POWERED BY AN R1
Tom Read likes a project, but not even building off-roaders and Minis could prepare him for putting a Yamaha R1 bike engine in a tatty Wolseley Hornet!
Powered by a 150bhp Yamaha bike engine, Tom Read’s Wolseley Hornet is one unusual Mini!
Like most Mini Magazine feature car owners, Tom Read got into Classic Minis via his dad, who has owned them on and off since the 1980s. So maybe Mini ownership is hereditary in his family? Why? Well, along came Tom’s first Mini in 2014, a red 1994 Mini Mayfair, and he admits he’s pretty much had the Mini bug ever since!
So what the hell made Tom decide to put a Yamaha R1 bike engine into a Wolseley Hornet? “Well, I’ve built offroaders and fixed up cheap Minis like my dad’s Cooper, but I’ve never taken on a project this in-depth! The Hornet was too far gone to be made into a nice original example and my uncle had a Yamaha R1 bike, that he had owned from new, up for sale.” So it seemed like this was a project that was meant to be!
Plus, after breaking his uncle Andrew’s bike, Tom got the engine pretty much for free as he made a small profit from selling the rest of the bike parts. Now it was time to get started on this mega build!
The story of this Mini started back in May 2015, when Tom was just 18-yearsold. He was looking for his next Mini project and came across this Hornet on Gumtree, up country. “I phoned the seller and said I would have it. I then arranged for a guy to transport it down to my home on the Isle of Wight.” It turned up on his parents’ drive one morning, without Tom even telling his dad or the rest of the family it was coming (and apparently they weren’t too impressed!). Also, because Tom bought this Mini saloon over the phone, he didn’t really know if it had any history, and never got to meet the guy he bought it from.
Tom stripped the sorry-looking Hornet to a bare shell. He then built a jig so the Wolseley’s body could be spun 360-degrees, before taking the shell off to be sandblasted. When it returned, it was time to replace rot with new metal.
“I didn’t really have the choice of preserving it or not as it was so rotten”
“Firstly, I cut out the rusty floor and fitted a new one along with sills. Then we tackled the rear valance, I didn’t really have the choice of preserving it or not as it was so rotten, and the bumpers are hard to get hold of!” So it was decided this Hornet would be bumper-less.
After that, it sat for a few months as Tom tried to find a way to sort out the buckled front panel. “I managed to get a front panel made, so then I put two Heritage wings on it, along with the front panel, and after that it was just some other small bits of welding to tidy the rest of the car up.”
Tom then set about building up the front subframe, using a front-wheel drive bike engine kit from Pro-Motive. He first put the Yamaha R1 bike engine – which had received a Quaife ATB diff and Scottolier chain oiler – in situ. The suspension is made up of adjustable front arms and tie-rods, with Spax coilovers. With KAD alloy front hubs, Metro ball joints, six-pot front callipers, 8.4-inch vented and grooved discs and alloy drive flanges being the brake setup for bringing all 150bhp to a stop. The idea was that it could just be bolted in and wired up ready to go. “My dad was always the one to ask for advice – I don’t think there was anything he couldn’t answer or help me with,” smiles Tom.
He then primed and painted the Hornet’s interior and engine bay, so
he could build it and get it running, before turning to that subframe, which Tom admits was a very tight squeeze!
“The engine hit the Hornet front panel as it was meant for a Mini! I had to grind the lips off the front panel and even a bit off the bike engine mount! “I then bolted up the rear subframe, which had been treated to more KAD goodies, in the form of rear adjustable camber brackets, alloy rear arms, a rear disc conversion, so it could finally sit on its own wheels.”
Then came the biggest headache of this build — sorting out the wiring, even though Phil at Pro-Motive had converted the Yamaha engine’s wiring. “I knew this was going to be painful, as I had cut the old wiring loom out, so I got a nice new one, but as it’s such an old car, there are a lot of control units for the original dash which I used none of. It just took a bit of patience,” Tom recalls.
