In December 2010 I sold my last dear, the Ford RS2000. Almost to the day five years later, in December 2015, I got my next project: a classic Mini from 1990, the third exemplar of this species on my personal list. Of course it doesn’t mean that there wasn’t any car at all in the meantime. My girlfriend and me got a modern VW Polo as a daily driver, but this one obviously doesn’t count on the passion side. However the Mini does.
I do like all of the cars I’ve driven before. They all had their downsides and some really stretched my patience with the trouble they’d provided – for example the Peugeot 205 GTI. But certainly, I wouldn’t want to miss any of them.
But the car I still do like the most is the classic Mini. The driving experience in a Mini is just insane. A Mini brings you as close to the street as typically only a motorbike can do. People pay money to get on the go-kart track in the evening, in a Mini you’ll enter the track early in the morning on the way to work. Nowadays the most ordinary Golf GTI is sold with 200+ hp, but driving assistance and a full range of comfort features turn it into your grandpas hand-tame Sunday driver. The Mini is neither fast nor comfortable. The only thing it offers is a genuine driving experience. This is what was etched into my memory in the early days of my automotive career, and this is what got me back to the Mini.
The perfect shell
Back in 2005 I bought my first Mini for nothing more than 200€. Sure, it wasn’t a show-and-shine example you would put on the cover of a magazine, but it wasn’t a bad one either. Ten years later, in 2015, prices were ten times higher. You will hardly find a Mini for less than 2,000€ that is anything but an expensive piece of rust.
I was searching for quite a while until I could find a convenient offer: a cream-colored Mk5 from 1990, announced to be entirely rust-free. I couldn’t believe, but instantly decided to give it at least a try. Even though I tried hard, I couldn’t find the smallest bit of rust. The owner had spent a lot of time to rework the whole body. Furthermore, he settled upon an excellent basis: the car is out of service since early 2000 and was obviously kept at a dry place since then. Only the front floor panels were past the peak and had to be replaced. Finally it got a new painting. To cap it all off the guy had replaced most wear parts, such as the brakes, the steering bushings, or the exhaust.
Something must be wrong
The body was nearly perfect and the fitted replacement parts were worth the money, but something had to be wrong. This wrong thing was the power unit. At least the engine started, but one cylinder was missing already in idle. Probably not a big deal, but the second gear that won’t go in definitely was. In addition the Mini hadn’t a license plate, so it was impossible to make a test drive. At this point it was clear that the engine would be the pig in the poke. A pig that would prove to be the bad guy soon.
Since my intention was to find a good basis for a restoration, I didn’t care about this too much. I took the Mini home. My idea was to start with the gearbox. Since this would mean to lift out the engine/gearbox-assembly, I would have to had an excellent choice to take a detailed look to the engine. At least this was the plan. Actually, the Mini made its way on and off the trailer, but shortly after it was back on the ground the engine stopped working. I did a bit of trouble-shooting and found fuel dripping off the spark plugs and pouring out of the carburetor.
Consequently the Mini went straight on the jack stands and a complete engine rebuild was settled. Stay tuned and read how the work is going on!