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 wb1evp@gmail.com.

December 2019

[1-Dec_19_Empty_gearbox_casing.jpg] Empty gearbox casing: the starting point.
Photo by Iain Barker

Creating a Gearbox from Scratch
by Iain Barker

One of my goals with buying a 1967 Mk1 Mini Cooper S was to experience what it would have been like to drive the fabled Cooper S exactly as it was in the 1960s. Originally a Mk1 Cooper S would have been equipped with a close-ratio gearbox and a higher ratio differential (3.44), suiting the race pedigree of its sports-tuned engine. Unfortunately, my car was fitted with a gearbox from an Elf/Hornet with standard ratio gears and a lower ratio final drive (3.65:1). Although this was perfectly adequate for normal use, there is quite a difference in concept between the sedate “designed for refinement” Riley Elf and Wolseley Hornet, versus the “racing pedigree” Cooper S.

There have been many generations and revisions of the gearbox used in the classic Mini. The very first type, from 1959 to 1962, used three bronze cones for the synchromesh, taken from the in-line Austin A35 gearbox design. With a central “magic wand” gear change they were not very reliable, and tended to wear out quite quickly. Next came several generations of the 3-synchro gearbox, using the Porsche design of separate baulk rings for the synchronizer hubs. Then the “magic wand” was replaced by a more accurate “remote” gearbox for use on the sportier Cooper and Cooper S cars. Next a change to 4-synchro remote, then 4-synchro with a rod instead of remote change, and finally a limited edition 5-speed used on the mid-’90s Cooper S 5 cars.

The original Mk1 Mini gearbox had synchromesh on 2/3/4th gear but an un-synchronized “crash on 1st,” the attitude per Alec Issigonis that first gear is only to be used when pulling away from stationary. Unfortunately, he had not foreseen the advent of stop-and-go traffic, where first gear would be used more and more while on the move. This inevitably led to the all-too-familiar repeated grinding to try and find first gear with the car still in motion.

December 2019

[2-Dec_19_Detail_333.jpg] Detail of gearbox casing with the all-important stamp: 333.
Photo by Iain Barker

Swapping out the original Mk1 worn gearbox for a fully synchro version donated by a non-S Mk2 or later Mini was a common solution in the ’70s, and most likely the reason my car had the wrong type fitted. Unfortunately, the differential on each Mini is machined to match its gearbox casing, so swapping the gearbox also results in the final drive ratio changing to that of the donor car. This means that not only are the closer ratios of the “sports” S gearbox lost, but also the engine revs much higher in any given gear due to the lower ratio final drive.

This would not do no, not at all.

September 2017 — The first thing I needed was to know exactly which gearbox casing to start from. The premier source for Mini gearbox parts is guess-works.co.uk, and a quick e-mail to John Guess confirmed the worst: “Mk1 S parts are far and few between now. You’re looking for a 190 or 333, for which you may as well take out a second mortgage to pay for.” The Internet forums and reference books confirmed that “Q 22G333” was the casting number used for the 1967 Cooper S 1275.

The 3-synchro 22G333 gearbox was only used from 1964 to 1968. To make matters worse, the factory-spec set-up for my 1967 S was with an improved differential having Hardy Spicer output shafts, introduced as part of the homologation improvements for the Monte Carlo works rally cars to use. Of the total four-year production life of the 22G333 gearbox, that particular combination was only fitted between April 1966 and the introduction of the Mk2 all-synchro gearbox in August 1968.

Other than a list of part numbers, I really didn’t know what I was getting into. Back in the late ’80s/early ’90s, when I was repairing old Minis most weekends, I would focus on bodywork, mechanicals and engines, while anything gearbox-related was left to my father. Gearboxes always seemed like a box of black magic to me. Now it would be my turn to figure out how they worked.

December 2019

[3-Dec_19_Diff_New_Crown_Wheel.jpg] These arrived with the gearbox -- a most welcome package!
Photo by Iain Barker

So this is where I found myself — 50 years too late, no real clue what I was getting into, and trying to source a gearbox that was only in production a little over a year. This was not going to be easy. I spent the next year scouring on-line parts vendors, chat forums and other Mini-related sources, but to no avail. It seemed what I was looking for just wasn’t available. Nobody was selling 22G333 gearboxes, and nobody knew where to find one.

November 2018 — As luck would have it, Mini Mania in California was having an end-of-summer stock clear-out, and one of the things they listed in their e-mail newsletter was a used Hardy Spicer differential. After some discussion it emerged that this particular diff had a broken tooth on the crown wheel so it had been sitting on the shelf for a while, but was otherwise serviceable. Better still, they also had the empty 333 gearbox casing to match the diff, but alas, no gear set to go inside it.

I waited anxiously the few days for their “20% off used parts sale” start date, then placed the order. Sure enough, a week or so later the empty gearbox case and diff arrived, plus a new crown wheel to replace the broken one. Even better, no second mortgage required. The game was afoot.

[To be continued…]

December 2019

[4-Dec_19_Newman_Moke.jpg] Dave Newman and his new-to-him Moke, imported all the way from Asbury Park, N.J.
Photo by Bruce Vild

British Legends Weekend!

PLYMOUTH, Mass., Oct. 13 — A handful of Minis made it to the British Legends Weekend show on Sunday, the nicest day of the weekend. The show, hosted by the Cape Cod British Car Club, attracted the Barkers, Bertons, Icazas and Newmans, while Faith Lamprey and Bruce Vild brought not a Mini, but an MGB.


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