Amazing R1 Mini
Cloaked in a subtle but custom Cooper-esque exterior, Dan’s Stunning Ibis White wonder is packing 21st century tech and a 150bhp Yamaha R1 engine…
Although there’s been countless attempts to update it over the years, it would be rather unusual to describe a classic Mini as ‘modern’. However, you might be tempted to do exactly that when it comes to Dan’s carbon-clad, bike-engined pocket rocket. Not only has the 33-year-old bodybuilder from Hertfordshire equipped his pride and joy with a freshly-rebuilt Yamaha YZF-R1 motor, he’s also used the very latest in design know-how to bring the rest of what was once a tired Flame Red Mini City bang up to date.
“I’m a CGI animator by trade, and I’ve been able to transfer the skills and knowledge I utilise for work over to my Mini project,” Dan explains. He cites 3D printing as a recent addition to his arsenal of expertise, and one that has provided the means to produce items as wide-ranging as custom headlight casings, heater vents and a bespoke steering column cowl. Dan has thought long and hard about how to realise his vision regardless of previous experience, with his desire to learn and improve every part of his Mini culminating in one of the most impressive builds we’ve ever seen.
The car hasn’t always benefitted from stateof-the-art technology, however. “I bought the Mini shortly before my 17th birthday,” Dan continues. “It’s the car I learned to drive in. I even passed my test in it!” But as thrilled as he was to be behind the wheel of a bona fide classic, there was no getting away from the fact that the car had seen better days. “Body panels were showing their age and the paintwork was past its best. I decided to invest in fresh metal and a Volcano orange respray,” he says.
Sportpack arches were added to the mix, resulting in a Mini barely recognisable as the ‘90-plate City that Dan had originally bought for the princely sum of £500. And the car’s appearance would change once again following its owner’s burgeoning interest in the summer show scene. “I fitted a wide-arch ERA Turbo body kit after being exposed to wild and wacky Minis at the various events I was attending,” he reveals. “I painted the kit’s fibreglass parts myself, but the colour match wasn’t brilliant, so I
“It’s the car I learned to drive in. I even passed my test in it!”
decided that another professional respray was required.”
A 1275cc engine with twin carbs had been installed previously, but the opportunity to strip the City to a bare shell before a new lick of paint offered the chance to fit a much newer engine. Add to that Dan’s long-time enthusiasm for performance motorbikes, and you can see how a front-mounted Yamaha R1 conversion from Pro-Motive was a natural choice – all 150-plus bhp of it. The Worcestershire-based firm first built its own car in 2004, before officially launching as a business in 2006. It was the first to produce a front-wheel-drive R1 kit, and it remains a popular choice. You get powdercoated engine and driveline mounts, an application-specific gear level linkage and cable, a reverse gearbox and selector, a bespoke tubular exhaust manifold, a custom diff, remote breathers, hydraulic clutch conversion components, a custom radiator, silicone hoses, stainless clips, a chain guard and loads of other performance parts. “It’s a top-notch kit, but it does command a fair wedge, meaning that I went mad on overtime in order to raise the cash required for the purchase!” Dan laughs.
The kit suits the Yamaha RZF R1 engine from 1998-2003, and Dan was able to source a suitable unit with just 32k miles on it. The 998cc lump (a nice coincidence!) was then painstakingly stripped, modified and reassembled, and now features a balanced crankshaft, 40mm Keihin throttle bodies and a quartet of cone air filters. There’s also a 2.25-inch stainless centre pipe mated to a Maniflow side-exit rear silencer with an outwardly rolled tailpipe. Dan had no previous experience with engines, but that didn’t stop him. “There was a chap on YouTube who had 24 videos back-to-back of how to rebuild that particular unit,” he recalls. “So I just copied him, and took my time. To be honest, If you research enough you’ll get it done.”
The car makes use of the R1’s six-speed straight-cut transmission and clutchless gear changes via paddle shifters. Dan designed these himself using CAD after being inspired by a Lamborghini he played with during a track day jolly. Based on the workings of a disabled motorcycle rider’s shift kit, the shifters were made by a motorbike firm in Hampshire and are fixed to a modified MGF steering column. The column stalks actually use the workings of Mini MPi items, but with bespoke aluminium casings that Dan made himself. They sit pretty alongside stainless push-
button switches and matching mechanical levers for the boot, bonnet and flip-front. “The levers were made by a good friend who has access to a lathe,” says Dan.
