Perhaps the longest serving car in Techzle Garage, or rather: sure! A MINI with “what” modifications
“Hey Martijn, would you like to write a little about your MINI for the Techzle Garage?” was the friendly request from our editor-in-chief, “Eeeeeeeeuuhhhr” was my most helpful response. Now I am here at a local BMW & MINI specialist waiting for the MOT inspection of the car in question. Which seems like a suitable moment for me to sort out my thoughts on this subject.
MINI with “what” modifications
It will be a surprise for the majority of you, but “a few things” have changed on my MINI. The attentive reader has already seen the car in question in a purchase advice with Casper. This was a few years ago. For now, let’s start with a kind of general proposal round with the period to date in a kind of nutshell.
The car in question is a MINI Cooper (no S indeed!) From 2002, delivered with the popular Chile package in the Netherlands at the time. Half-height seats, a few nice rims, a rear spoiler, on-board computer. Everything that the MINI buyer wanted at the time. Fortunately, the first owner was also nice to check cruise control and air conditioning on the already very extensive option list. Among other things, these options made the car appear on my radar in 2011. When I was looking for my first means of transport.
There were other options
As a student I managed to survive for years with a mix of bicycles, public transport and borrowed cars. But that had to change. The combination of affordable, somewhat sporty and kind of practical made me look at the smaller hot hatches, just like many. They all passed the review, for example also a Suzuki Swift Sport or a Fiat Panda 100HP were serious contenders. Looked around for a while, inspecting MINIs closely and finally bought this one.
The plan was not to do much less than a few other wheels… At the time I did not know that that was a kind of running joke within the MINI community. Almost everyone who registers is talking about “no, he is fine, at most a few stickers”. Something that goes completely overboard within a few weeks / months / years. This was also the case with me, because within a few months the car was equipped with a coilover, camberplates, a different exhaust, a different air filter, etc. The following year a complete interior makeover, Cooper-S-bumpers and other wheels followed. At that time, I still drove the car daily, rising from 15,000 a year to around 30,000-40,000.
And then the MINI modifications started
For maintenance, after a disappointing experience at the local dealer, I had sought refuge at Auto Spenkelink in Enschede. A great acquaintance in the MINI world. Together with him, I wanted to preventively replace the Achilles heel of this generation MINI, the Cooper’s 5-speed gearbox, with a 6-speed gearbox from a Cooper S. However, due to circumstances, a complete donor car suddenly appeared. Whereupon Roy Spenkelink suggested changing the engine immediately. Yes, why not? And so it happened, the car went to Enschede, and I drove back home with almost 100hp extra a few days later. Completely in line with my motto “every car gets better from 100hp extra” I had a grin on my face that has not disappeared from it until today. Incidentally, also neatly inspected at the RDW.
But my life changed. I moved, moved fewer kilometers, bought other daily cars, but the MINI? It stayed!
Well, this has again become a far too long story, but the modifications to the MINI continued steadily. And if you drive a car purely for fun, it is easier to let go. So there was more power, more noise, better brakes. The rear seat flew out, the interior became even sportier. People sometimes ask me when the MINI modifications are ready. To which I always answer “hopefully never”. That is also how I am doing. It is an ongoing project that grows with my taste and wishes, but always aims to please me.
Fun fun fun
Because that pleasure, I still find that in it. The first weekend that I went out with my girlfriend. The time I caught up with people everywhere in a thick pack of snow on the left and right. The tour through Scotland. The time I drove a shoplifter off his bike. The trip to the Alps. The people I met through the NewMINIClub. A photo shoot for a magazine. The older man who recently came to the parking lot to tell me about his Mini from the past. This car seems to evoke positive feelings.
The theme of the car is loosely based on older Porsches. That came about over the years. And I think that started when I replaced the interior door handles with red loops. The wooden shift knob is a reference to the Porsche 917, the MOMO MOD.07 steering wheel is the same as in the 996 /997 Cup, the Tartan upholstery you see in older models, etc. By the way, I arranged that upholstery through an Englishman I got to know through Instagram, which once again indicates how cars can connect people, especially in this internet age.
The red bumper is also a nod to the so-called Outlaw Porsches, which, although somewhat nonchalant, are used to drive smoothly. A buddy of mine had a JCW bumper in the MINI color Chili Red ready for another project, but “for shits and giggles” we decided to mount it on my car once. I thought it was a nice break from the somewhat boring silver gray of the car, and after I was recently approached at the supermarket by a man with a son who wanted to see my “cool race MINI” you understand that this will be the case for a while stay.
Old school fun
What makes this car so nice for me? Still driving. With the help of BMW’s Teutonic engineers, they were able to capture the spirit of the classic Mini well in England, without sacrificing modern features. Certainly with the modifications on my car, consisting of a screw set, camberplates, thicker rear stabilizer, harder rubbers, light wheels and sporty tires, it is a wonderful steering machine. An additional advantage compared to more modern cars is that you get a little more from the things that happen under you and around you. Due to the narrow edge of the MOMO handlebar you can feel very precisely where the grip stops and slip begins, the power is nicely balanced with the mechanical grip and the back is beautifully seduced by the thick stabi (and mounting of a roll bar) some lift-off transfer.
it will not stop, not by itself
This introduction too has become a lot longer than I had in mind, but I always want to share my enthusiasm about this device. Future plans currently include a facelift gearbox (which has slightly shorter proportions) with a limited slip differential, supplemented with a lighter flywheel for a somewhat eager throttle response. Also, the current, still very comfortable, screw set might be replaced by a sportier one, supplemented by the aluminum support arms for the rear (-7 kg unsprung weight per side) that I have been waiting for at least 6 years.
As you can see, it is never ready!
And that MOT? Smoothly. You know that it is only the minimum technical lower limit to be allowed to participate in traffic, but it always feels like your car has passed.