IT’S A BLING THING

With a very clear pic­ture in her mind of how a Mini should look, Jill Gil­more set about cus­tomis­ing her 1991 Cooper. The re­sult is a show-win­ning re­flec­tion of her cre­ativ­ity and vi­sion. We rec­om­mend you wear shades…

Mini Magazine - - Contents -

Jill Gil­more’s show-win­ning 1991 Cooper is a tri­umph of what can be achieved if you have a solid vi­sion in mind.

Jill Gil­more de­vel­oped her love for Mi­nis when she was a teenager. Her father, Noel, owned a se­ries of Mi­nis, firstly as fam­ily trans­port then later, just for fun. “My father saved up the money to buy a new sa­loon in the ’60s. That was his first Mini. This car was crashed and writ­ten off but there were other Mi­nis which came later,” Jill says.

“When I was grow­ing up, the fam­ily car was a 1979 Club­man Es­tate. It went on to be a high mileage car but my dad, who was a self-taught hobby me­chanic, was able to keep it go­ing with a re­place­ment en­gine which he changed him­self,” con­tin­ues Jill. It was dur­ing th­ese for­ma­tive years that Jill picked up the skills and knowl­edge re­quired to live a ful­fill­ing Mini life. “I was never into girlie things like dolls. Spend­ing time with my dad learn­ing about Mi­nis

and help­ing him was more much fun to me,” she ex­plains.

When Noel re­tired in 2003 he then had more garage time to spend on his favourite car. Jill ex­plains: “His first Mini af­ter re­tire­ment was a 1985 May­fair Au­to­matic which had be­longed to my Great Aunt. I helped him with the restora­tion of that car which needed a few pan­els, a re­spray and some en­gine work. He took the May­fair to shows and was bit­ten by the Mini bug again.”

ICONIC BONNET BADGE

Other Mi­nis passed through his ca­pa­ble hands, in­clud­ing a 1994 Tahiti, a 1999 MPi Cooper Sportspack and a MkII Ri­ley Elf. When the time came for Jill to own and main­tain her own car, her knowl­edge of the Mini’s unique his­tory steered her to­ward that most iconic of bonnet badges, the Cooper. “My dad kept all his cars in orig­i­nal spec but I al­ways wanted to buy a Mini and add my own touch to it and I wanted to start off with a 1990s Cooper, prefer­ably in red,” Jill says. Two months of search­ing led to the pur­chase of a ’ 91 ex­am­ple in 2009, which fit­ted her cri­te­ria – a road­wor­thy Mini with a de­cent shell and a clean in­te­rior. Jill now had the es­sen­tial garage skills, a Mini and a plan.

The first step was to re­new the MoT which was a straight­for­ward task, con­firm­ing that while there were a few early signs of tin worm lar­vae de­vel­op­ing

un­der the sur­face of the orig­i­nal 18-yearold paint, the pre­vi­ous owner had not ne­glected the en­gine or me­chan­i­cals. Now that TXI 7937, oth­er­wise known as ‘Tixie’ was road-le­gal, Jill did what most Mini driv­ers do; spent time be­hind the wheel, en­joy­ing the clas­sic driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. In be­tween shows and Mourne Mini Club runs there was time to re­place the crum­bling valance and tidy up some of the rust spots. Lots of time was spent sand­ing, fill­ing, sand­ing, can rat­tling and spray­ing, all car­ried out with the en­vi­able pa­tience that Noel had passed on to his daugh­ter.

Jill, for­merly a head chef, spent the next two years do­ing what many Mini own­ers do; plan­ning an ex­ten­sive list of mod­i­fi­ca­tions and re­fur­bish­ments. She wrote out a list of all the es­sen­tial in­gre­di­ents, blended her ideas and let them sim­mer un­til the per­fect pic­ture of her ideal Mini emerged.

When the project kicked off, Tixie was sent to the body shop for some new pan­els. Con­sid­er­ing 20 years had passed since it left Long­bridge it is sur­pris­ing

“I al­ways wanted to buy a Mini and add my own touch to it”

that only wings, A-pan­els and door skins were needed to re­turn the shell to sound con­di­tion. Af­ter th­ese were re­placed with gen­uine MG Rover pan­els, the next

stage of the plan was car­ried out by paint man Terry McS­pad­den, who re­sprayed Tixie in the fa­mil­iar Flame Red of the Rover era Cooper, topped off with a black roof be­cause Jill wanted some­thing dif­fer­ent from the stan­dard white.

Jill and hus­band Brian then tack­led the nerve-wrack­ing job of mark­ing out, cut­ting and fold­ing the pris­tine front wings to ac­cept the 6x13-inch chrome al­loy rims and their Sportspack arches. When Jill bought her Mini it came with a set of Hi-Los fit­ted in the front sub­frame but, strangely, none in the rear. Putting things right in the ride height depart­ment was no prob­lem for our ex­pe­ri­enced span­ner twirler. Out went the orig­i­nal trum­pets and in went the new units, suit­ably ad­justed to give a bal­anced look to the car on its more mod­ern 13-inch rims. A new set of stan­dard shocks com­pleted the sus­pen­sion re­furb.

