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.
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.
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.