The Linting brothers run around in two very cool Minis - one a 164bhp turbo, the other an Almond Green custom.
We know the Mini thing can be as infectious as any hobby, but three brothers all driving and modifying the same car marque? That has to be rare. Roland, Niek and Erno Linting from north Holland are the guys behind Mini Projects NL, a club flying the flag for tastefully modded Minis on the continent. “Our dad bought his first Mini in the ‘70s, a brand new Minivan,” says eldest brother Roland. “When we were 13 or 14 we bought a Mini together to work on with Dad, and after that many more. We’ve collected quite a few, back when they cost maybe 500 Euros for a good one, and now we’ve got around 15 between us.”
The family collection now includes a Cabrio, VTEC Clubman, MkI, Mr Bean-themed car and even a Metro, but we won’t judge. Erno is a qualified mechanic and Niek sells cars for a living, whereas Roland just enjoys tinkering with Minis at the weekend for fun. All three have their own
individual take on the perfect Mini, but it’s fair to say they share a desire to build unique cars, an image portrayed via the club’s show stands and social media pages. “Mini Projects was just us three brothers together at first,” Roland explains, “then we had some other local friends join us. Now there’s around 25 of us who regularly meet up. In Holland we’re known for representing the tuning side of the Mini, not purely for restoration and the classics. We still like those cars, we just like to do something a little bit different.”
As a case in point, these two Minis have their own distinct styles, Roland’s white Mini with a stonking turbo motor and Niek’s low and wide on MB Racing splitrims. Unlike many performance show cars, they’ve been built to be driven all over Europe, each year to the International Mini Meeting and then to Mini in the Park for a blat down the drag strip. Clearly they must enjoy getting their hands dirty as much as writing about it.
We’ll kick off with the most powerful of the two Minis – Roland’s turbo, which he bought in 2012 ahead of the Hungarian IMM. “It was basically a standard Mini with a Metro Turbo engine installed up front,” he says. “The first modification was going from 12-inch to 10-inch wheels, then it broke down very soon after, as the fuel pump wasn’t good enough and I ended up melting a piston. At first I was aiming for a modest rebuild, thinking it was the head gasket gone or something small like that.”
“In Holland we’re known for representing the tuning side of the Mini...”
With the head off and the engine’s innards waving back at them, Roland and Erno decided to up the ante and perform a full rebuild. They lowered the compression ratio by installing a new gas-flowed cylinder head, which also had larger ports and valves for extra power. A new turbo manifold was custom made by a friend to suit the Garrett T3, while a Sierra Cosworth intercooler and front-mounted radiator aimed to keep things cooler under the cramped front end. There’s also an Avonbar Phase 2 camshaft and fettled crank and rods to make the most of the turbo install.
“We rebuilt the car before IMM Hungary and it was only finished the night before,” Roland continues. “It had broken down again, this time with the Megajolt ECU, so we had to dig out an old distributor and bolt that in to get it running again. Then we drove to Hungary over two days with no problems at all.” We should probably mention that he’d opted for straight-cut drop gears as part of the rebuild, and that whine gets tiresome after a couple of hours, let alone a couple of days! So to make it all the way from northern Holland to Lake Balaton must have been hard going. “No I
love that noise, it’s awesome,” he says. “Actually I bought the Mini to be a daily driver, but after we replaced the clutch with a paddle plate and grey diaphragm, that idea quickly changed. It is drivable, although the clutch is hard and fuel consumption’s not that great…”
This was the first turbo engine the brothers had worked on, so they often had to learn about power and reliability the hard way. Each rebuild has seen another mod work its way into the spec list, and by 2015 the MG engine was pushing out over 150bhp with reasonable reliability. That’s pretty impressive when you remember Roland uses the car for both long road trips and drag racing. We often struggle to get from one road trip to the next with less than half that power!
“Next we wanted to use a much larger external wastegate and with a screamer pipe, because the sound it makes is awesome. Basically that only opens when the turbo pressure is over 17psi,” Roland continues. Screamer pipes aren’t a common sight on turbo Minis, as they’re generally only useful on higher boost levels where a regular wastegate struggles to regulate the pressure. It’s essentially a straight pipe out of the bonnet to release excess turbo boost
pressure when required, where it would usually pass back down the exhaust and out the back to keep Greenpeace happy. “It’s funny sometimes when water has collected down the pipe, you rev the engine, forget the sunroof’s open and it all comes in the car!” Roland jokes.
Usually, running such high boost pressure on an A-Series is a recipe for trouble, but the Lintings have figured out a neat trick. “It’s now running a water methanol injection system, with a tank and pump in the boot that injects the 50/50 mix to the inlet to cool the charge,” says Roland. “It also increases the octane rating so you can run more advance on the ignition map without detonation. From what I know there are only a few guys in Greece that are running a similar set-up. It does work.”
Roland’s been drag racing at Mini in the Park for the past two years, most recently achieving a 14.3-second quarter mile on the Santa Pod Raceway. Once he’s finished playing on the black stuff, the kids jump back in and they’ll all convoy back home like nothing’s happened. Of course it hasn’t been quite that easy, and with 164bhp and 162lb.ft torque, something was bound to break again at some point. “The weak parts have always been the gearbox, the differential and the exhaust gasket,” Roland explains. “We’ve never blown a head gasket in all the years it’s been going. After the IMM in Belgium we had some gearbox problems, breaking off a tooth. I’ve also fitted a Quaife ATB differential at the same time as rebuilding it.”
