Basil the Mini

REPORT#21: The Simple Complexity (and pain)

So here we are at update #21 and things are moving and groovig nicely. But #21 also presents a new attitude unlike any others. Once again, I am plagued with aftermarket products that simply do not fit – and sadly, I took a stance and ended my relationship with Seven Mini Parts. I simply had the last straw with a purchase that was not correct online or a part that did not fit – or quite honestly did not work and failed. After all the cash I spent on returns back to them, I told them no more…taking my project somewhere else. In all honesty, they credited me for these parts, but the due diligence of making sure they knew their products just continued to fail me. The first example was the water pump bypass hose that they sold – failed in 3 weeks causing a mess and hours to take apart and fix with fuel tubing. Then the recent one was the side window gasket that was a .5mm too thick and simply did not work…this is after having other mini experts local to me try to make it fit and just did not go. I am sure they have many happy customers, but somehow I ended up with more pain and frustration just through their products that it was too much. See ya 7 – good luck. Sticking with Mini Spares UK for now.

So here we are with some good and not-so-good updates…We start with finishing up the wiring in the boot post fuel tank install…also including some grounding points, etc. We also got to know the new bumpers really well…including fitting new bumpers on some very old body seams where the holes did not line up completely with the new hardware. But I took my time here and got the superior hardware and did the adjustments carefully. Clearly these are Mk1/2 bumpers with over-riders and I love the look – clearly I am not trying to pass Basil off as a Mk1/2/3, but just love the look. The square tail lamps are a tight fit but no contact is made with the over-riders and I am a happy camper.

The worst job to date on this car (and there are some big contenders) was the side vent window with 1 broken bracket. Now, I went the purist route and kept the Triplex glass and found the right mini-rivets as well as sourced a used bracket. Just could not find a nicely used Triplex window/frame to work with (some guy on MiniMania wanted a kidney for a pair – no thank you) so went for full rebuild with new gaskets. As mentioned before, these gaskets did not fit and were too thick. A simple google check shows this issue with many people and sadly had to result to a used frame from my local Mini guru as he worked in another seal that worked fine.

Couple new toys added – including a new rear fog lamp, new rear view mirror as well as a leather fuel bib which was a nice add. On to #22!

RESTORATION REPORT#20: Above and Below the Count

Yet again, I am tardy with updates but there are some juicy ones to come. For this installment, we are now focusing our attention to the interior (the ‘Above’ in this case) and more specifically – the headliner (OOOOHHH!). Yes, that thing. The thing that I was fretting for ages and decided to initially leave on the body when it was sprayed – but the fine team at Sentry said they prefer to take it off from the media blasting. So off it came and now here we are. Again, I solicited the fine help of my favorite local Brit, Phillip Middleton, so do the surgery and get this thing done right. And he did a pretty good job – only have one area I need to attend to, but otherwise, it looks a treat. Also installed a new Lucas interior lamp that was sorely needed and really compliments the fresh appearance over my noggin.

So the other BIG job here was the glass….glass, glass and more glass. And I can tell you that the headaches that I experienced in this install was bad – especially for one of the smallest and cheapest things on the planet – the windshield finisher strip. Not the flexi-lock strip mind you, noooo, but the $1.50 small metal aluminum/polished metal strip that is about 1″ in length and covers the lock seam when installed. This little @*&@^%$!! of SH*T gave me more trouble and easily gets deformed – that it just looks terrible. I finally got the rear one on the rear windshield, but the front I am looking to do a different way. We will see.

Another pain in the old arse was the Newton Commercial repro visors….why or why do these things happen to me. and in fact, why or WHY do I continue to find parts from these mini companies that simply do not fit, work or look right. Literally 20% of all the parts I bought do not work or fit, and about 10% of those I had to modify to fit or work. Case in point the visors…the visors are sealed when made and are brand new. The part that was failing was the small extensions/arms that are inserted into each and and bolts to the roof. Long story short is that the opening in the visors were about .25-.55mm off (too big) and the visors would not stay up and lock into position. After 3 new sets (yes, that is 6 visors total), they finally admitted that they have a production issue and sent me new ones with new arms that they checked at the factory. Job done…but oh my. What a waste of time and money (for Newton!).

Finally, I had my Performance Wheels Australia Superlights blasted and powder-coated completely silver in that retro theme and they look great. I never liked the black/polished lip look – reminds me too much of my time in the 90’s when every aftermarket wheel on the road was black with polished lip and does not suit the retro theme. We will see if I go with these at the start or my Mb Racing Wheels (gold).

And last but not least, started to look at mounting options for my Tach…so much in fact, that I decided after a LONG consideration, not to go with Turtle Trading LTD’s tach mount system. I even enlisted the help of my fried Eric to help CAD the design from pics I had of the one from TTL…unfortunately it was $60 + shipping from Japan….or $110 to have one made here in US. The good news is that I found a $20 one here in US that is perfect…so much in fact, its better than the TTL one. More to show in the future.


