Das Boot

22 03 2012

The rear subframe/boot area is one of those aspects of race car builds that you tend to think is going to be quite straightforward, but so far it has given me the most grief…

In Hillclimbs and Sprints you are allowed to remove the rear subframe and replace it with a coilover / trailing arm setup, but my goal has always been to build a car that could be changed to Mini Miglia spec if need be, so I’ve opted to keep the subframe. What I will lose in weight will be gained in a superior setup, and one that I understand quite well from my Mini Se7en days..

Original boot floor has been removed for fitment of carbon fibre floor

I had bought a used KAD anti-roll bar some time back, but when the time came to install it, I found that it was for the coilover style setup. All was not lost however, as I was able to make some slight adjustments to the shape (without heating it up as that alters the molecular structure and therefore its stiffness) so it fitted. I had to cut and weld some brackets for the mounting clamps, as well as making some rose jointed tie bars and some sleeved bolts for attaching them to the trailing arms.

KAD Anti Roll Bar before ‘tweaking’…

There is one particular MSA rule that I think is a bit daft. It’s a bit hard to explain but basically you are not allowed to lighten the bodyshell between wheel centres when viewed from the side. My car was previously a Mini se7en / Miglia and had been lightened quite extensively. In the boot I had to fabricate a new ‘half’ boot floor and fit it under the carbon fibre replacement. Similarly at the front I am having to put ‘half wings’ under the composite front wings. Apparently this has been the rule for many years so I’m in the same boat as everyone else.

After a fresh coat of paint the carbon fibre floor was refitted and the petrol tank fitted. Ideally I wanted a 5 gallon Miglia style tank, but I found a foam filled 2 gallon alloy tank at the autojumble at RaceRetro for a bargain £25. A bit of Autosol and elbow grease got it looking like new.  I rubber mounted the Facet pump to the rear bulkhead and made up new braided fuel pipes with Aeroquip fittings and routed them to their destinations.  The existing wiring loom was tidily rerouted to the brake lights and petrol pump. Finally I fitted the pins for the ‘smoothie’ composite boot lid.

Fresh coat of paint, anti roll bar and rose jointed link bars, carbon fibre floor, alloy fuel tank, pump and fuel lines all fitted

Building ‘the office’

20 03 2012

Thankfully most of the parts for the interior came with the car so getting it up to scratch wasn’t too much of a problem.

First of all I had to fabricate new brackets for the seat as it used to run with a different one.  The car is built to the strict Mini Se7en rules which require a substantial seat frame so I had a good strong base to work from. I cut the old triangular brackets off and welded them on an inch or two further out. After painting I bolted the seat in – nice and secure!

The steering wheel the car came with was a bit ropey so a new suede one and quick release mechanism was bought from McGill Motorsports. I welded the spline to the steering column and fitted the wheel. A seating check confirmed my calculations were correct and everything felt comfortably in reach and ergonomic.

We have to run FIA spec seat belts so a 6 point set was fitted – again from McGill Motorsports. You can’t cut corners on safety and once adjusted ‘the office’ felt very secure indeed.

Luckily the wiring loom wasn’t going to change too much and is of aircraft spec. The removed Stack system the car used when it was a Mini Se7en had left a bit of a gap in the carbon fibre dash-pod so I  made an alloy panel for the new rev counter/oil pressure /oil temperature /water temperature gauge. Once secured I ran the wires through to the existing loom and mounted the shift light on top of the switch pod.

The gear linkage fits inside the car a la Mini Miglia. It’s a pretty trick setup and only required a clean up and paint.

The handbrake uses just one cable rather than the standard Mini’s two. Also it is mounted on the right hand side of the driver instead of centrally, and a welded in sleeve allows it to be bolted to one of the triangular seat mounts, as well as the floor.

Finally the brake lines.  Anyone who has raced a Mini on tarmac will know that back brakes are at times nothing short of suicidal, but the scrutineers require them to exist, so I have 2 brake bias valves. The modified adjustable  ‘standard’ type one at the rear under the subframe is capable of completely isolating the rear feed. I also have a Wilwood lever type valve that I can make fine tuning adjustments with whilst driving.

The Rebuild Starts

16 03 2012

With the car stripped down as far as it needed to be I could begin the rebuild. As the rear subframe was in perfect condition and only needed a spanner check and clean, It made sense to concentrate on the front subframe to get the car rolling.

