The conversion from left to right-hand drive... in a single day.
Last month saw us heading to Milan in our quest for a rot-free Mini and after driving some 1059 miles back to base, the car was MoT’d and ready to be UK registered.
One thing we’d planned on doing all along though was to convert the car to a more convenient right-hand drive and this is a much easier job to do on the Mini than it is with many other cars. There’s still a fair bit to consider though: the pedals are different, so you’ll need the RHD equivalents for the correct year of car. The steering rack is also different, as is the routing of the heater hoses. Relocating the master cylinders will mean new brake pipes, and you may want to move the wiper motor and mechanism too. You also need to consider a new throttle cable depending on the model of car, and even new wiper arms too.
On our car we had a centre binnacle dash arrangement, which meant we didn’t need to consider extending the wiring. A competent DIY mechanic should be able to perform this job in a leisurely weekend, providing they are equipped with a large enough AF socket for the subframe tower bolts and a ball joint splitter. Brake pipe forming tools would also be an advantage, but the pipes can be purchased ready-made from specialists relatively cheaply.
In total the work took us a single day and here’s what was involved.
1 With the battery disconnected, we started inside the car, removing the seats and bonnet for ease of access. It’s not strictly necessary to remove the wipers, but they park the other way round on a LHD car and the motor is very close to where the master cylinder will fit when relocated.
2 Next, the wiper arms and the nuts that hold the wheel boxes to the scuttle were removed.
3 Working inside the car, the electrical wiring to the column was disconnected and the steering column removed from the splined shaft on the rack. If it has never been removed before it may have a shear bolt fitted, in which case a slot can be cut in it for a screwdriver.
4 The pinch bolt at the bottom of the column was removed and the column could be pulled off the splines.
5 The clevis pins and split pins that attach the brake and clutch pedals to the master cylinders were removed next.
6 With the brake and clutch pedals being moved to the right hand side, the master cylinders had to be moved too. The front-to-rear brake pipe, pressure valve and clutch slave cylinder are actually in the same position as a RHD car, so for LHD cars rigid pipes are routed across the bulkhead and behind the carb to the left which were removed.
7 With the pipework removed, both master cylinders could be removed. Sadly, errant brake fluid over the years has made a bit of a mess of our bulkhead. We’ll strip and repaint this area later.
8 With obstructions like the washer tubing removed and the wiring loom moved down a little, the wiper motor could be removed.
9 The throttle cable was disconnected at the carburettor and removed along with the pedal.
10 The heater hoses had to be re-routed, so the heater matrix was emptied and the unit dropped to provide better access for swapping the pedal box. On later model cars the LHD and RHD brake and clutch pedals are slightly different. LHD pedals in a RHD car put your feet off to the left, so the clutch pedal ends up under the heater, meaning it’s important to get the right pedals.
11 Before everything went back on, the wipers needed sorting. The original motor and mechanism could be re-used by undoing the tubes and freeing the wiper boxes, turning the wheel boxes over so they move the other way, then doing it all back up again. With the wiper mechanism complete, it could be reinstalled with the wiper motor on the left as per a regular RHD car, swapping the plastic bungs in the bodywork.
12 The carpet section under the heater was altered to suit the relocated parts. We simply folded it over and copied the shape of the various cut- outs with chalk, before trimming it with a pair of sharp scissors. Previously, both heater hoses ran through a blanking plate on the bulkhead, but this is where the master cylinders now need to go, so they were removed. The hose that connects to the radiator bottom hose was routed through a new single-hole blanking plate with a new gasket. We found the existing hose was long enough to be routed through the bulkhead and over the top of the heater unit to the top outlet on the right-hand side. 13 The captive plate for the top steering column mount had to be swapped to the right-hand side. The pedal box could then be fitted in its new location, along with the top column mount itself. The master cylinders went go back on too and our car had a ready-made hole in the bulkhead for the heater hoses to pass through, used for RHD cars. We simply removed the blanking grommet and replaced with a new hose.grommet.
14 New shorter rigid brake pipes were made up for the brake and clutch cylinders in cupro nickel (Kunifer). The RHD throttle pedal was also fitted in the captive threads and the same cable could be re-used
15 Swapping the steering rack required the subframe to be dropped, so we placed axle stands under the corner of the inner wings where they join the floor and the sill. With the wheels off, the track rod ends were loosened and the track rods separated from the steering arm.
16 To allow the subframe to drop down, the dampers had to be disconnected and the top engine steady bar released.
17 The front subframe ‘teardrop’ mounts were loosened, then the four rear subframe mount bolts and the subframe lowered on a jack about an inch.
18 The steering rack U-bolt nuts were accessed by lifting the flaps in the sound deadening and once removed, the rack could be removed from the car.
19 Here’s the new RHD steering rack – they’re not interchangeable with the LHD version. We also fitted a new steering rack to body seal to prevent water ingress. Fitting the new rack was the reverse of the removal, but this time from the offside. The column was offered up and bolted loosely in place, then the rack bolted up.
20 Although we were fitting new track rod ends, we removed the old ones and counted how many turns it took, before fitting the new ones using the same number of threads to get the steering geometry roughly correct. The track rod ends were then torqued up to the steering arms and the grommet used to black the column spline hole off previously was simply moved to the other side.
21 Fortunately our car had a centre dash binnacle, so we didn’t have to relocate the clocks. The wiring loom passes through the centre of the car, so it’s simply a case of moving it to the other side and connecting it up with the relocated steering column. With the heater hoses fitted and the wiring carefully routed, the heater unit could be refitted along with its ducting and the steering wheel could be fitted. 22 The brakes and clutch were bled out, then the coolant topped up to replace what was lost when draining the heater. With the carpet tidied up, the job was done and our Italian Mini was now right-hand drive.