Over the years, the brakes have also been uprated to match the performance. There’s now Mini Sport four-pots in place of the standard Cooper S calipers, with vented discs and decent pads for some extra bite. Inside, a classic Porsche has been liberated of its bucket seats, while a full-width
“We’ve never blown a head gasket in all the years it’s been going...”
dash gives extra space for much-needed boost and AFR gauges. Although Roland’s not sure exactly which Porsche the seats are from, they’re seriously comfy and make a decent match for the compact black interior.
Now winter’s arrived, the Mini will be off the road again briefly for the next batch of upgrades. “My problem is torque steer, especially on the drag strip,” Roland continues. “I think it’ll need some work on the suspension to sort that out. We’re also going to experiment with fuel injection, which is far from simple, and change the turbo for a smaller one this winter. At the moment there’s no power until 3500rpm, and then bang! With a smaller turbine it will come in more gradually I hope.”
He also fancies having a fresh respray on the Mini, as the bodywork’s not minty fresh after all the road trips and frequent usage. Quite sensibly though, he’s not planning to take the car off the road and strip it right down until it needs a complete restoration, quite aware that it may end up taking a couple of years of spare time. He’s keen to keep the project rolling, not to forget testing out those new upgrades before taking it all to pieces.
If Roland’s Mini is the shouty one of the pair, Niek’s must be the civilised younger brother. “I’ve owned mine for five years now,” he says. “I bought it pretty much as it is today, although it was actually Erno who did most of the work on the car, so we know it well.” It was a friend of the family that originally decided to rebuild the Mini, a crash-damaged saloon with all the best bits of a Rover Cooper SPi. Erno was tasked with welding on a complete front end and cutting out all the rot, before it was fully resprayed in 1960s-inspired Almond Green and Old English White.
“Erno helped the previous owner to fully rebuild the car exactly as he wanted it,” says Niek, “but by the time it was finished, our friend had had enough of Minis. It was left standing by his house and I didn’t like to see that, after all the work that had gone in, so I made an offer and bought it for myself.”
And there’s a good reason why Niek hasn’t made many further changes to the car, as it’s effectively the exact Mini he would have
built himself given half the chance. “We said to our friend that we really loved those MB wheels at the time, and would have bought them if we could,” he says. “So we persuaded him to buy those, and between the four of us, the Mini was largely built on our own ideas! For me it’s no problem to work on cars, but I don’t enjoy the welding and bodywork side.”
That seems almost too good to be true – persuading a friend to build your dream Mini, then buying it from them, all without getting bogged down in the restoration. Aside from the regular polishing of the pristine bodywork and those 7x10-inch rims, Niek’s changed the rollcage to better suit his family road trip needs. “Originally it had a Rollcentre ‘cage in the rear and it wasn’t working well with two kids travelling in the back,” he says, “so we went for the classic-style instead, which gives far more space. This winter I’ll get the engine out and repaint it and all the engine bay. The gearbox also has a problem with the secondgear synchromesh and is a bit crunchy.”
With that in mind, Roland’s now trying to persuade Niek to start modifying the engine so he can keep up, but Niek’s having none of it. “No I’m more happy with a standard-spec car that works all the time without breaking down,” he says. “I don’t mind having a slightly different cam, but I’ll leave the more extreme tuning to Roland, as I don’t want to have to ask Erno to keep fixing it every week. We tend to do all the work together, and while Erno’s far more handy with the spanners, I’d like to be able to fix it myself if something breaks.”
It makes sense to us, especially as Niek can just go for a spin in Roland’s turbo, or Erno’s VTEC Clubman if he fancied a bit of high speed Mini action. It’s the best of both worlds, surely – cool show car with refined running gear and loud turbo Mini for weekend fun. Once the winter tweaks are sorted, next on the brothers’ to do list is a Riley Elf restoration. Roland says it’ll be his first complete project, from start to finish. So look out for that one soon, tearing up the dragstrip a long way from home.
“I don’t mind a different cam, but I’ll leave the more extreme tuning to Roland...”
Subtle looks keep people guessing as to what’s under the bonnet.
Metro Turbo engine has been constantly evolving to the current 164bhp spec. It now runs a water/methanol injection system to cool the intake.
Custom-made manifold to cater for the turbo, large external wastegate and screamer pipe.
Roland’s into modified Minis, but he’s not strayed too far from the traditional look.
The full-width dash is less original, but it gives space for the ignition ECU, extra gauges and sensors.
Classic Porsche seats – snug as a bug in a rug.
10-inch rims and sticky Yokos are just enough.
Thanks to Circuit Park Zandvoort for allowing us to photo at this historic venue. The British Race Festival returns on 13-14 May.
The SPi Cooper engine is ideal for Niek’s road tripping - it just needs a repaint and gearbox overhaul.
Half-leather SPi recliners are particularly comfy for the long Euro road trips.
Cooper-spec interior still looks fresh.
Niek’s green car was restored five years ago.
With a family collection of Minis, there’s always another project.
The work included a complete front end and two-tone Cooper respray.
Rover walnut dash keeps things civilised - this one’s no race car.
Roland, Erno and Niek each have their own take on the perfect Mini. One for drag racing, one for trackdays and one for road trips. For a long-distance tourer, Niek’s Mini is incredibly low! Screamer pipe makes an unmistakable noise. Large intercooler was sourced from a Sierra Cosworth and the ends modified to suit.
French-style yellow headlamps and the classic front end - it’s a match made in modified Mini heaven.
There’s a mild ICE install in the green Mini’s boot.
Fully restored and still in great shape after years of fun.