The pedal box came next, then, considering the power uplift over standard, Tom thought a nice, new Safety Devices 18-point roll-cage from Mini Sport was a good idea. Before it went to paint, Tom made the Goodridge braided brake and clutch lines up. Then, off it went. Ross Wilson at A B Cook has done a top job with the Porsche Miami Blue and gloss black roof paintwork.
FINALLY ON THE ROAD
Tom finally got his Hornet back from it being painted on 15 July 2017, then with
three-weeks’ holiday booked off work, it was time to get this project finished! “I worked on it all day for two-weeks, fitting up the Lexan windows and the interior. Then I started hanging the doors, boot and bonnet. Finally, it was just a tidy up of the wiring and everything.”
Then off it went for a date with the MoT tester. The Hornet passed and was on the road by the end of that month.
So after two-years in build I asked Tom what problems he comes up against now the car’s terrorising the tarmac? “There have been many hair-pulling moments and still are ever so often! It might be Mini-based, but there are a few Hornet parts that are not available, like the rear valance and front panel.”
Tom also had a brake bias problem, as he didn’t have the original brake bias valve and aftermarket versions just didn’t seem to work on the road! “I finally got hold of a Mini one to go on the rear subframe. Then, because everything in the car is solid mounted, there’s a lot of vibration and this caused the clutch line to fracture on the slave cylinder. I solved that by making a few coils in the copper pipe!”
Eventually, the R1 engine was running slightly warm, this was due to it not getting as much air flow in the Wolseley. Tom solved this by adding a second alloy radiator on the other side, which has thankfully brought the engine temperature down.
“There have been many hair-pulling moments and still are every so often”
The stripped out finished interior of Tom’s Hornet is made up of an alloy dashboard, with the Yamaha R1 instruments, a Sparco 300mm steering wheel with a DSN Classics RetroSport alloy steering drop bracket and throttle pedal, with the finishing touch being that set of Cobra Monaco Pro bucket seats, with Schroth four-point harnesses, which look great.
Outside, that Porsche Miami Blue paint is far from subtle — but it works well on the Wolseley with the black roof and de-chromed details bringing this car bang up-to-date. Despite the de-seamed rear valance, Tom has fitted a standard Mini bumper at the front to go with that distinctive grille. The only other change Tom has made is fitting a set of Mini Special arches and more period-correct 12x6-inch JBW Mamba wheels wrapped in Yokohama AO48R tyres. So were the Mambas a nod to this Wolseley’s age? “Not really, I’ve always liked Mamba wheels as they have nice big gaps between spokes, which show off the KAD brakes,” explains Tom. “The wheel arches were a necessity as the wheels do
“The wheel arches were a necessity as the wheels do poke out the arches”
poke out the arches a small amount!”
Look closer on the outside and it is Tom’s attention to detail that will leave you impressed, with more lovely, drilled DSN Classics RetroSport parts on show in the form of the door hinges and those handles.
What could be a better finishing touch, than that period perfect YAM number plate, which was a gift from Tom’s mum.
Tom describes his Wolseley as an on-going project, with no future plans other than taking it to some shows, sprints and track days this year. If you see it, I’d urge you to take a look, as there’s surely no other Wolseley Hornet like it.
Cobra Monaco Pro bucket seats and that Sparco 300mm steering wheel make this interior unique.
Tom used Yamaha R1 instruments on...
...his alloy dashboard.
Porsche Miami Blue paintwork with gloss black roof looks the part.
Distinctive grille stands out on standard Mini bumper.
Original floor-mounted light dim dip switch still fitted.
An 18-point cage from Safety Devices keeping things safe!
The Yamaha R1 came from Tom’s uncle’s bike!
Not an easy fit, Tom had to grind the lips off the front panel and some off the bike engine mount to get it in place.
Reservoirs for those uprated KAD brakes.
Extra radiator to keep the Yamaha engine cool.
JBW Mamba wheels look period correct.
KAD rear disc conversion.
Looking unique; Mini Special wheel arches are a nice touch.
Period-perfect YAM number plate.
The man who made it possible, Tom Read.