IT’S A BLING THING
With a very clear picture in her mind of how a Mini should look, Jill Gilmore set about customising her 1991 Cooper. The result is a show-winning reflection of her creativity and vision. We recommend you wear shades…
Jill Gilmore’s show-winning 1991 Cooper is a triumph of what can be achieved if you have a solid vision in mind.
Jill Gilmore developed her love for Minis when she was a teenager. Her father, Noel, owned a series of Minis, firstly as family transport then later, just for fun. “My father saved up the money to buy a new saloon in the ’60s. That was his first Mini. This car was crashed and written off but there were other Minis which came later,” Jill says.
“When I was growing up, the family car was a 1979 Clubman Estate. It went on to be a high mileage car but my dad, who was a self-taught hobby mechanic, was able to keep it going with a replacement engine which he changed himself,” continues Jill. It was during these formative years that Jill picked up the skills and knowledge required to live a fulfilling Mini life. “I was never into girlie things like dolls. Spending time with my dad learning about Minis
and helping him was more much fun to me,” she explains.
When Noel retired in 2003 he then had more garage time to spend on his favourite car. Jill explains: “His first Mini after retirement was a 1985 Mayfair Automatic which had belonged to my Great Aunt. I helped him with the restoration of that car which needed a few panels, a respray and some engine work. He took the Mayfair to shows and was bitten by the Mini bug again.”
ICONIC BONNET BADGE
Other Minis passed through his capable hands, including a 1994 Tahiti, a 1999 MPi Cooper Sportspack and a MkII Riley Elf. When the time came for Jill to own and maintain her own car, her knowledge of the Mini’s unique history steered her toward that most iconic of bonnet badges, the Cooper. “My dad kept all his cars in original spec but I always wanted to buy a Mini and add my own touch to it and I wanted to start off with a 1990s Cooper, preferably in red,” Jill says. Two months of searching led to the purchase of a ’ 91 example in 2009, which fitted her criteria – a roadworthy Mini with a decent shell and a clean interior. Jill now had the essential garage skills, a Mini and a plan.
The first step was to renew the MoT which was a straightforward task, confirming that while there were a few early signs of tin worm larvae developing
under the surface of the original 18-yearold paint, the previous owner had not neglected the engine or mechanicals. Now that TXI 7937, otherwise known as ‘Tixie’ was road-legal, Jill did what most Mini drivers do; spent time behind the wheel, enjoying the classic driving experience. In between shows and Mourne Mini Club runs there was time to replace the crumbling valance and tidy up some of the rust spots. Lots of time was spent sanding, filling, sanding, can rattling and spraying, all carried out with the enviable patience that Noel had passed on to his daughter.
Jill, formerly a head chef, spent the next two years doing what many Mini owners do; planning an extensive list of modifications and refurbishments. She wrote out a list of all the essential ingredients, blended her ideas and let them simmer until the perfect picture of her ideal Mini emerged.
When the project kicked off, Tixie was sent to the body shop for some new panels. Considering 20 years had passed since it left Longbridge it is surprising
“I always wanted to buy a Mini and add my own touch to it”
that only wings, A-panels and door skins were needed to return the shell to sound condition. After these were replaced with genuine MG Rover panels, the next
stage of the plan was carried out by paint man Terry McSpadden, who resprayed Tixie in the familiar Flame Red of the Rover era Cooper, topped off with a black roof because Jill wanted something different from the standard white.
Jill and husband Brian then tackled the nerve-wracking job of marking out, cutting and folding the pristine front wings to accept the 6x13-inch chrome alloy rims and their Sportspack arches. When Jill bought her Mini it came with a set of Hi-Los fitted in the front subframe but, strangely, none in the rear. Putting things right in the ride height department was no problem for our experienced spanner twirler. Out went the original trumpets and in went the new units, suitably adjusted to give a balanced look to the car on its more modern 13-inch rims. A new set of standard shocks completed the suspension refurb.
Tixie was always going to stand out from the crowd so some more bling was purchased along the way. Out of the goodie box came a set of driving lights and an extra rear fog lamp, all fitted and wired with help from an auto-electrician friend of Noel’s. The boot lid, flanks and bonnet were trimmed with decals including those bold black bonnet stripes with their eye-catching John Cooper signatures in chrome. With the chrome wipers, twin washer jets, Aston filler cap and door mirrors, the box was empty and the exterior transformation was finally complete.
Jill next turned her attention to the interior. A new dash was next on the list but this wasn’t just any old list so it wasn’t
“A new dash was next on the list but this wasn’t just any old list”
just any old dash. She wanted her own bespoke finish so she ordered plain MDF panels which she then covered in black and red vinyl herself before spraying the air vent bezels to match and adding a Smiths clock. She fitted the assembly herself and finished it off by installing the centre console and a more modern radio/ CD player. The standard part-leather seats, based on the Mini Thirty perches,
were not part of the plan so Mini Trimmings was given the task of making new ‘Jill-spec’ covers, which she fitted on to the original frames, adding to the new look interior. The gear lever was dressed up with a new gaiter and topped with a new gear knob, both leather and bought on a trip to Bingley Hall. Over-mats from Mini Trimmings went over the original carpets and some chrome door furniture furnished the original doorcards. Things were going according to plan.
But all work and no play might make Jill a dull girl, so she decided to take a
break from the garage and attend a few local shows. This turned out to be a good idea as it led to a few trophies along the way which spurred Jill on to make further improvements to Tixie’s appearance, especially under the bonnet. The next stage of the plan was put into action with a new bonnet, replacing the ageing original. While it was away at Terry’s for a respray, Jill set about brightening up the block with a new coat of paint and a chrome rocker cover. Her plan was to make the engine bay as bright and appealing as the rest of the car so the addition of some of Smiffy’s stainless steel bits seemed the obvious answer. The list included head stud covers, bonnet stay, brake reservoir cover, fuse box cover, radiator top bracket, coil bracket and cover, slam panel centre and safety catch trims. Finishing it all off with a clear Perspex engine cover with its John Cooper signature ensured that another part of the plan had gone according to, errrr, the plan!
In 2015 Jill noticed a slight oil leak
“A few trophies along the way spurred Jill on to make further improvements”
down the back of the block, coming from the head gasket so the head came off for a light skim. While it was away at the machine shop she fitted a new water pump, a Fletcher alloy radiator, a new alternator, replaced the original rad hoses and for good measure she gave the block another coat of paint. It was then off to more shows where her planning and hard work were rewarded with more silverware. You have to love it when a plan comes together.
Just as Noel had passed on his love of Minis to his enthusiastic daughter, so Jill’s daughter Karen has been bitten by the Mini bug. There’s one of Noel’s Minis, a 1999 Sportspack Cooper, with her name on it waiting for her plans to be revealed. Will bling be her thing, too?
Striking Mini Trimmings custom 'Jill-spec' interior. Chrome door furniture furnishes the original doorcards. Custom full-width dash with Smiths clock.
Tixie has been resprayed in Flame Red with a black roof. 13-inch chromed Sportspack alloy rims. Bonnet stripes look right at home.
Jill brightened up the 1275cc block with a coat of paint and chrome rocker cover. Chrome John Cooper signature looks classy.
Looking every bit the '90s classic... One of Mini's most iconic badges. The Cooper was treated to a new bonnet, wings and A-panels.
Sportspack arches in that matching solid black look great. Jill and her beloved blingy Cooper!