ON THE JOB

Nick Whit­ing’s project Mini has been to­tally re­built, welded up and cus­tomised within the con­fines of a sin­gle garage, but with pro­fes­sional re­sults.

Mini Magazine - - Contents - Words and Pho­tog­ra­phy Stephen Col­bran

A sin­gle garage isn’t go­ing to stop Nick Whit­ing from achiev­ing his project aims.

Ad­mit­tedly Nick does work as a me­chanic and has been play­ing with Mi­nis for years, but his lat­est DIY project is his first full restora­tion at home, as it’s the first chance he’s had to rent a lo­cal garage. Given the tight con­fines, the re­sults so far are in­cred­i­ble, and it’s all in the de­tail as with any build of this cal­i­bre. Check out the scut­tle panel and you may no­tice the welded-up spare wiper holes, the wiring has all been neatly hid­den from the en­gine bay and the panel fit is spot on.

It’s a far cry from where Nick be­gan around two years ago, with an aban­doned shell de­liv­ered on an old pal­let. He reck­ons it was a bar­gain, although the costs soon be­gan to climb as the rust turned to small holes and small holes turned to a big pile of crumbs in the dust pan. Where have we heard that be­fore..?

The project may be a lit­tle more ad­vanced than some of the bare shells and rusty wrecks that we’re used to pho­tograph­ing for these four pages, but re­fresh­ingly it means the end is very much in sight. Nick and his car mad pals hope to visit Mini in the Park later this year with the com­pleted cus­tom Mini. Judg­ing by progress so far we reckon he’ll make that dead­line no prob­lem.

There’s still a few po­ten­tial pit­falls on the way, in­clud­ing a right-hand fuel tank in­stall, sorting arch ex­ten­sions to cover those wide wheels and try­ing to fix an is­sue with the fuel pres­sure reg­u­la­tor. Teething prob­lems for some, but Nick is clearly a per­fec­tion­ist and he’s al­ready talk­ing of rip­ping out the cus­tom made dash­board and build­ing some­thing bet­ter. We strug­gle to see the is­sue with it, though we’d never stand in the way of a quest for per­fec­tion!

In terms of style, Nick’s Mini will tread a del­i­cate path be­tween show car and week­end toy. He says con­cours isn’t re­ally his cup of tea, yet the build would cer­tainly stand out at events. Per­haps a more re­laxed show and shine com­pe­ti­tion may be bet­ter suited. That way Nick can still en­joy bomb­ing around in his cre­ation, pol­ish it back up and not worry quite so much about a man feel­ing up his arches with a clean white glove. Ooh err...

On the per­for­mance front, there’s a lightly tuned 1275 mo­tor from one of the last pre-in­jec­tion Mini Coop­ers. It’s a sim­i­lar spec to that from the MG Metro and Nick’s fully re­built it with a pair of twin HS2 carbs as the cherry on the cake. It should be per­fectly ca­pa­ble of rais­ing a smile on the road, where a more re­strained en­gine spec is of­ten far more pleas­ant to live with. We look for­ward to see­ing the end re­sults – it won’t be long.

Where did you be­gin?

I al­ways thought that once I got my own garage I’d build a Mini in it. Well I ac­tu­ally bought the Mini be­fore I got the garage, but any­way, that was the plan. It was a stan­dard au­to­matic Mini when I bought it, and it ar­rived on a pal­let as a bare shell. It was al­most about two years ago now, back in April 2015 that it first ar­rived.

Was it an aban­doned project then?

Yes they’d stripped it all down and the guy’s son was go­ing to re­build it, then he lost in­ter­est af­ter that. It was all in bits when I got it. I only paid £250 for it though and it was down the road.

Is this your first Mini?

No I’ve done loads of Mi­nis in the past and I used to race them as a kid. I’ve welded be­fore but never to this ex­tent. All the body­work is as mint un­der­neath as it is on top.

So it’s needed a lot of pan­els?

Yes I’ve put on a pair of door steps, in­ner and outer sills, the rear quar­ter, a rear wheel arch, both A-pan­els and half the boot floor. It’s had new doors, boot and bon­net, and ev­ery­thing else has been changed. The roof is about the only thing that hasn’t been done!

Did you have any sur­prises along the way?

