Mini City E
Meet the car we’ll be putting back together at the NEC
Mr Bean’s bright green Mini is as iconic a television prop as Arkwright’s till or the Doctor’s big blue box. My red Mini City E used to belong to none other than Rowan Atkinson’s son. He owned it while at school and sold it to a friend of PC contributor James Jefferson after it failed its MOT in February 2007. Skip forward a couple of years, when space was required, enthusiasm and time for repair had dried up, and the Mini was in bits. That’s when I stepped in and bought the project last year.
There can’t be many Minis owned by the Atkinson family, so a Mr Bean replica complete with Applejack paint job, 10in wheels and central speedo seems appropriate. I can also now exclusively reveal that, in line with the show’s theme of ‘family ties’, it’ll be this Mini that will be rebuilt live with Ant Anstead on the Discovery Stage at the Lancaster Insurance Classic Motor Show at the NEC (November 10-12).
Before then, there is plenty to do. Sills on one side had been partially replaced, but only tacked into position and on the other side is a gaping hole. Welding, and lots of it, is first on the agenda. Luckily, sill repair panels came with the car so I could get cracking straight away while I mentally prepare for a large order to Mini Spares Midlands, part of David Manners Group. The list was long, and consisted of everything from panels to a brake conversion to take the smaller 10-inch wheels, an early dash conversion, trim and bushes. It’s great to have a one-stop shop for everything I need for the project to make it look like the 1977 Mini used in the TV series.
Fail to plan, plan to fail
This is a project with a plan. It might seem that, with a classic car, planning is fruitless due to the number of unexpected issues bound to arise, but particularly with a deadline, failing to plan would be suicidal. The welding will be tackled with the car as it sits, with both subframes attached and the doors braced. Once the car is solid again, gaps will all be finally checked at which point the bog stripdown can begin. Both front and rear subframes will be removed and the interior gutted before any final bits of welding are carried out. The bare shell will then be sent to CBR Motorbodies for final prep and paint in the vile shade of green required.
While the shell is away, all the mechanicals will receive complete overhaul. Care and organisation will be key here, as the next time all the components are united will be live on stage at the NEC. Anything that can be refurbished will get cleaned, painted, re-bushed and packaged. Trial fitting will be essential where possible. Then, it’ll be a case of loading the constituent parts into the back of a van, the shell onto a trailer, and taking the whole lot to the NEC.
Before anything else, though, I decided it would be handy to assess the mechanicals of the car and know what we’re faced with. The old oil was dropped, its sheer filth raising a few eyebrows in the PC workshop, and fresh lubrication poured in for this initial test. Turning the engine over by hand, it felt healthy with good compression and no tight spots. With a battery connected and the coil unplugged, we span her over and eventually the oil light went out. After the points were cleaned, the coil reconnected, with a healthy squirt of brake cleaner into the carburettor, she fired straight up.
The fuel tank had been removed a few years previously, so a jerry can was rigged to the feed line, the carb was cleaned and reassembled and the fuel lines plumbed. Vroom. First turn of the key she was off. With a spare wheel to sit on, I clambered aboard. All gears engaged nicely, and even the brakes worked after a fashion. It’s good to know we’ve strong mechanicals to work with before we begin in earnest.