GO­ING SMOKE FREE

Tim Wright’s first cou­ple of cars were Mi­nis, so he didn’t think twice about re­liv­ing his youth when he was given the op­por­tu­nity buy this low-mileage, re­stored MkII Cooper S.

Mini Magazine - - Contents -

A well-re­stored Mini is a beau­ti­ful thing; as Tim Wright’s MkII Cooper S demon­strates.

Like Twiggy demon­strated in the 1989 Mini 30 ad­vert, you al­ways re­mem­ber your first Mini. And that’s cer­tainly the case for Tim, the owner of this MkII Cooper S. And the cou­ple of Mi­nis he owned af­ter his first just made him want an­other one.

Al­though not as smart or rare as the Cooper S, Tim still fondly re­mem­bers the 1973 Mini 1000, given to him by my par­ents for his 18th birth­day in 1984. He ex­plains: “It was im­mense fun de­spite be­ing the rather un­cool colour of Har­vest Gold. I did the usual teenage mod­i­fi­ca­tions of fit­ting a big bore Peco ex­haust, Wood & Picket nudge bars and a whiplash ae­rial. It’s cring­ing to think about that now!”

Af­ter about a year Tim changed his Mini for a 1975 Club­man, fol­lowed quite shortly by what he thought was the ul­ti­mate Mini, a red 1275GT. “As the decade changed to the nineties, that was it for Mi­nis and I pro­gressed to MkI Golf GTIs,” he says.

Now in his fifties with two school-age sons the Mi­nis and hot hatches have

given way to a Land Rover Dis­cov­ery, but Tim ad­mits that the sight of a Clas­sic Mini, es­pe­cially an ul­tra-rare orig­i­nal Cooper, made him yearn for an­other one day - as a clas­sic to keep for fun days out.

Then, in late 2017, a friend of Tim’s men­tioned that an­other friend owned a 1969 Mini Cooper S, and had, in fact, owned it from new. “His chil­dren and grand­chil­dren had lit­tle in­ter­est in this Mini, so he was half-heart­edly look­ing to sell it,” re­veals Tim.

“This Mini isn’t a barn find as such, but it re­ally hadn’t seen much of the world”

A SPE­CIAL CLAS­SIC

He re­alised this could be a huge op­por­tu­nity to own a re­ally spe­cial and un­mo­lested Clas­sic Mini, so he shot down to view the car: “I wasn’t dis­ap­pointed, it was in great con­di­tion. Not per­fect, but very good. The pre­vi­ous owner had kept it in a warm, in­te­gral garage and ran it every few weeks or so, since hav­ing it re­stored in 2001.”

Turns out that the for­mer, and in­deed first, owner of this Cooper S ran this Mini in Lon­don as com­muter car but racked up very few miles. In 2001, it was sent to Richard Miles of The Tip­ton Garage in Devon, where the car un­der­went a full restora­tion. He thinks it in­cluded an en­gine re­build and work on the body. From what Tim knows, most of the body is orig­i­nal, but it had new door skins, and a fabric We­basto sun­roof, that was in­stalled at some point in the seven­ties be­fore be­ing re­moved and the roof panel re­placed. Tim thinks the car was re­painted at that time too, as the paint to­day is still ex­cel­lent. Not con­cours, but there is no sign of any creeping rust and it cer­tainly pre­sented it­self as al­most fac­tory fresh. The seats were re­trimmed at the same time, but the rest of the in­te­rior has been un­touched from new.

“This Mini isn’t a barn find as such, as it was kept in such a warm and dry place, but it re­ally hadn’t seen much of the world and it was great to dis­cover such an orig­i­nal car,” Tim added.

A test drive con­firmed that this Mini was as lively as ex­pected, but Tim no­ticed it was puff­ing out some blueish smoke on ac­cel­er­a­tion. De­spite this, he didn’t want to miss out on this op­por­tu­nity, and hav­ing looked through the pa­per­work, the 59,000 miles on the clock proved to be gen­uine. So, de­spite not do­ing many miles for the pre­vi­ous 21

years, a deal was done, and this Cooper was his.