When I got to the rear quar­ter, I found it had some re­paired ac­ci­dent dam­age from years ago and that wasn’t go­ing so well. I thought about scrap­ping it a few times in fact. I’d done all the front end, came round the back, took the tank out and all the boot floor had rot­ted out. The sub­frame was com­ing up through the floor and I left it then for a cou­ple of weeks. I guess it had been fit­ted with a new quar­ter panel and hadn’t been sealed up prop­erly, so it just rot­ted out.

What’s been the most dif­fi­cult part?

It has to be the weld­ing and the body­work. The rollcage was an ab­so­lute pain too. It looked im­pos­si­ble to fit when I first started lin­ing it all up, with the rear bins still in place. I’d line it all up to get past the bins then it hit some­where else. I ended up with one small scratch near the B-pil­lar in the end, us­ing ratchet straps to pull the legs in. I’ve grafted bits in to use as much of the orig­i­nal pan­els as I could and I guess that was the hard­est thing, to butt the pan­els up next to one an­other with­out over­lap­ping them.

Did you paint the car with the ‘cage in?

No we painted the car then the rollcage, then re­fit­ted it all af­ter­wards. It would have been real hard to paint all that in to­gether.

Did you make the dash your­self?

Yes it’s a wood dash but cov­ered in brushed al­loy-look vinyl. My mate Clive was in­stalling some in an of­fice lift and had some left­over. I might change it yet - not sure. I want it to look re­ally neat in­side so I’ve taken the heater out and moved the choke ca­ble up un­der the dash rail.

The seat’s a long way back…

It is yes - I don’t like sit­ting right up close to the wheel. I’ll have to pull them for­ward a bit

from there, but not too much. I got the usual seat mounts, turned them upside down and mounted them on the back of the cross­mem­ber in­stead. I did a lot of re­search to find those seats as I needed some­thing nar­row to fit them.

The gearchange sur­round is cool - where was that from?

I made that my­self; it’s not some­thing I’d seen be­fore and I thought it would tidy things up in­side. It’s turned out well that.

What have you en­joyed the most so far?

All of it, gen­uinely. I’ve no plans to do an­other one any time soon, maybe if an­other garage comes up then I’d maybe con­sider a Mini Club­man. I’d love to build a rear-wheel-drive bike-en­gined Mini too at some point.

What’s the en­gine?

It’s a 1275 from a ‘90s Mini Cooper – one of the last carb en­gines. I re­built it all my­self and it’s stan­dard apart from the twin SU carbs and the oil cooler.

And the colour?

It’s an orig­i­nal Mini shade of Inca Yel­low from the ‘70s. Most of the Inca Yel­low cars were Club­mans and GTs I think. We went over white primer to make it a bit brighter than usual. It’s not re­ally a con­cours car, maybe not far off, but not orig­i­nal like many of the cars out there. I might do a show and shine com­pe­ti­tion but not full con­cours with it.

What’s next?

I’m gonna put a right-hand fuel tank in the back now – I think they look bet­ter with a pair. I’ve started mark­ing out the hole for the filler neck. I might have to play around with the fuel pres­sure reg­u­la­tor too. I’m not sure how to set it up at the mo­ment. I like the look of it, but it doesn’t seem to be work­ing right so I might go for Fil­ter King in­stead. I’ve also tried four or five dif­fer­ent arches now to try and get them look­ing just right. I’ve tried Group 5s and I don’t think they look right with the wheels, so I might go for some Cur­ley car­bon-fi­bre Miglia arches next. The bon­net and doors will go on right at the end as they’ll only get scratched here in the garage.

Will you be afraid to use it?

Well, erm, I’d rather not mess it up. I won’t be us­ing it as a daily car or any­thing, more for good weather and to go to shows. Maybe I’ll just come out and look at it! No, it will get used, but it’s dif­fi­cult one when it’s so clean at the mo­ment.

When will it be done?

Def­i­nitely this year. I re­ally want to take it to Santa Pod for Mini in the Park this Au­gust and show it off there. I only thought it would take a cou­ple of months, then I un­cov­ered more prob­lems and couldn’t cut cor­ners. It’s best to do it once prop­erly than end up re-do­ing it all again in a year or so.

It looks cool but Nick’s al­ready plan­ning new things for the in­te­rior.

Clean and sim­ple rump side.

Nick’s hop­ing to try these Miglia-style arches next.

Triple gauges on the cus­tom dash­board.

Lightly tuned 1275 for lots of week­end fun.

Pres­sure reg­u­la­tor may yet be swapped for a more tra­di­tional type.

Those seats are a long way back!

7x13s have plenty of neg­a­tive off­set.

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