loctite. Then, drill and tap a second mounting hole to fit the more modern ‘A+’ two-bolt oil pump.

May 2020

[3-May_20_Pistons_Camshaft_Installed.jpg] All coming together with pistons and camshaft installed.

I dropped the crankshaft into place, taking care that the thrust bearings were within tolerance. There’s an easy way to do this without specialist measuring tools. Put the main shells in the block, and put two +3 thou thrust bearings in place on the center main. Then, try to fit the crank. If it won’t slide in, or feels like it’s tight or binding, change to standard thrust bearings.

(Which is what I did this time.)

I installed the distributor drive and was done with the internal assembly. Time for a lick of MOWOG green paint while waiting for the second batch of parts to arrive from Mini Spares in the UK.

[To be continued…]

May 2020

[4-May_20_Coffee_Table.jpg] Cars & Coffee table!
Photos by David Schwartz

Getting Creative with Virtual Car Events
by David Schwartz

With the cancellation of many 2020 car events, clubs and museums have been holding virtual events on-line. Facebook is a common platform, so it may be time for those of you who have resisted social networking to create an account. According to one poll, Facebook reaches 70% of all U.S. adults.

In late March, Connecticut-based Nutmeg MINIacs held a Facebook on-line car show with separate categories for modern MINIs and classic Minis. Members of the group posted car photos, and the judging was based on the number of “likes” each car received. I posted a photo of my ’68 Mini Traveller wearing a clown car costume (red nose on the grille and googly eyes on the windshield) and tied for 1st place.

Larz Anderson, Brookline, Mass.

On April 18th, the Larz Anderson Auto Museum (LAAM) held a Virtual Cars & Coffee on their Facebook page. Participants posted a photo and description of their cars to the event page. They were encouraged to include all relevant details, including why the car was important to them. There was a “People’s Choice” category where winners were chosen by the most photo likes. A winner was also chosen by the staff for a “Museum’s Choice” award.

In-person Cars & Coffee had been scheduled monthly, May through October, so I expect there will be more virtual events. Simply like the museum’s Facebook page,, to receive notifications of future events.

Lane Motor Museum, Nashville, Tenn.

The Lane Motor Museum in Nashville has an active Facebook presence. They have been posting photos of many unique cars in their collection, including driving videos. They held a Facebook March Motor Madness event, with a format similar to a sporting event bracket. The public voted for their favorite car in each round. The Dymaxion placed 1st, with the Zundapp Janus in 2nd.

Enjoy a virtual visit on the Lane’s website ( and daily fun on their Facebook page (

May 2020

[5-May_20_Clown_Car.jpg] David’s ‘Clown Car’ Mini Traveller was a virtual winner, and yours can be, too!

And more...

Numerous car club Facebook pages have requested members to post photos of their cars parked in the driveway or garage. Some people have held miniature car shows using their collection of diecast vehicles. Getting creative is a great way to maintain our sanity in quarantine.

I will create new photo albums on the NEMO Facebook page (
) for modern and classic 1:1 scale cars, and for diecast vehicle cars shows. I know members have large collections of miniature Minis.

How about holding a virtual Mini Meet East with photos of our full-sized and toy cars? Here are a few other ideas to get you started: share videos of past real events arrange a diecast Cars & Coffee scene share slot car racing videos post a photo of you in costume from the year your car was built create a miniature drive-in movie scene hold a Concours de Matchbox stage a miniature funkhana.

If you don’t want to post photos or videos to Facebook, you can share them with the NEMO Google Group. Send an e-mail to and ask to join the group. You can also e-mail me at and I will post on your behalf.

April 2020

[1-Apr_20_Bagged_Comfort_Animals.jpg] Quite a haul at the MINI dealership!
Photo by Wendy Birchmire

MINI ‘Comfort Animal’ Drive
by Wendy Birchmire

WARWICK, R.I., Dec. 8 — The 17th annual “MINIs Making a Difference” toy rally solicited donations of new stuffed animals for use as “comfort animals” by area police departments.

Comfort animals are stuffed animals given to children during a stressful situation in which they encounter law enforcement. Comfort animals, packaged in clear bags, are stored in a police car until needed.