As you may expect, a complete overhaul of the Mini’s body was required long before any of these trick updates could be installed. And though Dan couldn’t weld, he soon learnt how to do that, too. The rear end was given the MkI treatment, and he employed heavy-duty galvanising chemicals to treat the body – the kind that are claimed to be the kind used on motorway crash barriers. When it came to the nose of the car, a twopiece carbon-fibre flip front was installed, but not before Dan reinforced it with carbon-Kevlar sheeting to bring it up to his standards. “I was surprised at how flimsy the front end bodywork was before I strengthened it,” he sighs. “The carbonKevlar has worked wonders, but it still look six months of careful fitting and re-fitting to get the flip-front to sit exactly how I wanted it.”
Indeed, great care has been taken it ensure it still looks like a proper Mini. “I wanted the front end specifically two-piece to look more authentic,” says Dan. “The bonnet is my design in the way it locks, using pieces of stainless steel and threaded bars that I got on the lathe and carved down into pins. The pins are on the inside of the bonnet, which then slides into recesses, with another pin on a spring that goes in to lock them in place. I don’t believe there’s anyone else who’s done it this way. You can’t see the fixings from the outside, but it’s not like those totally smooth Minis where you get rid of every lip. I wanted it stealth, so it looked like a nice, flash Mini but with no giveaways as to what lies beneath.”
Also impressive is the way the front flips up rather than forward. “I bought the hinge and hydraulic system as a kit from Superfast Minis in the States,” Dan adds. “I did that quite early on and would probably design it myself now, but it gave me the opportunity to work on other things, like the bootlid.”
In fact, two years of planning went into the car’s bespoke lift-effect boot opening mechanism. “There were times when I was ready to throw in the towel on that part of the project,” says Dan. “I was close to conceding that the bootlid was designed to drop down and that there was nothing I could do to about it!” However, his persistence paid off, with a unique feature that makes the car even more special. “I have a vision of what I want, and then I just think how I can make it, basically,” he adds.
To achieve the desire for a clever and subtle balance between retro and modern, the orange paintwork has been replaced with a flawless coat of Audi Ibis White, and there’s a MkI grille and badging to complement it. “The door logos were a
happy accident,” Dan admits. “I got the blowtorch too close to the door when wiring, so I thought about what to do and ended up with this design. It’s got the Cooper S logo and, if you look closely, Yamaha R1. I thought it was a nice way to incorporate both machines.”
Elsewhere, a lightweight carbon-fibre roof provides the contemporary twist on the classic duo-tone look, and the wheel arch extensions have been coated to match. “I bought the arches in fibreglass and got them to the exact shape I wanted, especially for the front,” Dan explains. “I then sent them off to get carbon wrapped, with a very thin layer of carbon-fibre put over the top. I’ve had a go myself, and it’s really hard to do!”
The arches house awesome centre-lock Force Racing split rims in 7x13-inch flavour, while the Yokohama A048R tyres to provide a big hint towards Dan’s future plans. “I intend to exhibit my Mini at as many meets as I can get to over the course of the next couple of years,” he says. “And after that time, I hope to engage in a serious amount of track action!”
“I have a vision of what I want, and then I just think how I can make it...”
In readiness, the suspension and brake setups have upgraded way beyond the usual levels. “Everything underneath is as much KAD as possible,” says Dan. “I used the hubs, the vented discs, drive flanges, all the rear disc set-up and a rear anti-roll bar. The radius arms came from Specialist Components, and the front callipers are Wilwood four-pots to make use of the bigger wheels.”
If that wasn’t impressive enough, the Mini has also been fitted with fully-adjustable 075 aluminium coil-overs all round, plus ultra-trick titanium front suspension arms and Rose-jointed tie-rods from Force Racing. There’s also a Mini Spares rear beam, as well as some aftermarket rear camber brackets. Well, sort of. “I took them to an engineer and had them copied in stainless steel,” says Dan. No stone has been left unturned in the hunt for perfection!