So what was it like driv­ing a Mini af­ter such a long break (since the 1275GT), I ask? “Re­mem­ber­ing the 1275GT, the han­dling was in­cred­i­ble, just like the Cooper S. How­ever, I never re­call the 1275GT feel­ing any­where near as fast as the Cooper S. That sur­prises me, as I’ve driven some pretty fast cars since then - but this Mini Cooper S ab­so­lutely flies.”

When Tim got this Mini back to Lon­don, he first booked it in for a ser­vice, then had rear seat­belts fit­ted for his chil­dren by The Lon­don Mini Cen­tre in Put­ney. Tim de­scribes them as great guys, so he got them to sort the slightly sag­ging hy­dro­static sus­pen­sion, too.

EN­GINE RE­BUILD­ING

How­ever, that worry about the smok­ing en­gine did bother him and the symp­toms didn’t point to a sim­ple fix like the valves, but per­haps some­thing more se­ri­ous and deeper in the en­gine, so he de­cided to get the en­gine re­built. “I did some re­search for en­gine builders, and came across great re­views for the work of Chris at Crafted Clas­sics Tun­ing in Nor­folk. What es­pe­cially ap­pealed to me was his en­thu­si­asm and pic­tures of the en­gines he builds on so­cial me­dia, as well as the fact he only works on the A-Se­ries en­gine. Chris’s brief was to keep it as orig­i­nal as pos­si­ble, but with sen­si­ble up­grades,” ex­plains Tim.

It’s over to Chris Hamil­ton at Crafted Clas­sics Tun­ing, for the next part of

this story: “Tim drove his Cooper S to me in Oc­to­ber 2017, af­ter re­cently get­ting it back on the road. His ar­rival was ac­com­pa­nied with clouds of smoke from the ex­haust sys­tem. My ini­tial di­ag­no­sis was seized rings and stem seals that had gone rock solid due to their age and for be­ing sat for so long.”

Chris be­gan re­mov­ing the en­gine once it had got to Tim’s al­lo­cated build slot in Novem­ber. “Tim as­sured me that the en­gine had re­ceived a ‘ full re­build’ be­fore it was taken off the road and had only done a few hun­dred miles. I was fully ex­pect­ing to open the en­gine and see a rel­a­tively fresh ar­ray of parts, think­ing the build would be quite straight­for­ward. I couldn’t have been more wrong!”

Once stripped, Chris found the gear­box was a hand­ful of miles away from com­plete fail­ure! The rings on the pis­tons hadn’t been fit­ted cor­rectly, as well as be­ing seized in place. Plus, al­though the cylin­der head had been pre­vi­ously con­verted to un­leaded, as well as be­ing ported. Well it turns out the un­leaded in­serts fit­ted, had been fit­ted af­ter the port­ing, and had a huge in­ner step re­duc­ing flow out of the head. On top of this, the guides were se­verely worn and didn’t have any stem seal at all.

“All of this was re­layed back to Tim, at which point he in­structed me to carry out the full works. We also dis­cussed ad­ding a few sub­tle up­grades, which wouldn’t have a neg­a­tive im­pact on the en­gine, tak­ing away any pe­riod fac­tory parts to not de­tract from its over­all value. So I added ARP rod bolts, a crosspin diff along with 1.5:1 ra­tio forged rocker as­sem­bly and Omega pis­tons,” Chris added.

The en­gine was given a full re­build from top to bot­tom. Then it was fully dyno tested and run in. Only then, was it fit­ted back into this Mini and dressed with an­cil­lar­ies.

Tim re­sumes his story: “I’ve had the car a year now, but it was with Chris for about four-months. I be­lieve it gives

about 10bhp more than the orig­i­nal Cooper S en­gine, which I am more than happy with.”

