Basil the Mini

My 1974 Mini: Color

Car color is such a personal choice. Back in the day when I was a wee laddy, it was all bright neon colors for me. I know we all go through this in life and I am not sure what it is really. Maybe a bit of the finger thrown at the man or simply a statement of creativity? I think with any car, it tells a story when you see it. For vintage cars, it has to be right. Very rarely have I ever seen a vintage car painted in either a newer color or something bright and gaudy that I like. The traditional Britax Cooper Yellow is a good example – lov\e that color on that car, but you have to have the balls to back that up.

Sometimes I see minis from around the world for sale and many have this odd color choice. Some are very metallic with just odd colors like purple, weird blues or even an odd silver. But my vision is about retro and heritage with a small dash of club racer thrown in. And with that, the colors become more refined for me that are period correct. With my mini today, it is painted in this vulgar ‘alpine’ white – almost reminding me of the mid 80’s VW crowd that used to paint the GTis or Sciroccos all white – including wheels. It is just too much for that small car. So I know I want to change the color – but what color you ask?

Well I have some time to think on this one – I have been tossing around several colors and one I thought I would go with for certain – but have now started to re-0think strategy. The one color I had really wanted to do was Tweed Grey. You can see that color below as well as the one image in my first mini post announcing the new project. Then I started thinking a darker version of that called Yukon Grey – almost like the Audi TT Dolomite Grey. With gold wheels and a black hood – it just looks killer. And ow recently, I have thought about going to my original favorite – Olde English White. I just love the yellowish softer effect of that white and may be a good choice to go that route so that I can work with the white on the car now (i.e. not have to do anything with engine bay or underside).

Anyway, this is still up for debate and something further down the road.

My 1974 Mini: Let’s motor

The most fun part of a project like this is actually researching and planning out what you would like to do….and it seems that this is consuming a lot of my time these days. I have already started looking at the super-cool Mini magazines from Japan and boy, do they know how to build a retro mini from a newer model. So like with my Miata, the research method still holds true and I will continue to get inspired through these publications and or course, spend way too much money for the smaller parts out there.

As with the Miata community, the unique parts here in the states is about as uninspiring as you can imagine…you have the basics like Mini Mania, Moss Motors, etc….but there is hope now with Mini Sport now opening the US e-shop online as well as some smaller outfits like Se7en Enterprises. Of course, the UK takes the cake for parts distribution and just endless amount of ideas, etc.

So in this post, I am going to paint for you a picture of what I am thinking in terms of parts and my initial plans.  Up front the idea was to find a Classic Mini and sink some funds into a new 1275 engine built by Se7en Enterprises or repaint the car.  The repaint aspect has been driving me crazy and as you know, the white on this Mini is not my favorite.  With the engine in good shape, I envision looking at a color swap soon – more on that in another post.

Aside form engine and paint, I have already started looking at buying some parts to get things moving along.  To date, I have purchased a Moto-Lita Monte-Carlo knob, a vintage Alpine 7269 Radio, an old AA grille badge from the UK, a custom roof rack from this incredible builder out of California and now a set of ultra-rare 10×6 MB Racing Wheels in gold from the UK.  Whew….I need to slow down a little and I have yet to take possession of the car!

Some other important updates include:

  • Interior refresh with new paneling and carpets (possibly in red)
  • New seats – very tough to decide on these (retro vs club style)
  • Wheel arches – so many to choose from
  • Audio interface – with a vintage Alpine, would like hidden integration with my iPod

There are more pics below that will give you some hints as to where I am heading, so stay tuned!

My 1974 Mini: Under the skin

So now that I have searched the country for that perfect next project, you will have read by now that I purchased a nice 1974 Mini 1000 out of Canada. This particular car is (on paper and through many conversations with current and previous owners) in excellent shape with no rust and some mild modifications that are in line with my vision. Several examples out there were in really bad shape and would need a lot of work and what is great about this one is that it has a nicely modified 998 engine that I think I can have fun with. Sure, would love to put a honker 1275 under the hood, but that day will be further down the road.

So what does she have on her today? I received the mod list from Big Al and carefully researched what has been done. Below you will find the complete list (assuming that I have all the info correct) as well as some further descriptions.  There are some nice enhancements here, but I am also going to do some serious overhauling – which is what I like to do.  Stay tuned for more info on how the project will evolve.

The Engine

  • Freshly rebuilt 998cc engine w/4 speed transmission, including:
  • Duplex timing chain
  • Centre oil pick up
  • Mini Spares Stage 1 kit
  • 22g202 head
  • Kent 256 cam

The Upgrades

  • Freshly painted bright white with new wheel arches
  • New superlite 10”rims with Yoko A008 tires, including matching spare
  • Stainless door hardware
  • Chrome licence plate light
  • Chrome wiper arms
  • Chrome monza style fuel cap
  • Small Moto-Lita steering wheel
  • New black carpet
  • JoltFreaks honda front disc brake kit for 10″ wheels

Recent Maintenanvce

  • New brakes and brake master cylinder
  • New clutch slave cylinder
  • New cones, Hi-Los and shocks all around
  • Adjustable front tie bars
  • Innocenti style front sump guard
  • Wipac 4 Quadoptics Light Bar
  • Smiths oil/pressure guage
  • GM Alternaror upgrade
  • Keith Calvert waxstat eliminator kit for carb
  • K&N air filter
  • Rebuilt Pertronix Ignitor II Dizzy
  • New water pump
  • New fuel pump
  • New thermostat
  • New grille and surounds
  • Replaced rear side window seals


The fire starts with a spark

So as many of you out there who have followed me over the years with the development of the Blue Potato know, it all starts with something.  Like the last project I did, for me it always starts with something small.  Maybe a scene, a memory or even an object – and in this case with the Classic Mini, it is an object that literally fits in your hand.  Much like my beloved Miata shift knob, I scoured the globe looking for one I saw in a Mini World magazine article….and talk about timing, I found that rare beastie!

Many moons ago, I had seen one for sale that went like a tornadic bidding war between a few lads in the UK and I thought to myself, oh well – guess will just never see one again.  Then like a shot in the dark, I saw one on ebay for sale out of the UK with a fairly sizeable starting bid.  To sum it up, it came down the wire in a bidding match with some guy out of Germany and in the end, I won.

The Moto-Lita Rallye Monte-Carlo knob (if I have my facts straight) is really rare and cannot find any info on this knob coming on an actual Rover or Austin model but know the knob was an aftermarket part in 1994.  It appears to be threaded for the standard mini shifter and will require a nut to center it in place once I put her on.

The knob was in perfect shape with just a couple of small nicks in the soft metal.  It was in need of a good polish and I went to work on Friday night in my now empty garage/workshop.  Note to self, I need to name my workshop something cool and vintage…more on that in the future.

I spent about 30 mins on the polishing that you can see in the pics below, but I think I will continue to buff later.  I am really thrilled that I have made my first purchase for this mini that I have yet to take possession of, but that will be happening at the end of March and will update that story later.  Stay tuned….for now, enjoy the progress!