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…

Mini Magazine - - Contents - Words Dan Furr Pho­tog­ra­phy Matt Woods

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.

HUM­BLE BE­GIN­NINGS

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.

LEARN­ING CURVE

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...”

TO­TALLY TRICK

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!

in our Find your per­fect part­ner clas­si­fied sec­tion.

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.

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