Before and after
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It's been a little over 3 years now since I purchased my Mini City E, and in that time I've learned a lot about the car from both working on it, and using it as my main form of transport.
I started out as a complete amateur, and to be honest, I'm still an amateur, but one that is no longer afraid to tackle any problem that may arise with my car. Replace the rear subframe and the front suspension on a Mini and you will no longer be afraid to work on it. I'm sure there are worse jobs, but those two alone have reduced me to tears, swearing, cuts and bruises, and a stockpile of Swarfega.
Bad jobs aside, you can't beat the great feeling you get when you've completed work on your own car all on your own (or with the help of your Dad or a friend) and that job that has been niggling at you for ages is finally done and the car is looking and driving better than ever.
The first task I set for myself was to restore the Mini to its former glory. Once completed, I began changing the car to suit my own tastes, as does most Mini owners. The great thing about the Mini world is that there are lots of parts available for each model so you can customise and modify your Mini as much as you want (or until your pocket or car insurance company objects).
I started by removing everything that declared the car a 'Mini City'. After that I changed black bits to chrome, waterproofed the car as much as possible, stuck on a chrome rocker cover (the only engine bay modification so far), upgraded the suspension, got a new paint job, fitted an internal bonnet release, and did everything I could to keep the dreaded rust at bay and to get the car through its yearly MOT.
As 2007 draws to a close, I'm looking forward to another year of Mini ownership. I'm planning on taking Emma and me all over Great Britain next year in the Mini. We both love the comfort level that the new suspension and wheel/tyre setup provides.
So what's next for Lucy? What upgrades, mods, and general repairs do I have planned for 2008?
Well first off I need to tackle more rust. Mini's never stop rusting, you just have to accept it. I know it's not long since I had the new paint job, but the paintwork has already started to bubble here and there, and the sills and arches are already turning a rusty colour. So I'll be practicing the fine art of wire brushing, body filler application, primer and paint spraying again. I should be an expert by now.
Then it's some more customisation, this time internal. I've had my eye on a decent steering wheel for some time and I had settled on a leather Mountney wheel with 3 chrome spokes, but then I saw a Mota Lita leather wheel with 3 chrome spokes, drilled, and dished, and so I changed my mind.
There are two areas of the Mini in which I have made little to no changes. The first is the interior. I hate the late Mini dashboard, it just looks so.. plasticky. I'm looking around for a way to build/buy a better dash to suit my tastes and to house a set of Smith clocks. I plan on adding a rev counter to Lucy, and maybe an oil and battery gauge as well.
The second area that has had few changes is under the bonnet. Although the car looks better than when I first bought it, little has changed in the engine bay. For Christmas my folks bought me a copy of David Vizard's "Tuning the A-Series Engine". My lack of knowledge concerning the lump of metal under the bonnet is about to change.
That said, I'm not about to rip out Lucy's 998cc engine and stick in a 1275cc beast bored out to 1380cc. The 998 will happily do the UK speed limit (and then some) so why do I need to go faster? I'm quite happy with the 998 engine, it's very economic (have you checked petrol prices lately?) and it does the job, so why change it? I can however improve it's performance and output to a certain degree, and that's what I'll do.
I plan to start playing around with the bits I took off the donor Cooper first for practice. I have a spare carb which I plan on taking apart to see how it all works. The hope is that when I add a Stage 1 kit, I won't be too worried about setting it all up myself as I'll have stripped a carb by then. I've already dismantled and replaced an exhaust system and removed manifolds, carbs, and air intakes. I just need practice installing a new needle and setting up the fuelling.
Other jobs I'm thinking of doing next year in no particular order are:
- Fitting an engine steady kit (already bought one in preparation)
- Fitting a quick-shift gear stick
- Fitting a steering column drop bracket (already got one ready to fit)
- Getting new carpets, seats, and door cards
- Upgrading the front braking system to braided flexible hoses (to match the rear)
- Tuning the engine (plus new plugs, HTs, and coil)
- Clean the engine bay (maybe paint engine block)
- Install some bright work under the bonnet
- Fit an alarm (car insurance approved spec)
- Install better headlights for night driving
- Tinted side and rear windows
- New foot pedals
- Fit a decent radio that can play mp3s
We will have to see what 2008 brings.
Happy New Year to you all.
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