Light­weight MkI

With over 200bhp at the wheels and tip­ping the scales at just 495kg, we think Si­mon Hep­burn’s re­built MkI is wor­thy of a third look.

Mini Magazine - - Contents - Words Mar­tyn Collins Pho­tog­ra­phy Matt Richard­son

It is rare for a Mini to be fea­tured once, let alone three times in Mini Mag­a­zine. But that’s what hap­pened with this car! One of our re­cent ‘Mad­dest Mini’ con­tenders, we reckon Si­mon Hep­burn’s third in­stal­ment of his light­weight, drag MkI, is def­i­nitely the best, and we’re as­sured the fastest! Look­ing back at the his­tory of this car, Si­mon’s been into Mi­nis for as long as he can re­mem­ber. “I picked up this 1964 Austin MkI Mini in 2007 for £150, so not bad re­ally. It was a rot box, as you would ex­pect, but I set to it, and got it back on the road.”

The first time it fea­tured in this mag­a­zine, it boasted We­ber-fed 1380 power. “Ev­ery­one loved it and they couldn’t un­der­stand why I was not in the show ’n’ shine, and thought I must be mad want­ing to race it,” he laughs.

The sec­ond time, Si­mon ad­mits this Mini was get­ting a bit rough around the edges, but it had been on a diet and was now boast­ing 191bhp of turbo power.

This lat­est, third, evo­lu­tion de­buted early this year and fol­lows the same light­weight for­mula. But, this time, every part was looked at and re­made in ti­ta­nium or al­loy! Or has been light­ened in some way and if not needed, then re­moved com­pletely! “Be­ing a MkI I did not want to com­pro­mise the Clas­sic Mini look, so it was stay­ing on 10-inch wheels and there would be no car­bon fi­bre or fi­bre­glass pan­els or parts. I had to think out­side the box so much, I feel like I have re­made the box,” Si­mon laughs.

But don’t go think­ing that Si­mon is a cheque book racer! Far from it, he has to work hard to keep the MkI costs down, by mak­ing as much as he can in his shed, self-teach­ing from YouTube and threads as this stuff is not his day job. “Some nights I can get home from work and go out in the shed and garage and stand for four-hours to save 20g in weight! But grams make kilo­grams over time.”

MORE WEIGHT SAV­ING

De­spite the prob­lems that all this weight sav­ing threw up, Si­mon reck­ons it would have been too easy to chop it about, fit big slick tyres and get good times: “Any­one can do that! There are so many cars out there that have had lots of cash spent on car­bon fi­bre parts and the own­ers think

“Be­ing a MkI, I did not want to com­pro­mise the Clas­sic Mini look”

they have the light­est car about. Plus my MkI has a full, real MoT, so I can drive it on the road when­ever I like!”

So why drag rac­ing, I ask Si­mon? “When I first started out in the Mini scene, Google pushed me towards the Tur­boMi­nis fo­rum (TM). This was the place to be if you had a fast Mini and there are so many smart blokes on there who were al­ways happy to help.”

One of the shows that ev­ery­one worked towards was the (now sadly de­funct) Bri­tish Mini Show­down, held at Shake­speare Race­way. “It’s a real shame that it’s no more, as it re­ally was the best show of the year, in my opin­ion. I went along to chat to like-minded peo­ple as the nor­mal sort of show was not my sort of thing,” says Si­mon.

At this point, Si­mon’s Mini was pow­ered by a full-ish fat 1380, so his quar­ter-mile times were not the best, but af­ter that week­end, he was hooked! So when he got home, he started strip­ping this MkI of any­thing that wasn’t needed, to get it ready for the next big­gest race/ show – Mini In The Park. Si­mon went along and met the lads from TM, who were very wel­com­ing. “I could see an im­prove­ment in my times af­ter the week­end, and that what I needed was more power and lots of it!” A turbo en­gine sounded like a nice, easy swap, so he went for it. “I got a full turbo en­gine from a bloke and this was the core of the build. By this stage, I wanted to get to the magic dou­ble-tonne bhp fig­ure, be­cause if you’re go­ing to be a bear, be a griz­zly bear,” he says, smil­ing.

Fast for­ward some years and the times were drop­ping, plus Si­mon’s MkI had earned a good name for it­self by

“Some friends pointed out that the car needed to be lighter”

pro­duc­ing the goods, but he couldn’t re­ally get to the goal of a low 12-sec­ond quar­ter-mile. “This was a big ask, as I could get to the low 13-sec­onds, but not lower. Af­ter chat­ting to some friends, it was pointed out that the car needed to be lighter! As it was down at 570kg with an all-steel shell,” Si­mon ex­plains.

And this is what prompted the cur­rent re­build. But, at the same time Si­mon had a lot go­ing on out­side Mi­nis. “In year one I was work­ing over­seas and away for 294 days a year, so most of the work was done via the phone, email, What­sapp, get­ting one-off stuff made, or sourc­ing parts to fit to the car,” he re­veals.

Year two, Si­mon took a UK-based job and bought his first house, whilst still work­ing on the MkI. “By now it was in the full weight-sav­ing body­work stage! I found Ted (The Fish) to do the body­work – he’s best de­scribed as an artist as he saw my dream and went with it.

NO FILLER

“Every week I would do the five-hour round trip to see how it was go­ing and make sure he had ev­ery­thing he needed to keep the project mov­ing,” says Si­mon. Ba­si­cally, ev­ery­thing be­low the win­dow line was re­placed with new steel and made much lighter where it could be, be­fore weld­ing. Si­mon tells me there is 100% no filler in this Mini, with the very min­i­mum of primer and paint used ‒ again to save weight.