Tixie was al­ways go­ing to stand out from the crowd so some more bling was pur­chased along the way. Out of the goodie box came a set of driv­ing lights and an ex­tra rear fog lamp, all fit­ted and wired with help from an auto-elec­tri­cian friend of Noel’s. The boot lid, flanks and bonnet were trimmed with de­cals in­clud­ing those bold black bonnet stripes with their eye-catch­ing John Cooper sig­na­tures in chrome. With the chrome wipers, twin washer jets, As­ton filler cap and door mir­rors, the box was empty and the ex­te­rior trans­for­ma­tion was fi­nally com­plete.

BE­SPOKE IN­TE­RIOR

Jill next turned her at­ten­tion to the in­te­rior. A new dash was next on the list but this wasn’t just any old list so it wasn’t

“A new dash was next on the list but this wasn’t just any old list”

just any old dash. She wanted her own be­spoke fin­ish so she or­dered plain MDF pan­els which she then cov­ered in black and red vinyl her­self be­fore spray­ing the air vent bezels to match and ad­ding a Smiths clock. She fit­ted the as­sem­bly her­self and fin­ished it off by in­stalling the cen­tre con­sole and a more mod­ern ra­dio/ CD player. The stan­dard part-leather seats, based on the Mini Thirty perches,

were not part of the plan so Mini Trim­mings was given the task of mak­ing new ‘Jill-spec’ cov­ers, which she fit­ted on to the orig­i­nal frames, ad­ding to the new look in­te­rior. The gear lever was dressed up with a new gaiter and topped with a new gear knob, both leather and bought on a trip to Bin­g­ley Hall. Over-mats from Mini Trim­mings went over the orig­i­nal car­pets and some chrome door fur­ni­ture fur­nished the orig­i­nal door­cards. Things were go­ing ac­cord­ing to plan.

But all work and no play might make Jill a dull girl, so she de­cided to take a

break from the garage and at­tend a few lo­cal shows. This turned out to be a good idea as it led to a few tro­phies along the way which spurred Jill on to make fur­ther im­prove­ments to Tixie’s ap­pear­ance, es­pe­cially un­der the bonnet. The next stage of the plan was put into ac­tion with a new bonnet, re­plac­ing the age­ing orig­i­nal. While it was away at Terry’s for a re­spray, Jill set about bright­en­ing up the block with a new coat of paint and a chrome rocker cover. Her plan was to make the en­gine bay as bright and ap­peal­ing as the rest of the car so the ad­di­tion of some of Smiffy’s stain­less steel bits seemed the ob­vi­ous an­swer. The list in­cluded head stud cov­ers, bonnet stay, brake reser­voir cover, fuse box cover, ra­di­a­tor top bracket, coil bracket and cover, slam panel cen­tre and safety catch trims. Fin­ish­ing it all off with a clear Per­spex en­gine cover with its John Cooper sig­na­ture en­sured that an­other part of the plan had gone ac­cord­ing to, er­rrr, the plan!

In 2015 Jill no­ticed a slight oil leak

“A few tro­phies along the way spurred Jill on to make fur­ther im­prove­ments”

down the back of the block, com­ing from the head gas­ket so the head came off for a light skim. While it was away at the ma­chine shop she fit­ted a new wa­ter pump, a Fletcher al­loy ra­di­a­tor, a new al­ter­na­tor, re­placed the orig­i­nal rad hoses and for good mea­sure she gave the block an­other coat of paint. It was then off to more shows where her plan­ning and hard work were re­warded with more sil­ver­ware. You have to love it when a plan comes to­gether.

Just as Noel had passed on his love of Mi­nis to his en­thu­si­as­tic daugh­ter, so Jill’s daugh­ter Karen has been bit­ten by the Mini bug. There’s one of Noel’s Mi­nis, a 1999 Sportspack Cooper, with her name on it wait­ing for her plans to be re­vealed. Will bling be her thing, too?

Words and Pho­tog­ra­phy Willy Car­son

Strik­ing Mini Trim­mings cus­tom 'Jill-spec' in­te­rior. Chrome door fur­ni­ture fur­nishes the orig­i­nal door­cards. Cus­tom full-width dash with Smiths clock.

Tixie has been re­sprayed in Flame Red with a black roof. 13-inch chromed Sportspack al­loy rims. Bonnet stripes look right at home.

Jill bright­ened up the 1275cc block with a coat of paint and chrome rocker cover. Chrome John Cooper sig­na­ture looks classy.

Look­ing every bit the '90s clas­sic... One of Mini's most iconic badges. The Cooper was treated to a new bonnet, wings and A-pan­els.

Sportspack arches in that match­ing solid black look great. Jill and her beloved blingy Cooper!

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