Now the en­gine work has been com­pleted, Tim has no plans for any fur­ther work other than rou­tine main­te­nance. “The key to me is to main­tain this car’s orig­i­nal­ity. Al­though I thought about ad­ding ex­tra front lights, or per­haps a boot-mounted rev­ers­ing lamp, mainly for the ap­pear­ance, I have re­sisted this temp­ta­tion and am de­ter­mined to keep it stan­dard. I may add a pe­riod rev counter though, just be­cause I am so used to hav­ing them and be­lieve it would make driv­ing the car so much more in­for­ma­tive, know­ing how quickly the en­gine is spin­ning.”

GET­TING OUT

Tim is also look­ing for­ward to tak­ing this Mini to the odd clas­sic car meet. So, will he be mak­ing it a pri­or­ity to hook up with a Mini Club such as the Mini Cooper Reg­is­ter? “Yes, I’ve joined the Mini Cooper Reg­is­ter, and the car has made a brief ap­pear­ance in their mag­a­zine as a new­comer. I sadly haven’t been able to make any meet­ings or go to their an­nual Beaulieu show yet, but I hope to be­come more in­volved in the fu­ture,” says Tim.

Will the es­ca­lat­ing val­ues of Clas­sic Mi­nis af­fect how you use this Cooper S, I ask Tim? “I paid a rea­son­able price for the car, but it was no means a bar­gain. The prices of good Clas­sic Mi­nis have been on the up for quite a while and I know my MkII hasn’t the same value as a MkI, but it would be good to think the value may in­crease fur­ther in the years to come. I think that the gen­uine low mileage and two-owner his­tory, along with the con­di­tion and orig­i­nal­ity will keep the value of mine up. How­ever, that’s not go­ing to stop me us­ing the

“I have re­sisted temp­ta­tion and am de­ter­mined to keep the car stan­dard”

car and en­joy­ing it to the full, as a proper Mini Cooper S de­serves to be driven, and not stored as an in­vest­ment.

So will this Mini be used all year round? “I’m go­ing to use it sparsely dur­ing the win­ter and avoid any salt-cov­ered roads. I am very much aware of its cos­seted life, which is why it is in such great orig­i­nal con­di­tion to­day, so I don’t want to ex­pose it to any harsh win­ter con­di­tions. I plan on driv­ing it quite reg­u­larly from spring to au­tumn and take it to shows, clas­sic car meets, and the like,” says Tim.

So, with one of the main rea­sons why the pre­vi­ous owner sold be­ing that his chil­dren and grand­chil­dren had lit­tle in­ter­est in the Mini, what do Tim’s boys think of it? “My two boys, aged nine and 10, are in­cred­u­lous about the size, noise and speed of the Mini. Like most kids of their age, it’s all about the su­per­cars that the foot­ballers drive. How­ever, they ab­so­lutely love rid­ing in the Mini, and the re­ac­tion it gets from the other kids when I oc­ca­sion­ally pick them up from school in it is hi­lar­i­ous. It gets a crowd sev­eral deep hav­ing a good look, which would be wor­thy of any Fer­rari.” Apt praise in­deed and the rea­son why this Mini will cer­tainly be stay­ing for a while.

“I am very aware of its cos­seted life, which is why it’s in such great con­di­tion”

Orig­i­nal black vinyl trim adorns the in­te­rior.

Rare with just over 59,000 miles on the clock.

Orig­i­nal steer­ing wheel suits this MkII.

Look­ing pe­riod per­fect in Al­mond Green with an Old English White roof.

Bright­work has been re­stored to per­fec­tion.

The Mini even re­tains its orig­i­nal mir­ror.

The roof panel was re­placed prior to Tim’s own­er­ship.

Wear­ing its spe­cial badge with pride.

Door han­dle is an­other orig­i­nal fea­ture.

Crafted Clas­sic Tun­ing re­built the orig­i­nal 1275 A-Se­ries.

It’s hard to be­lieve this block is al­most 50!

Pe­riod AA badge sits on the grille.

Ex­haust looks like new.

Tim’s beloved Mini even draws in the crowds at his kids’ school!

A stamp of orig­i­nal­ity: the orig­i­nal tax disc.

Mini still rides on its orig­i­nal vented rims.

Pe­riod num­ber plate and light.

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