As MINI owners arrived at MINI of Warwick, they were handed clear plastic bags in which to place their donations. Each bag had a tag that read, “Donation compliments of MINIs Making a Difference.” The event collected 1,055 stuffed animals.

Police officers from departments in Cranston, Coventry, East Providence, Johnston, Middletown, Narragansett, North Providence, Pawtucket, Providence, Warwick and Westerly arrived to collect them. Fortunately most had SUVs (Warwick also had a motorcycle) because the animals filled each vehicle.

This was a great way to start the holiday season. MINI of Warwick was generous in opening their showroom early on a Sunday, providing helpers, and furnishing donuts and coffee.

April 2020

[2-Apr_20_LED_Bulb.jpg] Heart of the matter: an LED bulb.
Photo courtesy

Banishing the Prince of Darkness
by Iain Barker

I don’t know whether it is due to the effects of climate change, but last year it seemed like we were treated to a much longer than usual driving season in New England. Whereas I’d normally be putting my 1967 Mini Cooper S into winter storage around mid-October, I was still out and about driving it well into November.

Driving at dusk brings with it the requirement for good lighting, something for which the Lucas “Prince of Darkness” headlights on a Mini are not exactly held in high regard. In modern-day dense traffic, and with our cars being so small in comparison to the other road users, we really do need all the help we can get for increased visibility. Dim, flickering yellow lights are not very conducive to road safety.

In an attempt to address this problem, sometime in the mid-1990s the previous owner of my car fitted a row of four 55-watt halogen driving lamps to the front grille. However, they were wired into the headlight main beam circuit, and whenever they were turned on, the battery would immediately run flat.

Back in the 1960s, the original Mk1 Mini driver was expected to use only the pilot/side running lights for low-speed city driving. Use of the main headlights was reserved for highway driving where the engine is revving faster, and the crude positive-earth dynamo generator can keep ahead of the additional power drawn by two 45/60 watt headlights.

[Contrib. Ed. note: Early Minis used the positive battery terminal as ground, which in British parlance is referred to as “positive earth.” —DS]

Adding the 1990s-era high-powered halogen driving lamps did not help this situation at all, considering (2x60w + 4x55w)/12v = around 28 amps. The generator is rated at 22 amps and also has to power the ignition circuit, wipers and rear lights. It never had a hope of keeping the battery charged when the lights were on.

Fast forward to 2020, and there is a far superior lighting option: LED. Conventional incandescent vacuum or halogen bulbs only emit around 15% of their electrical power as visible light, the rest being infra-red (i.e., waste heat). Modern LEDs are more than 90% efficient. For the same 1200 lumens light output, a 55w bulb uses 4.6 amps, but an LED only draws 0.8 amps.

The problem, however, is that most LEDs are polarity sensitive (the “D” in LED is for “diode,” a semiconductor that only passes current in one direction) and designed for modern negative-ground 12v cars. Fortunately, a few vendors now sell LEDs with an internal rectifier circuit, allowing use on classic positive-earth cars — such as my Mini.

April 2020

[3-Apr_20_Lights.jpg] Let there be lights — fog and driving. (Thanks to eBay.)
Photo by Iain Barker

I placed a $65 order with, and a week later received four “non-polarized” LED bulbs, with a total current draw 3.2 amps. Well within the capabilities of my Mini’s rather feeble original electrical system!

While fitting the LEDs I also decided to replace the 1990s-styled “KC Daylighter” lamp units. Two of the housings were quite rusty, plus a 1960s Mini would have originally used Lucas lamps, as did the “works” Monte Carlo rally cars.

Reproduction Lucas lamps are still made, but the quality of the chrome housings manufactured in China is quite poor. Thanks to the wonder of eBay, I was able to get hold of four original 1950s/60s Lucas “576” lamp housings — two fog lights from an XJ120, and two driving lights from a Rolls-Royce.

Side note: The nuts needed for the threaded mounts are a very peculiar size. They are an obsolete thread, apparently only ever used on prewar British-built bicycles. I think the thread originally comes from the kerosene (paraffin) lamp used as a front bicycle headlamp, which in turn derived from horse-drawn carriages. Lucas continued using the same fitment into the 20th century for their electric lights.