I took the frame out and stripped it down and steam cleaned it. I had some pictures of the original trick subframe that was fitted so set about making the gussets from steel plate. Once cut I welded them in and then cut a load of circular holes in non structural areas to get a bit of lightness back in. Then I seam welded it and gave it a good coat of gloss black to match the rear frame.

I had been in touch with Robert Pavey and bought the HiLo’s and rose jointed bottom arms and tie rods that were originally on the car, so they were all painted up and fitted.

The solid mounts came with the car so were reused and the subframe was bolted to the bodyshell. The black goes well with the silver colour of the bodyshell which I intend to keep. After weeks of waiting I finally got delivery of my alloy brake calipers, and also my Protech shockers had arrived so now the car was able to roll again.

I made my own rose jointed support rods to support the front of the subframe to the bulkhead which finished the front end off nicely.

Around the same time I’d taken delivery of my 3 piece split rims from Force Racing. These really are a piece of art and I can’t recommend Force Racing’s workmanship enough – they are stunning!

The Force wheels are going to be for my Hoosier slicks for dry running and fit a treat, but I’d bought some Mamba alloys for my wet tyres after consulting the makers of the alloy calipers to make sure they wouldn’t foul, and being told there would be no problem. However I was mighty pi$$ed off to find they do foul so I’m having to use some old Revolutions just to move the car around the workshop at the moment.


16 03 2012

With the new car back home I could set about stripping it down and assessing what needed doing. To be honest, although the car was a bit rough around the edges I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the workmanship throughout. It was obvious it had been built and maintained by a professional operation. However it had been involved in a hard season and then stored in a lockup for a couple of years so was in need of plenty of love. There were mini7esque love-scuffs on the side sills, doors, A panels and rear end but nothing a bit of metalwork and filler couldn’t sort out. The rear subframe was still in and was a pretty trick bit of kit having been lightened, gusseted and powder coated in high gloss. It still had it’s HiLo’s in, camber adjustment and solid mounts. Unfortunately the front subframe had been robbed, but at least replaced by a standard one so I had a basis to fabricate one that would do justice to the classy rear one. A new fibreglass front end with detatchable bonnet was included, and all but the front calipers were there as far as the braking system went. That included 2 brake bias valves, race master cylinders, braided hoses all round and lightweight alloy rear drums. The handbrake had been professionally fabricated as had the pedal box. The main missing parts were front HiLos, bottom arms and tie rods, calipers, fuel tank and anti roll bar. All the switches were there but no gauges.

All in all it was as expected and what was there was useable with a bit of spit and polish…

Making it happen

16 03 2012

Now my mind was made up the first thing to do was to sell the grasser – only it never quite works out like that does it…?

I’d seen a car for sale on the Mini7 website quite a while beforehand, and a quick scan showed that it was still there. I thought I’d fire an email off to it’s owner Robert Pavey to test the water. The car was an ex Kelly Rogers/Graeme Davis Mini that had been both a Miglia and a Se7en. Robert had bought it from Graeme but for whatever reason had then bought a complete ready to race car and had been using that, and now he had a rolling shell surplus to requirements. I’d raced in Mini7 between 1997 and 2002 so knew the car and understood how good it was. Graeme had had it maintained by Rightline Motorsport so this was no ‘homebuilt special’. Unfortunately quite a lot of the parts had been robbed off the car, but at least that gave me scope for negotiations over price. After a week of email tennis Rob and I agreed on a price and I found myself on the way to Maidstone to pick it up.

Rob had sent me pictures but when he opened the lockup door it became apparent how much work was required. It certainly had all the correct parts like welded in cage, wrap around seat, braided hoses, aircraft spec wiring loom etc, but it was also looking a bit sad and neglected. But I’m blessed with good vision and could see that it was a perfect baseline for a decent Hillclimb/Sprint Mini. Money changed hands and I was on my way back to sunny Bristol, a little worried what the missus was going to say about the new edition in the garage…

What the new car looked like in Mini Se7en trim with Graeme Davis

The ‘new’ Mini as it was when purchased…

As for the grasser I’d put the word out on Facebook and stuck it on ebay and had quite a lot of interest, but it was my old friend Andrew Packer who surprised us all by turning up with the readies and took her away. Andrew only lives about a mile from me so I can still be involved with the car, and he’s even offered me a drive in it at some point!