Graham has always been something of a Mini lover, his first example being a white and black British-built Cooper that he owned for a few years until he was 21. Driven as an everyday car, the Mini was used by Graham to travel from his parent’s house in Howick to his place of work, at that time NZ Steel in Waiuku, a 100-kilometre round trip. As well, the Mini was pressed into service for skiing trips to Mt Ruapehu, and once to Mt Hutt.
With that first Cooper sold, Graham wouldn’t return to Mini motoring until he was 27 — now resident in Wellington, he acquired an orange and black car.
This one was a bit special, in that it had been worked on by Peter Zivkovic. If that name seems familiar, just ask any Mini enthusiast — they’ll all know Peter as the man who did most of the stunt driving for that iconic Kiwi road movie, Goodbye Porkpie.
At the time, this Australian-assembled Leyland Mini was running a 1310cc motor, and sucked petrol from its twin fuel tanks through a Weber downdraught carburettor. After purchasing the car, Graham returned it to Zivkovic’s Johnsonville workshop for further alterations — including the addition of racing seats and a fibreglass bonnet and boot lid. Additionally, the downdraught Weber was swapped for a 40 DCOE carburettor, while later-model disc brakes were fitted up front.
Graham left New Zealand in 1995, heading towards Liverpool in the UK to fulfil an IT contract. While he was away, his Mini found a new home at his parents’ place in Eastbourne, Wellington. However, Graham had definitely not forgotten his car, and a list of go-faster bits, provided by Peter Zivkovic, accompanied him to the hometown of The Beatles. There was nothing too extreme on the list — a sportier camshaft, fourspeed SCCR gear-set and larger valves, plus a few more items. As Graham slowly ticked off the parts on his list, he shipped them back to New Zealand.
Graham’s plans to return to Wellington and personally supervise the installation of all these performance parts at Zivkovic’s workshop soon fell apart, and in the end he remained in Liverpool for the next three years.
In the meantime, he commissioned Zivkovic to start work on the Mini, who commenced transforming it in late 1996. At this time Graham’s father became the go-between, effectively acting as project manager, as he regularly visited Wellington airport to pick up the parcels of parts sent by Graham from the UK, and then delivered them to Zivkovic’s workshop. As well, he kept Graham in touch with progress on the Mini — and the bills that needed to be paid.
Unfortunately, Graham’s father passed away while he was living and working in Liverpool, and he never got to see the end result of his involvement with the Mini. Graham returned to New Zealand, where he continued to work on the project.
While work continued on Graham’s Mini, in 2000 he took on a short-term contract based in Christchurch and, whilst in the Garden City, he spotted a Cooper S at an auto-electrical workshop. A deal was done, and Graham purchased the Mini and drove it back to Wellington after he’d completed his contract.
His initial plan was to freshen up the Cooper’s motor and gearbox and use the car as an everyday runner — evidently Graham was suffering from Mini withdrawal pangs, as his other Mini remained
In the Name of the Father
Although work had commenced on Graham’s Mini in 1997, it wasn’t finished until 2002. Since then, the Mini has only completed around 2000 kilometres, and is now based in Auckland following Graham’s relocation from Wellington. He attended a few car shows over the summer months, but he’s still tweaking his Mini, and future plans include adding some more carbon-fibre parts, courtesy of Carbon Weezel in the UK, and returning the car to Peter Zivkovic (now based in Tauranga) for the installation of a fuel-injection set-up.
Of course, Graham also added that personalized plate – TO DAD – in recognition of the part his father played in the overall project.