After some minor repairs to the housings, sourcing of the missing mounting nuts and washers, and converting the long-stem XJ housings to the short plinth style needed for my Mini, I was ready to put all the pieces of this puzzle together. But first I had to make some small modifications to fit the LEDs, as they are single pole connections and the Rolls-Royce lights were designed for dual filament dim/dip bulbs. Again, spare parts are widely available in the U.K., so after another short wait for international shipping, I was finally ready to wire them up.

I laid out 2” nails on a wooden stud as a pegboard form, and used cloth tape to wrap a homemade wiring loom in the same style as would have been done in the ’60s — even using a genuine Lucas TLC3 “Trailer Light Connector” from a Series 2 Land Rover, just as the Abingdon Works team used back in the day.

In addition to being modern and functional, the completed lamp bar looks quite period-original. It is ready to fit back on the Mini in time for the new driving season.

April 2020

Important Event Updates

NEMO Annual Meeting

As you all know, the NEMO Annual Meeting scheduled for March 29th was cancelled due to the coronavirus. We will try to hold an on-line meeting, video conference or phone conference in the near future and use an on-line survey for any items requiring member input.

Mini Meet East

Unfortunate but not surprising news from the organizers of the 2020 Mini Meet East, scheduled for July 6-10:

“The MME 2020 Organizing Committee has decided to cancel the event in Owensboro, Ky. The potential impacts of COVID-19 is the determining factor for the Committee’s decision.

“The Committee is very concerned for the safety and welfare of all the Mini community, our sponsors, advertisers and attendees. We want to thank you for all your support for MME 2020 and hope that this health crisis recedes in the near future and we can resume our normal lives and activities.”

Other events

Early season events have been cancelled at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline, Mass., and the Museum itself is closed until the end of April.

Updates will be sent from and posted on the NEMO Google Group. To join, send an e-mail to and ask to join the Google Group.

Be sure to check the NEMO Facebook page,, and website, (under “Events”), for the latest information. —David Schwartz & Dave Newman

March 2020

[1-Mar_20_Place_des_Vosges.jpg] Ancients among the moderns at the Place des Vosges included this lovely Mini.
Photo by Peter Walker

Traversée de Paris
by Peter Walker

PARIS, France — Vincennes en Anciennes is a classic car club open to all marques, and according to their website, it is the largest such club in France. The club is best known for organizing the Traversée de Paris (Crossing of Paris) that occurs twice annually, on the second Sunday of January and the first Sunday of August.

The Traversée unites some 700 classic cars, all at least 30 years old, which spend the morning crossing through Paris and driving around or past its more famous monuments. The cars are mostly French, German, British or Italian, though numerous American muscle cars (mostly Mustangs and Corvettes) also participate.

For the Winter 2020 Traversée, classic British cars, especially sports cars, comprised a significant portion of the participants. There was a fair number of MGAs and Austin-Healeys, plus at least two Rolls-Royce sedans, MGBs, Triumph GT6s and TRs, several Jaguar E-types, assorted Jaguar sedans, and an early rear-wheel-drive Ford Escort.

Classic Minis were once a dime a dozen in the streets of Paris (they were the best city cars available in their day), and a few participated in this Traversée, the most attractive one being an Italian Innocenti Mini Cooper.

In spite of the cold, gray day, many of the convertibles traveled top-down. Of course, drivers and passengers were well-wrapped in coats, gloves, wool hats and scarves. Those in British sports cars that traveled top up (and, in some cases, with side curtains in place, too) were also wrapped in winter clothes.

For both participants and spectators, the Traversée is a wonderful opportunity to see rolling automotive history. The Traversée is not a parade — classic cars negotiate Paris streets and present-day traffic (thankfully a bit lighter on a Sunday morning), much as many of them did three or more decades ago.

The sight of a classic Mini or an early 1970s Alfa Romeo GT winding its way around a timeless setting like the 17th-century Place des Vosges transports one back in time to those earlier decades, to a time when most cars were mechanically simpler and did not look like all the other cars — when the sight of a Mini Cooper or a Jaguar sedan parked at the curb or taking off from a traffic light was not rare, but still exciting.