Next up was the roll-cage, and ob­vi­ously Si­mon wanted some­thing light and a unique. He de­cided he wanted a space frame style, with four sus­pen­sion mounts tied to it: “I had seen an ex­am­ple on the in­ter­net, so many calls were made and emails sent be­fore the MkI was booked in for the ’cage. Tom at TLJ Weld­ing saw what my end goal was and worked hard with me to cre­ate this very spe­cial T45 weld-in ’cage. Lots of hours

were spent work­ing late and go­ing that lit­tle bit fur­ther than the nor­mal cages that were on of­fer off-the-shelf.”

Year three and Si­mon was up to his neck build­ing a good-sized work­shop for when the MkI came back. Then, no sooner had the paint dried on the floor, the car was in and he was start­ing the re­build!

Next came the en­gine re­fresh, so the turbo’d 1300cc en­gine was dis­patched to Si­mon’s long-stand­ing mate Alex, be­cause he is just as mad about drag rac­ing and he had set up his own com­pany The Car Kitchen (TCK). “We worked out very quickly that the old en­gine was very worn out. So lots of new parts were found and a full new race spec was drawn up. To make bags of power and loads of torque, many late nights were done at TCK HQ, eat­ing take­aways, un­til a mon­ster was born!”

With the body re­build hap­pen­ing at the same time, there was a big push to get the MkI to Santa Pod for Mini In The Park 2017. The prob­lem was that this car was fight­ing all the way, as there were so many one-off parts and there wasn’t any mock-up time. So Si­mon mocked up as he went along, which slowed things up. “You have to add my ex­treme OCD into the mix too, as I was not will­ing to just get it done,” he adds.

MISSED DEAD­LINE

In the end, Si­mon ended up miss­ing last year’s show, be­cause the day be­fore, whilst on the dyno at TCK, parts

failed that just couldn’t be or­dered and ready in time. How­ever, the new en­gine made an im­pres­sive 203bhp at the wheels. Next, this MkI was weighed and he was pleased to achieve his sec­ond goal of get­ting it un­der the 500kg mark by the skin of his teeth at 495kg with a full wet weight! So Si­mon was a very happy boy at this point!

Since the pho­to­shoot, the Mini’s been to the newly-re­laid Santa Pod not once, but twice. Al­though, not with the re­sults Si­mon would have wanted. “A lot has hap­pened at Pod since the last time I had been there. With this in the back of my head, I lined up, did my first burn-out in three years and all was good, re­ally good I thought. I lined up, staged, got ready for the green light, green on! Dumped the clutch and off it went! Then boom, crack, boom, so I hit the kill switch.”

Af­ter get­ting this car off the track it quickly be­came very ob­vi­ous that the diff was not in­side the gear­box any­more. Then, when Si­mon got home and pulled the en­gine to bits, he re­alised the dam­age was bad. “The Jack Knight gear set had miss­ing teeth, the ATB diff had a twisted out­put shaft and the Pin­ion was miss­ing all its teeth!” So a new MED dog gear kit was sourced, the ATB was fixed and a new crown wheel pin­ion was ob­tained.

Fast for­ward to the Retro Show and this Mini ran well all day on the Satur­day with low boost. Come Sun­day, and boom, the gear­box went again! “Lots

“The new en­gine made an im­pres­sive 203bhp at the wheels”

of data was gained about what has been go­ing on, al­though I do not want to com­mit to say­ing what it is at the minute,” Si­mon ex­plains.

Si­mon has three goals for his MkI and has al­ready achieved two of them: “First was to be un­der 500kg, and I got 495kg; then was to get over 200bhp at the fly­wheel, and I got 204 at the wheels and brake; then was to get into the 12s – my per­sonal best quar­ter-mile time is 13.01, so I haven’t man­aged it just yet.”

We cer­tainly be­lieve it, and we reckon there’s much more to come from this Mini, which is one of the fastest, road­wor­thy MkIs around.

Just a driver’s seat in­side... this Mini is built for speed!

Cus­tom gear link­age is made from ti­ta­nium.

Home-made hy­draulic hand brake.

Ex­tra gauges sit with stan­dard in­stru­ments.

De­spite the quest for light­ness, this MkI is still road-le­gal.

The waif-like build means Si­mon can ac­tu­ally lift his Mini!

Cus­tom roll-cage in­te­grated into MkI shell.

Si­mon didn’t want to com­pro­mise the clas­sic MkI Mini look.

In­conel ex­haust is routed through rear valance.

Si­mon is still chas­ing the 12-sec quar­ter-mile.

Car Kitchen-built 1330 turbo en­gine de­vel­ops 204bhp and 293lb ft of torque.

Every panel be­low the win­dow line was re­placed and light­ened.

En­gine runs up to 25psi boost via hy­brid turbo.

En­gine fea­tures light­weight ti­ta­nium fix­ings.

The only view Si­mon hopes his drag ri­vals will ever see!

Hone-made rear brake con­ver­sion.

Mini­light wheels with ti­ta­nium wheel nuts.

The sub­tle, stan­dard looks hide big power.

Sim­ple MkI rear lights are re­tained.

Even the chrome grille has been light­ened.

Cus­tom al­loy fuel cell - pick up de­lib­er­ately...

...at the back so min­i­mum fuel can be run.

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