ON THE JOB
This smooth roof Countryman is Peter Humphries’ fourth Mini, and it was previously fitted with a Peugeot diesel engine!
The story of Peter Humphries smooth-roof Countryman, previously boasting Peugeot power.
Peter’s first Mini was a white 1989 Mary Quant Designer edition, bought for £100 to learn to drive in when he was 18. He spent another £100 getting it through an MoT then, while he was at uni, his mum overheated the engine, warped the head, and it ended up being sold to a scrap yard for just £10.
It was only then that Peter realised how much he liked Minis and he bought another - a 1979 Pageant Blue 850 Super Deluxe. It was given a 998 engine transplant due to a cracked subframe and he drove it every day for three-years until its reliability got on his nerves. Although he’s always regretted selling it.
Then a 1969 MkIII came from a friend. Peter started to learn how to weld on it but soon realised he would be better off with a road-worthy Mini he could tweak. That’s when he bought his Antelope Beige 1970 MkIII, which he’s still very attached to.
Peter now has a garage which he’s filled with Minis and parts over the past fouryears. His current fleet includes a 1975 Clubman called Ed with a DIY Toyota MR2 engine conversion and a one-owner 1972 Aqua MkIII that needs full resto.
This Countryman cropped up on Facebook, owned by an old uni friend of Peter’s. He’d always wanted something different and this seemed interesting, especially as it’s a MkI - although it needed a lot of work! Still, he was after a project and knew it was a rare model, so would be worth the effort. A price was agreed over the phone, a low loader was booked, and it was collected one week later.
What first attracted you to this particular Mini?
I always wanted a MkI Mini with the external hinges and sliding windows, plus I also fancied a van — to me this was the best of both. With folding seats and a smooth roof I knew it was rare and worth putting some money into. It was also a blank canvas, and I wanted a project Mini that I could restore and build from the ground up, which is something I hadn’t done yet.
Can you tell me more about this Mini, do you know much of its history?
I don’t know a great deal of its history, but Gary, who sold me the car, explained that a previous owner had installed a 1.6 Peugeot diesel engine in it. It had about 20 random holes in the bulkhead and the rear wheel well had been cut out and flat plated to allow for a larger exhaust box. It’s had lots of owners and a very chequered past.
What was the push that got you starting to rebuild it?
For some reason I was itching to get working on it — despite having other projects already waiting! Maybe it’s because it’s the oldest Mini I own, and it clearly needed some love!
How far have you got?
Over the past 18 months I have replaced or repaired almost every panel below the waist, and a few above as well. I have learnt a lot about how these cars were assembled at the factory and find the construction of the shell very interesting. There are a lot of quirky bits about the MkI shells and I like seeing the changes. M-Machine has been my main source of panels, and Doreen has very helpful with sourcing all the panels and repair sections I have needed.
It’s had two Heritage inner and outer wings, a scuttle panel, an M-Machine modified MkI front panel, compete M-Machine floor, rear Heritage arches, rear valance and all the associated closing panels. It also needed to have half the bulkhead replaced due to it being hacked to pieces by a previous owner. I sourced this, as a second-hand panel from an early MkIII. The other panel I was worried I wouldn’t be able to source, was the boot floor with the wheel well. This panel is the same as a Clubman estate and I was lucky to find a guy in Ashford who had one in excellent condition that I bought for £30 — it was the missing piece of the puzzle!
As it stands, I have a few holes to weld up and it’s ready to go to the body shop. I just got carried away and had that classic issue of where do you stop. I didn’t want to lose the originality of the car, but there were so many panels that just needed replacing.
What is the next job?
Once it goes off to the body shop, I next plan to build up the engine and restore some wheels.
What was it like at the start?
It was a mess and had no front end. The roof and doors looked good, but I soon realised that was about it. I built a DIY spit to help fit the floor and this worked great when it came to stone-chipping and painting the underside. I did all this myself as I knew the body shop wouldn’t have access.
Will you keep it in the original colour?
There are parts of the interior metalwork that still show the original colour of WT3
Old English White, so that’s what it’s going back to. I just hope I like it, as it wouldn’t normally be my first choice. However, I think it should be done in a colour from that time.
Do you have any worries with this rebuild?
I’m worried I will hate the colour! As mentioned earlier, it’s going to be WT3, which is the original Old English White and it’s very creamy. When I did the floor, I got a bit of a shock at how yellowy it looked. I also know that finding some of the MkI parts will be tricky. It didn’t come with much, but I’ve managed to get a heater, wiper motor and switch panel already.
What sort of style are you aiming for with this car?
I want it to be really simple looking and as close to how it would have looked back in ‘61 as possible, but with a hint of performance in the period wheels.
What wheels are you going to run?
Who knows... I have accrued a variety of 10-inch wheels that I like the look of. I’m torn between Dunlop D1s, Rostyle steels or some European GKN wheels that I picked up recently. They will be 4.5- or 5-inch by 10-inches. I won’t be putting any arches on the car, so I’ll have to try them all out to see which ones sit best inside the arch.
Have you made any modifications over standard, or will you be making any?
I’ll be installing a bigger engine as I’m building a 1310 block up instead of the original 850 (which I do have). It won’t therefore have a magic wand stick either as I’ll probably fit a rod change ‘box. It has Hi-Los and 1.5-degree negative camber bottom arms. I’ll fit some 7.5-inch disc brakes as well. Other than that though, it will be pretty standard. Any other add ons I decide to fit will be from the same period.
Do you think your budget is going to dictate what you’re going to do with this Mini?
It will. I haven’t spared any expense on the panels and it will be painted professionally. However, I’m not in to paying silly prices for rare MkI parts, so if I have to go for alternatives or restore old bits, I will. I like Patina and I don’t want it to look too shiny when it’s done - I want the finished car to look like it’s had a life.
Have you got any ideas for any other special parts that you’ll fit to this Mini?
Well, it’s a Countryman and most of them came with wood trim on the back, however there were some customers who specified them without and I’m pretty sure I’m going to leave the wood off. I don’t like the full wood look, but as a compromise I would like to make a bespoke rear window frame from Ash. It will be a direct replacement for the standard Clubman estate metal window frame and I think it will give it a more subtle look than the full wood trim. I do a bit of woodworking so will enjoy doing this bit, I’ll probably tie it in with a matching wood steering wheel as well.
How often do you plan to use this Mini when it’s done?
I’ll have to share the time with my other Mini, but I’ll probably get it out once a week and more so when the weather is nice. It will come along to the local shows. I normally get along to dozen or so each year, although I reckon it will be another year or two until it’s ready.
The smooth roof and doors were the only solid parts. A work in progress, this Clubby will be WT3 Old English White once finished.
External hinges a mark of the Mk1. Peter is opting for 10-inch period wheels. Peter is working on a 1310 block which will eventually reside in here! Various parts are ready to go in!