[Contrib. Ed. note: Peter Walker is on sabbatical in Paris. An album with 169 photos of the Traversée is available at 14/20e-tdp-paris/ —DS]

March 2020

[2-Mar_20_Mainshaft_and_Layshaft.jpg] New mainshaft and layshaft.
Photo by Iain Barker

Creating a Gearbox from Scratch, Part 3
by Iain Barker

September 2019 — With the summer and car show season mostly done, I could finally focus my attention on the gearbox build.

After several more orders to Mini Spares and Guessworks, all the parts needed for the final assembly were now to hand. I always assumed that classic Mini engineering was somewhat on the crude side, and indeed one of the strengths of the A Series engine is that it will continue to run and run, even when what should be less than a thousandth of an inch clearance exceeds that by a factor of ten. But as I was about to learn, there are more moving parts in a gearbox than in an engine, and some surprisingly close tolerances to be met with the final assembly.

I had stripped all the generic parts from the newest of the three donor gearboxes, including the forward and reverse gear selector and gate mechanisms, tidied them up after a week’s soak in carburetor cleaner, and installed them in the empty 333 gearbox casing using new mounting studs and bolts.

Starting with the layshaft, I assembled everything per the original BMC parts diagram, with new bearings, of course. It was at this point I realized the BMC diagrams from 1967 were perhaps less than accurate, or maybe the parts had changed in design slightly in the intervening 50 years. Either way, the layshaft bearings were not going to stay in position per the diagram, which seemed to rely on little more than the power of optimism rather than any actual mechanical means.

Investigating further, I found that the MG-style laygear had indeed been redesigned slightly in the mid-’70s and now required two inner circlips to retain the bearing, rather than the machined shoulder of the original design. Of course, I did not have these parts, so a week’s delay was incurred waiting for Mini specialist 7ent to deliver.

In the meantime, I set the end float tolerance on the laygear to make sure it was within spec. I needed a slightly wider thrust washer than standard, and of all the places one might expect to obtain this part on short notice, I’d wager would surely be the least likely. Nevertheless, Amazon Prime delivered me a genuine BMC thrust washer for a 1967 gearbox the very next day! An hour or so of some fine surface grinding on a whetstone, and the thrust washer was down to size and the laygear end float was within tolerance.

The main gear was already assembled and fitted easily into the casing along with the only non-original part for this build. Although I was keeping to the original parts list for the gearbox, oil pump and filter technology has improved over the years, so I decided to install a competition center oil pickup in place of the original crude mesh cage.

The next point for tolerance is with the main shaft retaining clamp. This time I’d done my homework and ordered up a selection of different width shims. I was easily able to set the correct pre-load on the main bearing. All bearings were brand new name-brand parts where available, except the input shaft where I fitted a good used bearing from one of the donor gearboxes after re-packing it with grease.

March 2020

[3-Mar_20_Rebuilt_Diff.jpg] Rebuilt diff on the bench.
Photo by Iain Barker

With the gearbox assembly completed, it was time to work on the differential. This is the part I had been least looking forward to. For whatever reason, I can easily picture mechanical assemblies in my head, so do not have too much difficulty putting things back together after taking them apart — or in this case, just following diagrams in the workshop manual. However, a differential spins in three dimensions, and I just couldn’t picture how it operates. Oh, sure, I know the theory of how planet wheels interlock with the output shafts and transfer the motion from the driven crown wheel on the diff, but my brain just doesn’t want to deal with the idea of two things spinning in opposite directions, inside a diff cage which itself is spinning around a different axis.

(I have exactly the same problem trying to visualize how an old rotary aircraft engine works, using the same principle of things rotating one way while moving in the opposite direction. Maybe that’s why I could never learn to do somersaults on a trampoline, or dive into a swimming pool when I was a kid. But I digress…)

Anyway, it turns out that putting together a diff on the bench is actually quite trivial. Just don’t try to imagine how it works and assemble one piece of the jigsaw puzzle at a time.

The first job was to remove the crown wheel with the cracked tooth and replace with a new one. Next, disassemble the diff cage, replace the planet wheel, diff pin, and thrust washers, and lock into place with a new roll pin. Actually, quite easy, so long as it’s sitting there inanimate on the bench, not spinning in your head and inducing a migraine.

With the diff assembled, including the rare Hardy Spicer output shafts, I inserted it into the gearbox casing and torqued down the diff cover. Then it must be shimmed to the correct pre-load again I had thought ahead and bought a selection of different size shims. The final operation was to install the diff output covers and seal up it all up with a new gasket.

