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!

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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.


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.

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