Mini City E

Meet the car we’ll be putting back to­gether at the NEC

Practical Classics (UK) - - CONTENTS - Matt Tomkins PROJECTS ED­I­TOR matt.tomkins@prac­ti­cal­clas­

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.

PER­FECT PLAN­NING While things prob­a­bly won’t go to plan, it’s still worth having one.

At least the hole makes it eas­ier to clear leaves. Elec­trick­ery un­der­way to start the en­gine.

Danny mar­vels at the murk­i­ness of the Mini’s old oil.

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