Nothing is ever straightforward, however. I had ordered the Hardy Spicer output covers based on their part number. The parts that arrived had that number cast into them, but they were too long on one side to fit the diff casing. A little research showed that the same part was used on the later Automatic Minis with the rod change gearbox, and an ‘ear’ had been added to the casting to secure the detent spring for the rod gear selection plunger.

A remote gearbox of the type fitted to my Mk1 S does not have that plunger, but it does have a gear selector linkage that must occupy that exact same space in the assembly. So, out with a hand coping saw. Half an hour later the ears were cut off the covers (I did both, even though only one side fouled the casing), and they were back to looking and fitting like 1960s-original parts.

The final task was to refurbish the Hardy Spicer joints with a new crucifix and bearings. This was relatively straightforward and only required cleaning some burrs off the heavily used castings.

With the gearbox screwed down to the bench, I torqued up the main nut on the input and output shafts, and it was job done. More than three years after starting with the idea, I was now the proud owner of a brand-new 22G333 gearbox of correct specification for my Cooper S 1275.

Installation in the car will wait until spring, as with the engine out I think it’s time to rebore and change the pistons.

Postscript — Of the three gearboxes generously donated to the cause, the two from early Minis turned out to be quite rare: 1959 (22A104) and 1960 (22A145). One was a more common model, 1962 (22A363). The oldest was donated to a Mini owner in California who is restoring a ’59 car. I stripped the newest to reuse the gear selector mechanism in my build, and mailed a package containing 32 lbs. of its gears to a U.S. serviceman in Afghanistan who is rebuilding an early gearbox.

The 1960 gearbox is still available if anyone else needs parts!

(Dedicated in memory of John Barker, my loving father and a lifelong petrol-head.)

March 2020

Annual Meeting Mar. 29

CANCELLED due to coronavirus concerns that have closed the meeting venue, the Plymouth Airport.

We are currently exploring alternatives to face-to-face meetings, such as conducting business on-line.

Watch the NEMO Google Group list and this space for updates.

February 2020

[1-JanFeb_Holiday_Outfits.jpg] In their holiday best are (left to right) Jean Icaza, John Gallagher, Barbara Newman, Wendy Birchmire, Nuala Barker, Iain Barker, and John Haig.
Photo by David Schwartz

NEMO’s Holiday Party
by David Schwartz

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. — The NEMO Holiday Party on Sunday, December 7th, was held again at La Cantina Italiana in Framingham, Mass.

The party was well attended, with 28 adults plus our youngest member, Nuala Barker. Welcome to new member Bill McFeely, who officially joined up at the Party.

Last year, attendees wore such a great variety of holiday-themed outfits that Faith Lamprey organized an impromptu competition. This year we made the competition an official event and handed out ballots during lunch.

When the ballots were tallied, 1st place was a tie at five votes each, and 2nd place was a tie with four votes each! Prizes were awarded to Nuala Barker with her sparkly dress and fluffy coat, and Wendy Birchmire with her red holiday decoration shirt. John Gallagher deserves honorable mention for his sweater featuring Santa and reindeer landing on an outhouse.

As usual, the Yankee Swap table overflowed with packages and bags of all sizes. There was no single hot gift this year, but there were a lot of great items that changed hands many times. Several attendees had to make multiple trips back to the table after their gifts were stolen, stolen, and stolen again.

One of my personal favorites was the Lucas electrical-themed gift. (In the interest of full disclosure, I had a lot of fun putting it together.) Several years ago, Wendy generously gave me a broken Mini wiper motor in a box labelled “Lucas-TVS Auto Electrical Equipment/Genuine Service Part.” Inspiration struck this year when I happened upon a “Lucas Quality Inspector” baseball cap. The box and hat feature the Lucas “lion and torch” logo. I included cans of “Replacement Wiring Harness Smoke” and “Blinker Fluid,” which were actually Jack’s Abby Smoke & Dagger Beer with faux Lucas service part labels affixed.

Seven-year-old Nuala headed straight for the brightly-wrapped Lucas box, despite my warning that it was really an adult gift. Not to worry, since she and her dad, Iain Barker, were sharing.

