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Project Snicket, This Is What It’s All About

People have asked why I do what I do; buying broken cars and fixing them. It’s because despite all the blood, sweat and swears, it’s fun and nothing beats the satisfaction of that first drive.

Yesterday was like Christmas, but better. It was parts day.

I had ordered a bunch of critical parts from local, NZ, suppliers (and a whole heap of less critical parts from Minispares in the UK, but they are in transit still) because they can do overnight shipping.

The first part that came in was a pair of H4 halogen semi-sealed beam headlights. Genuine Lucas no less. Trust them.

Swapping them out is plug and play. Remove the chrome ring (single screw in underside), remove light retainer (three screws) and then unplug the old light.

It turns out the old lights were different brands, with different patterns in the glass. I guess they are alright, but not my cup of tea.

The new lights have a standard clip in the back for a bulb

Installation is reverse of disassembly. Heres a comparison. H4 on the right, old Sealed beam on the left. It’s hard to see but the H4 is brighter and whiter.

The supplied bulbs are the same wattage as the seal beam

Both went in easily, and now I have high and low beam on both sides. Success.

The other things that arrived that I have no photos of, was a new choke cable as the old one was stuffed. This went in nice and easy, but getting the stud for the switch surround back through the hole took longer than it should. The other new part was a speedo cable. The old one was damaged and wouldn’t plug into the gearbox. This is a prick of a job to do, but I did it by reaching in over the passenger’s side axle. You can see the socket for the cable if you look through the bodywork where the axle goes through. I finally got it connected to the gearbox, and before connecting to the speedo I spun the wheel and the cable turned, so we had a good gear in the gearbox.

The last of yesterdays jobs was the big one. Drilling and tapping the gearbox for a new sump plug.

I ordered an M20x1.5 tap and 18.5mm drill bit, at great cost, and set about fixing it. Interestingly, Subaru uses an M20x1.5 sump plug, so I ordered an aftermarket Subaru sump plug with a magnet.

The drill bit was filled with grease, to catch as many metal shavings as possible.

This is what I was working with. No threads at all

To get the drill in there straight, I needed to remove my RH tie rod.

And then I took some concrete pills and got drilling. Point of no return long gone.

And a complete 18.5mm hole. You do need to take care not to drill too deep as the oil strainer is close to the drain hole

And then I smothered the tap in grease, and carefully tapped the thread. Unfortunately the damn tap, despite my best efforts, went in slightly crooked. This isn’t a good thing, because sump plugs seal with the washer under the head, so if it goes in on an angle it may not seal properly.

I screwed in the sump plug, and tightened. Knowing it wasnt completely straight I used some thread sealing compound on the threads.

I guess it was a success in that the oil doesn’t pour out of the box, but it was a failure in that it is weeping oil. I’ll probably dump this fresh oil again soon (use it as a flush oil considering how horrible the old oil was that came out), and either try thread tape on the plug, or maybe get one of those “revolutionary super sealing” sump plugs with an O-Ring half way up the threads from Supercheap and see what happens. Worst case I’ll get an M20x1.5 bolt, cut it shorter, drill and tap it for 5/8″ UNC, loctite it into the gearbox and use that as an adaptor for the original sump plug. There are options.

I ran the engine up to make sure it didn’t start to piss oil out, and it seemed OK. I did notice that the temperature gauge worked though, yay!

The next day there was a couple of drops of oil on the ground under the sump plug, so I’ll monitor and deal with it another time.

Late last night the the courier arrived (at quarter to 9 at night!) and dropped off more parts. I had noticed that both tie rods were bent, so I got a pair of good second-hand ones, and the bonnet prop rod was missing (hence the block of wood you can spot in some photos). Thanks MiniBitz

First job today was to fit the bonnet prop. Unfortunately I didn’t realise it needs a special clip to secure it into the pivot tab on the bonnet, so I had to make do with a washer and a zip tie to keep it in place. It all works well though

These are the old tie rods against the replacement, in the middle. Cant have been good for the alignment.

Replacement arms are in now, but with the old worn out bushes. I have replacement uprated bushes on the way, but will need to swap them out when they arrive.

You can get uprated, heavy duty arms but they are all adjustable, so technically need a certification to be legal. I didn’t want that hassle when trying to get the car back on the road, so went with standard arms.

With all that done, the next thing to do was refit the grille

And readjust the brakes, again. I had been watching Youtube videos about Minis and came across a video by Stevestonmotorco, about how to service and adjust the rear drum brakes on a classic Mini. It’s a great video, with lots of good info.

The one thing I took away from it, was that I had incorrectly adjusted my drums. He mentions in the video that you want them to be adjusted “too tight”, so that there is significant resistance when turning the drum by hand. I had mine backed off so that there was minimal drag by the shoes. I readjusted all my drums, front and rear, bled them again (and got some more air out of the fronts) and bam, I have a solid pedal.

The only thing left was to pop the wheels on and drop it to the ground

And then this happened….

The brakes work very well, good pedal feel, it brakes nice and evenly and feels stable. The engine is unfortunately misfiring at times (quite badly when cold, despite choke) under load, but it idles OK and drives well. No obvious signs of smoke, and temperature was good. The clutch pedal bites a little low, but is progressive and easy to use, and the gearbox is smooth with no grinding or crunching. There is an exhaust leak from the manifold join, so I’ll need to sort that.

When my parts from the UK arrive I have some new ignition leads to go on, and I’ll check and gap the plugs, points and check the distributor cap and rotor. Timing will also be checked (another video from the Stevestonmotorco shows how to do that), and I might clean the carb out too. Hopefully that will sort the misfire.

Other than that though, damn its fun to drive. It’s a peppy little thing, making all the right noises. It’s so retro and mechanical.

This is why I do this, that first drive left me grinning like an idiot. Driving a classic Mini is so fun it shouldn’t be legal.

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Isaac Heron
Isaac Heron
5 years ago

I knew you would love a Mini!