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