ESTATE OF MINE
With great looks and 1330 power, Ian West’s Clubby Estate is a great all-rounder.
Opinion was somewhat divided when British Leyland controversially introduced the longer and squarenosed Clubman model in the autumn of 1969. But for what was once very much a Marmite car, the turnaround in its fortunes has been remarkable. The Clubman and its sporty 1275 GT stablemate have probably been highly sought-after for longer than they haven’t nowadays, especially the earlier cars. And if that early car happens to be an Estate, it comes with added cool and usability.
Ian ‘Westy’ West is clearly a fan. The M4 Minis member from south east Wales is the lucky owner of this custom ‘71 Estate, which is his first Clubman. It’s not his first Mini though. “I went to Bristol Mini Day with a friend,” he explains. “I was a van driver at the time and took my van to pick up some spares for him. He let me have a drive of his Studio 2 around the show field. I was hooked. Two
weeks later I bought that Mini from him. I turned it into a kind of Cooper replica, in Old English White, with a black vinyl roof.”
BACK TO THE FUTURE
The Cooper-esque creation Mini served Ian well, until he decided he needed something a little more comfortable for the daily drive. “My commute was 30 miles of motorway, so I sold the Mini to a friend and bought one of the very first MINI Coopers,” recalls Ian. “A little while later, my wife and I moved from Chepstow to Newport, as did my work. As a result, my commute was now very short: just three miles. That was one of the reasons I started thinking about buying a classic Mini again. Around the same time, the friend who I’d sold the white Mini to visited me. I had to get my MINI out of the drive, and to do so, I had to move his...”
That mere shunting around of cars was all Ian needed for a classic Mini re-awakening, and he began to rue the day he sold his. Indeed, it resulted in him hot-footing it to Minimart near Nottingham, where he swapped his MINI for a Tahiti Blue MPi classic. “This was back in 2003. I’d only owned the MINI for eighteen months,” reflects Ian. “It was a very nice car, but I felt much happier behind the wheel of the MPi. I kept it until 2011 in fact, and did a lot of miles in it. I only sold it because I needed something more modern for daily use again. It was bought by an eccentric British guy living overseas. Apparently, he had around 40 Minis, and also bought and sold them.”
Although the MPi had sold, Ian was pining for a classic Mini again before it had even been collected! Not a daily driver this time, but one which he and his wife could use for high days and holidays. Having owned two saloons, Ian fancied something different,
““It was on 12-inch Dunlop D1 alloys, which look great on a Clubman...”
and was considering a van or possibly a Pick-up. But then he got chatting to a pal.
“This particular friend used to help me work on my Minis, and he advised me not to buy a van or a Pick-up,” elaborates Ian. “His reasons were that the Pick-up wasn’t practical for putting stuff in the back, plus they are a bit claustrophobic, and that vans, certainly good ones anyway, fetch big money. Instead, he suggested I look for a Clubman Estate.”
That got Ian thinking, and subsequently looking. Unfortunately, he couldn’t find one, despite scouring eBay, Auto Trader, Pistonheads – everywhere in fact. But then he had a spot of luck. “I was searching on Google, and spotted an advert for a 1971 Clubman Estate. It seemed like a decent enough car, so I bought it. Cutting a longish story short, I drove the MPi to Bromsgrove, which was where its new owner had arranged for it to be collected, and also where I was going to collect the Clubman Estate. Surprisingly, everything went very smoothly.”
Even so, Ian was a tad disappointed by the Clubman’s condition. The bonnet had a large hole in the front lip, there was some rust here and there, and the interior trim, what there was of it, was not in the best of condition either. However, the car was solid enough overall, including the sills, and the specification was pretty good too. What’s more, it was the right price. Anyway, Ian had a plan. He was going to use it for a few years, then have it restored and improved with a few personal touches.
“It was on 12-inch Dunlop D1 alloys, which look great on a Clubman,” Ian continues, “and the engine had been swapped for a 1330 with a 276 cam, so the performance was good. I tidied the shell
and interior, made the car roadworthy, and used it like this until mid-2015. That’s when it developed an engine problem.”
Keen to get a top-quality job done, Ian had no hesitation in taking the Clubman to Ross Thomas. Known as a first-rate classic car restorer and engine builder, Ross owns and runs Thomas Classic and Modern in Cwmbran. He’s also an avid classic Mini enthusiast, running a 1980 Mini that was first featured in Mini Magazine when Ross was a teenager in 1997, and now boasts a wild seven-port motor. So to say that Ross knows his way around a classic Mini is something of an understatement!
“Ross replaced the head for me, due to valve damage,” says Ian. “I then ran the car until mid-way through 2016, which was when I took it back to Ross for more work to be done. This was part of my master plan.
“He gave the bottom end a freshen-up and I’d also asked him to look at the gearbox, as it had developed an oil leak,” adds Ian. “What he discovered wasn’t good. The leak was a minor issue. Ross rang to say that the gearbox was a mish-mash of Metro and Mini parts and was held together with hopes and dreams! I’ve always liked the sound of straight-cut Mini gearboxes, so I asked him to rebuild it with straight-cut drop gears and a taller 2.9 final drive ratio. It works perfectly, cruises much better, and sounds fabulous.”
With the mechanicals sorted, it was time to tackle the bodywork, which was now looking rather careworn. “It was a strange orangery-red, fading in places, and peeling too,” says Ian. “I power-washed the rear doors and was dismayed to see large flakes of wood effect vinyl flying off!”
Not only was the wood trim making a bid for freedom and the paintwork past its best, corrosion was also an issue. “There were a few small holes in the footwells, larger holes in the spare wheel well, the door bottoms were scabby and so were the rear quarters,” Ian explains. “The rear doors weren’t particularly good either. Ross fitted new Heritage rear doors and a bonnet, and cut out all of the corroded metal and replaced with new. The passenger door was also
The colour is the original Flame Red shade, and it looks great with the contrasting detailing.
Retro wing mirrors and P700-style headlamps.
Extra practicality for Mini trips!
Ian didn’t last long without a Mini!
The brilliantly presented 1330 engine has been fully rebuilt and sits atop a straight-cut gearbox.
Black grille with red detailing adds a neat twist to the Clubman front end.
Neatly refurbished roof rack.
Comfy front seats and red seatbelts add a modern touch.
Mini 1100 Special console and period radio.
Neat black wood effect for the sides and the dash.
The original steering wheel was refitted.
MX5 seats were already modified to suit a Mini.