Inside, Lexan polycarbonate windows, a rollcage and an integrated fire extinguisher have been installed in advance of his attack of the asphalt too. But this is no scruffy, stripped-out racer. The beautifully finished cabin also houses Cobra Classic seats, a Moto-Lita three-spoke steering wheel with a Cooper centre, an OBP pedal box and a A JL Audio sound system with Bluetooth iPhone connectivity. “The dash I made completely by hand,” Dan reports. “I drew it in 3D, got myself some plywood from B&Q, heated it up, cooled it down – all trial and error. It took me about 10 or 11 months to make. I was always worried about the centre dial looking too small so that’s why I went for
the material in the middle, to mimic the seats and the direction of the piping. The dial itself is from a German company called Motogadget. It took me a long time to find the right, classic-looking dial. It couldn’t be some crazy, lights everywhere thing – I wanted something really sleek.”
The dash also houses a stealth gear indicator, while the upholstery was done by a Hertfordshire firm, Huke Trimming, which also modified the carpets to cater for the lack of gearlever. The carpets themselves are Newton Commercial items, as is the Audi-style cloth headlining, which also covers the A, B and C pillars. Elsewhere, much of the exposed metalwork was covered in acoustic carpet by Dan in his lock-up. It really is a proper job.
In terms of extra trickery, all the custom switches, dials and audio install join a shiny push button start module too, which works in tandem with nifty keyless smart card entry. There are even home-made projector headlamps featuring LED rings that change to any RGB colour selected on a linked iPhone app! “The wiring loom is completely custom,” says Dan. “Knowing I wanted to add a lot of features, I redesigned it, then redesigned it about four more times through the process of building the car. The start button and the keyless entry required a whole new way of thinking, relays galore.”
One of the more intense jobs – literally – was modifying the fuel tank. “I saw the filler neck as a sore thumb,” Dan reports. “I cut it off, and in doing that the fuel tank jumped about 15 foot in the air, despite cleaning it through four times. I used a Yamaha tank as a donor and welded it to the Mini tank, then used a solution from Frost Automotive to
“The start button and the keyless entry required a whole new way of thinking...”
make sure it was sealed. I also made the fuel gauge. It’s a little circular one to suit the aero push buttons I’ve got in the car, with four LEDs. I worked out how to use flashing modules, so when the fuel gets below a certain level it beeps and then starts flashing at me.”
WORTH THE WAIT
As you’ve no doubt surmised, Dan’s mega Mini has been anything but a quick build. As well as creating almost all of this phenomenal car himself, he has to get to central London for work every day, and also found time to become the British Champion in a bodybuilding show last year! However, determination means he’s seen it trough. “It’s madness,” he says. “It’s taken me nine years. From the start I knew I had to have everything I’ve ever dreamt of. So I just had to sit and save, getting tools as Christmas or birthday presents. I’ve done this on as much of a budget as possible, learning as I went. And I’ve basically ended up doing most of the car three or four times over. It’s trial and error, but at the end of the day it’s only a human being that you’d take it to anyway. I wanted to make one of the best-looking Minis in the country – I don’t know what others think, but I’m so pleased with it. It’s my pride and joy.”
It’s not hard to see why. The lofty number of unique and cutting-edge features that Dan’s introduced to the proceedings have produced a simply stunning Mini that not only boasts shattering performance, but retains much of the model’s traditional cosmetic appeal. And to us, that sounds like the best of both worlds!
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Mental power, but with authentic classic Mini looks.
Nine years in the making, Dan’s built a stunner!
Clever boot mechanism and modified fuel tank.
Unique lift-effect bootlid took years of work.
The rear end has been given the MkI treatment, but there’s no unsightly fuel filler neck!
Carbon-fibre roof provides a modern twist on the classic duo-tone Cooper look.
Superb centre-lock Force Racing wheels.
LED lights are controlled by an iPhone app!
Door badges were designed and made by Dan.
Cobra classic buckets fit the car’s retro theme. Dan’s looking forward to showing the car at Mini events, and getting out on the track!
The car is beautifully trimmed, and the ICE install superbly neat.
These custom levers were made using a lathe.
Custom paddle shifters and aluminium stalks.
Dan made the dash himself, using plywood and a lot of patience. Even the gloveboxes are neatly trimmed inside!
The custom touches are everywhere.
Motogadget single dial.
Bespoke switch panel and heater.
It’s a flip front, but not as we know it! Reinforced front end uses a hydraulic lifting kit sourced from the USA, but all the other fittings are bespoke. Quad Keihin throttle bodies with neat filters. Camber brackets were re-made in stainless steel.
The install is incredibly neat, and finished to perfection. Not your average 998cc Mini...
Fully adjustable coil-overs are fitted all round.
KAD hubs join trick titanium suspension arms.