Home and hosed

Iain starts work on get­ting his newly-pur­chased RSP Cooper up to scratch.

Mini Magazine - - Our Minis -

The end­ing of the MoT for old cars in the UK is a bad idea, as it starts the process of sep­a­rat­ing them from the gen­eral car fleet, hence mak­ing it eas­ier to re­strict their use to pa­rades and sanc­tioned club events. It will also make peo­ple post­pone re­pairs un­til be­yond scrap­yard time. That’s what hap­pened to my old Mini, Bub­ble. If I’d had to get it through an MoT when I bought it in 2006, it would have re­mained in fairly good con­di­tion. As it was, af­ter 10 years of fur­ther rust­ing I was lucky to find an en­thu­si­ast will­ing to save it, and that was only be­cause I sold it with a full and mas­sive kit of re­pair pan­els.

Pim­ple, Bub­ble’s re­place­ment, stands a bet­ter chance be­cause of its rust-free con­di­tion as well as its value; as one of the 650 RSP Coop­ers ex­ported to Ja­pan in 1990, its price is ris­ing as fast as the pound is fall­ing. It's be­ing tick­led into top con­di­tion to qual­ify for col­lec­tor plates. In Bri­tish Columbia, my in­sur­ance/tax cost on Pim­ple would be about $1200, cur­rently around £750 or so, but if I get col­lec­tor plates, the cost drops to about $300 – well un­der two hun­dred quid.

The catch is that the car must be in very good con­di­tion in­deed, al­most in new con­di­tion. For­tu­nately in Pim­ple’s case there are only a few tiny patches of cos­metic rust, but we all know just how rapidly this spreads on later Minis, which is ex­cel­lent mo­ti­va­tion to get the car sorted and pro­tected now rather than pay the price later.

One of the col­lec­tor plate re­quire­ments is that I had to ditch the pow­er­ful and quite good CD/MP3 player in the car and re­place it with a pe­riod-cor­rect cas­sette deck. I had a cas­sette player that would fit the hole,

“Just ask the blokes who won the Monte Carlo ral­lies in the '60s...”

but had no idea whether it worked, or how well. When dusted off and wired in – us­ing a wiring di­a­gram found on­line – the Sony burst into life, with both the ra­dio and the cas­sette deck giv­ing a nice punchy sound, and some de­cent bass on the loud set­ting.

In the base­ment are stacks of cas­settes, rep­re­sent­ing the 1980s and 1990s, which I haven’t lis­tened to for ages. You don’t, do you? When was the last time you even used a CD? So the 1990 Cooper will be bang­ing with au­then­tic pe­riod tunes. Which I will soon be able to hear when I’ve fixed the blow­ing ex­haust.

More dif­fi­cult will be the re­pair of the front wings. I’m not sure what the car hit, but the head­light as­sem­blies have been pushed back into the wings by about half an inch on the right and a quar­ter-inch on the left. The paint is mostly un­dam­aged, so it looks as though the car hit some­thing rel­a­tively soft. The bumpers like­wise are in good con­di­tion, but slightly twisted from some mi­nor im­pacts. There will be some straight­en­ing and some touch­ing-in, but I’ll try to avoid any proper paint­ing be­cause: A) I’m a cheap Scots­man, and B) the paint is still orig­i­nal.

The re­place­ment of the bot­tom hose, hid­den be­neath the air clean­ing and emis­sions gub­bins, the air con­di­tion­ing pump and the RSP oil cooler, looked pretty daunt­ing, as you couldn’t ac­tu­ally see the hose at all. How­ever, start dig­ging down and tak­ing things off, and even­tu­ally you can get the rad out and change the hose, and, as I did, the coolant pump.

It’s not worth try­ing to do it with the rad in place un­less you’re an oc­to­pus. It was a good op­por­tu­nity to do a bit of clean­ing up and paint­ing of the peel­ing ra­di­a­tor shroud, and as oil cooler was com­pletely plugged with muck, that was cleaned too. It also had an oil and fil­ter change. In North Amer­ica we use Ken­dall rac­ing oil which has plenty of zinc in it. In the UK, I’d use Miller’s clas­sic en­gine and gear­box oil, spe­cially de­vel­oped for Minis.

With the car came some pe­cu­liar rims, now fit­ted with a set of proper win­ter snow tyres. We don’t re­ally get snow in BC, not for more than a week any­way, but a Mini on snow tyres has to be an ex­cel­lent way to get around in bad weather: just ask the blokes who won the Monte Carlo ral­lies in the '60s. On the other hand, my old $2000 Jeep Chero­kee is fi­nan­cially dis­pos­able, has trac­tor tyres and a low-range locked-diff 4WD and is gen­uinely as tough as Vin Diesel pre­tends to be, so good sense may pre­vail, with Pim­ple re­main­ing warm and dry.

Per­form­ing the oil change.

The ra­di­a­tor was re­moved to change the bot­tom hose, with the coolant pump re­newed at the same time, too.

This Ja­panese-im­port RSP Cooper has air con­di­tion­ing as well as an oil cooler and all the emis­sions wid­gets, so has to be the most crowded Mini en­gine bay ever.

Some­how the wing has been pushed in with­out break­ing the orig­i­nal Lu­cas head­lamps. Maybe the car banged into a very small moose.

Oil cooler was plugged with a few decades’ worth of cack, al­though the mileage is low. It was soon sorted with some gen­tle pres­sure-washer ac­tion.

Col­lec­tor plates re­quire a pe­riod sound sys­tem, so an old Sony cas­sette deck has been dug up and fit­ted to the car. The sound qual­ity and vol­ume is much bet­ter than ex­pected.

The oil will be changed ev­ery 3000 miles in an ef­fort to keep the en­gine and gear­box in top con­di­tion.

Cut­ting-edge ICE!

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