Mini restora­tion

The con­ver­sion from left to right-hand drive... in a sin­gle day.

Classics Monthly - - Contents - Words and photo gra­phy Jeff Rug­gles

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.

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