One of the popular gifts was a large pillow decorated with photos of NEMO member cars, designed by Wendy. The pillow changed hands a few times until Nuala stole it. As the swap proceeded, a few people ventured over to look at the pillow, passionately guarded by Nuala. No one was serious about stealing it, though, and Nuala happily took it home.

Thom Pickett was a crucial participant this year, and we would still be opening packages were it not for his pocket knife. Other gifts included a framed classic Mini print, a Mini history book, vintage Mini advertisements, a china plate with a rally Mini image, a box of 12 diecast Minis, a black classic Mini-shaped clock, LED trouble lights, a hooded MINI rain poncho, a rally Mini sweatshirt, a MINI logo soccer ball, jumper cables, beer, wine, and Scotch.

Be sure to check the Facebook page and NEMO website for photo albums of the guests and Yankee Swap, to be posted shortly.

February 2020

[2-JanFeb_Gearboxes.jpg] Dave Black offered three gearboxes for the project.
Photo by Iain Barker

Creating a Gearbox from Scratch, Part 2
by Iain Barker

In the previous installment, I described solving the mystery of which Cooper S gearbox and specification to build and acquiring a casing to build it into. Now the more difficult task: to find a gear set to go inside the casing. Once again, nobody was selling the ‘hen’s teeth’ gearbox parts I needed.

November 2018 — Having an empty 333 gearbox casing is one thing. Finding the parts to go into it is quite something else. Some gearbox parts are relatively consistent across multiple generations and can be interchanged, but there are thousands of individual differences between, or even within, particular model years. The BMC parts books are inconsistent at best, and in some places entirely wrong. So, it’s a bit of a minefield trying to track down specific parts for any particular vintage of car.

Then I caught a break. A Mini owner in Portugal had been looking for a genuine Cooper S wheel for some time. I had a spare, but with shipping from the USA it was too expensive. However, I found out he had recently built a 333 gearbox and had some parts left over. So, after some bartering, a deal was struck — I would deliver the wheel to Portugal in exchange for a mix of used and new S gears.

Next, over to eBay, where I managed to pick up a pair of rather tatty looking Hardy Spicer couplings from a Mini Automatic. Curiously, BMC/BL used the same couplings for the highest and lowest performance versions of the Mini, and nothing else! Available for UK delivery only, I had them sent to my parents’ house. This was just a few weeks before we were due to fly to the UK to spend the holidays with family so I would pick them up then.

I also put a call out on the NEMO mailing list asking if anyone had an old gearbox they didn’t need, so I would have a base set of parts to work from when assembling my new unit. Club Treasurer Dave Black replied, saying that he had accumulated several of the early cone-type gearboxes over the years, and I was welcome to take those — the catch being that he had three and they were a job lot.

I gladly accepted Dave’s offer, and in the murk of a December evening in a restaurant car-park during the NEMO Holiday Party, the silhouettes of two shady figures could be seen transferring their bounty from the trunk of one car to another.

Unfortunately, UK events transpired a little differently. My father lost his battle with cancer the day of the NEMO Party, so I flew to the UK that same evening to help make my father’s final arrangements. I packed the Cooper S wheel in my checked luggage and scheduled a courier to pick up the wheel from my parents’ house the next day. But the airline lost my checked bag in transit. Aaagh!

Eventually the airline tracked down my bag in Oslo, Norway, and arranged for it to be delivered to my parents’ house. It arrived one day before I was due to fly back to the USA. I rescheduled pickup for the wheel, and everything fell into place thereafter. Except — the courier lost the package containing the wheel for three days while en route to Portugal, but it made it in the end.

February 2020

[3-JanFeb_Parts.jpg] Parts from Portugal. Now to complete the gear set...
Photo by Iain Barker

February 2019 — My Portuguese contact came through and sent the spare gears via mail to me in the USA. I’ve never understood why, but it’s much less expensive to mail from another country to the USA, than it is to mail from the USA to overseas.

Opening the package, I wondered what I would find. There was a 3rd/4th synchro hub, a new old stock (NOS) 2nd gear, a worn but usable 1st motion shaft (4th gear), and a worn but passable laygear. Very nearly half a gear set. Great result!

Now the hard part: completing a full gear set. I’d come to learn that the late ’60s MG Midget used the same ratio gear set as the Cooper S, and as a result some of the other parts I needed could be found from MG parts vendors. Over the next few months, I bought a new 1st/2nd synchro hub from the UK, an NOS 3rd gear from France, and a new laygear from Italy. The rest of the standard Mini gearbox parts including shafts, new bearings and shims came from the stocks of Guessworks and Mini Spares.

March 2019 — Now it was time to trial-fit the parts. I assembled the main gear shaft and the gear set without too much difficulty. It’s fiddly, and the detent springs and synchro ball bearings had a tendency to shoot off at random angles. But I had bought extras, anticipating my clumsiness. The Haynes manual, on-line photos and even YouTube videos made it quite straightforward — that is, until I got to the 3rd/4th synchro hub.

Try as I might, I just could not get it to fit on the main shaft. Then I took a close look and noticed that the shape and layout of the splines was different for this gear. Evidently it was for a different gear set, even though it looked like it had the correct number of teeth for the Cooper S.

After some discussions on the Mk1 forum, I learned that between the Cooper S 1071 in 1964 and the Cooper S 1275 in 1965, BMC redesigned the gear set and changed from 10 to 11 splines on the main shaft. I have no idea why they did this. Fortunately it is one of the more common parts and I was able to source a brand new 3rd/4th synchro hub from Seattle, which fit perfectly.

With all the main shaft parts now assembled, I dry-mounted it into the gearbox and — horror of horror — it didn’t fit! Everything looked O.K., but the gears would just not mesh with the laygear. How could this be? I counted and re-counted the teeth on all the gears, and everything was ‘by the book’. Yet it seemed the 3rd gear just would not mesh with the laygear.

Assuming that the brand-new MG laygear was the problem, I changed it out for the well-used one supplied by my Portuguese friend. That too did not mesh. So, it had to be the 3rd gear I bought from France that was wrong. Frustrated, I put the whole thing to one side and decided the best option was to ignore the gearbox and sulk for a week.

A week later, feeling less stressed, I put out a call for help on the Mk1 Mini forum. Several people replied that it was most likely an ‘A-type’ 3rd gear, and I needed a ‘B-type’ — another change that BMC had made between the earlier and later S gearboxes, the angle of the helical gear cut being different between the two versions for an identical tooth count. Why? Apparently, the B-type was designed to mesh more quietly and efficiently. Such is progress…

Luckily, I was able to source a good used ‘B’ 3rd gear from a helpful forum member in Canada. This gearbox was now truly an international affair! Even better, the engine specialist in France who sold me the ‘A’ gear also had a new ‘B’ gear and agreed to sell it to me as a replacement. I used the new one and kept the other as a spare. As the old saying goes: “It’s better to be looking at it, than looking for it.”

It turns out the earlier ‘A’ gear I bought from France was even rarer than the ‘B’. I was easily able to re-sell it to an earlier S 1071 owner in the UK. The gear travelled the Atlantic twice in as many weeks and ended up where it truly belonged all along. (At least one other person has contacted me since, asking if it’s still available — I am evidently not alone on this quest.)

[To be continued…]

February 2020

Annual Meeting Mar. 29!

Save the date! Our Annual Meeting will be held on Sunday, March 29th, from noon to 4 p.m., at Plymouth Airport, 246 South Meadow Rd., Gate 2, Plymouth, Mass.

We will have the Green Hangar Conference Room to ourselves, with space for 50 people. After entering Gate 2 (there is no gate to get to the building), park to the right near the large, metal, green building. The entry door is on the right side.

This year we return to the potluck format. Attendees should bring either a main dish, a side dish or a dessert, and your preferred beverage. We need more mains and sides than desserts (which should be limited). As far as beverages, bring double what you like and we should be O.K.

The Green Hangar Conference Room has a warming kitchen, tables and chairs, and is handicapped accessible. We need to set up and take down the chairs and tables and clean up after ourselves.

We will be holding the usual give-away freebie raffle. If you have any Mini-related items you would like to donate, bring them along. An evite will be sent to the membership list in late February with a reminder in March.

Hoping the weather is sunny and warm for the Classics! Questions? Contact Dave Newman at


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