RESTORATION REPORT#19: Enter the Boot of Shame

Wow…so where to begin here. I will say this….I really wanted to have the boot my own fin project. It was freshly repainted and I wanted to continue on with doing things RIGHT. So went out and purchased all new hardware and refreshed some parts, but order more new parts to get this book perfect. New lock gasket, light gasket, hand painted the hinge screws, cleaned and refreshed the book cables, etc. So when I though I was ready to install….WHOOPS! No boot seal. Surely I ordered it! Clearly not and maybe it was a god send…all you really need to do to know about a bullet I dodged is look at all the complaints out there with the Mk3 boot seals being too hard or big and not allowing the boot to close correctly.

And on top of all that, my lid has 26 small clips that go around the boot and secure the seal ON the boot itself – where younger minis has the seal on the body where the naked book with mate up to. The problem was I had already jumped the gun, got the 26 small clips and new seal from 7 Enterprises and was starting to assemble when I started reading all this nighmarish stories about seals not allowing the boot to fit or people cutting fingers with these clips and really having a hard time getting the purity back into the Mk3 boot it seems.

So I will say this….the 7 Enterprise seal I got was sourced from MiniSpares UK and it turns out that this boot seal is the one that fits that is aftermarket…and after about 45 mins of clipping the seal to the small clips and PUSHING…..really PUSHING them back into the small holes in the boot, they were locked in for good. No turning back now! Hint for all you adventurers who are doing this…do your research on the seal and yes, you can re-use your old clips – even if bent. They can be bent back into shape. And they are EXPENSIVE! Also use a LOT of WD40 on the clips and the seal to get everything in place and work one at a time.

So when it was time to mount, I quick entered into dodging bullet #2 – the boot hinges are left and right specific. Mine were reversed and I clearly could have snapped both by going aggressive on why the boot was lowering down 100%…I thought it was paint or something, but it was not right. After consulting MiniFourm/Mini Mania I quickly saw that I had them reverse and binded when lowering down. So the seal…the boot is tight to lock down….but not bad. Does the top gap look bigger? Slightly yes, but I suspect that over time it will settle down. But seems water tight…or at least passed my light test (dark garage with powerful LED lamp inside book with no light bleed anywhere). What a mess…but happy it is finally on Basil!

Two more small updates for this report – I started to look at Waxoyl and applying it into the nook and crannies starting in the boot and doors. Messy stuff, but more to come here. And I treated myself to a wonderful vintage piece of kit from Smiths circa 1960’s…a twin gauge holder with some nice patina. More to come here soon!

RESTORATION REPORT#18: Going Big and Doing it Right

So big step in this update – I took the plunge with replacing the ENTIRE wiring harness – front to back, you name it. Including new 12v cable and earth straps, etc. Now let me say this, when you remove an existing harness, and one that the previous owner (or whomever did this) decided to patch together wires, jump wires, adding in wires, cutting wires….you are most likely going to save you some serious headaches and start fresh.

Enter AutoSparks ( in Nottingham, UK to get things done and quickly….went to them direct with my specific needs and not deal with some of the bigger vendors that needed 4-6 weeks as well as a 3rd man in-between what I needed. So I upgraded to a MK4/City E harness with a small mod to the starter line as well as including a rear fog line in the rear harness to a front switch. Also included a modification for front fogs should I use later. All of this was wrapped in black to maintain a clean look and my lord, it was a work of art. Beefy, tight, strong, and will last for years. Great stuff that.

So the harness went in with some small head-scratching, but nothing that hard. Had a couple wires we needed help on, and at the center speedo, we were missing one blub connector, but looking back we have them all, but just a different connector for the aux gauges. Again, this is all because it is to factory spec and anything that I added would deviate a bit….but thankfully I had basil back to factor spec for the most part.

Again, all new parts going in here….new headlamp bodies, hardware, etc….and happily I am re-using my Cibie UK 7″ lamps with the Vintage rally bulb covers I sourced by luck many moons ago. Really love these things…a lot. More hardware with upgraded to stainless or brass (for small accents inside), including coating the air vents with rust proof paint and 3M undercoating. The more I look at these installed, I may need to put a small seal of silicone or Waxoyl around the part that recesses into the fender…just concerned about water seeping into the cabin if not super tight. We will see.

Next the doors got a LOT of love and were aligned to the best we could…clearly these were reskinned and it great shape, but simply is not 100% perfect to the body lines. And I get that. Since I posted this, I am noticing that more and more with daily minis (not concourse), so dont feel that bad. With the door love, a TON of new parts/hardware was purchased and installed including new door seals, etc. The windows roll up much easier now, but the driver side still a tad tight….with some more grease and Waxoyl inside the doors, it should be moisture free for years. Door locks and mechs installed and some sound deadening as well inside the doors and we not have a solid thunk when closing. I am going to replace all the door cranks/handles/door locks you see from inside with some NDS Classic jewelry someday and I cringe looking at the cheap aluminum stuff you can get an every Mini shop…just looks cheap and rattles a bit for me.

Also, I am on fence now with my drop bracket from the UK as it is just not (or has) fit correctly…and that is a dangerous spot to be in if it creates wear on the spline. I want it less binding and it is just not giving that to me. Will stick with OE bracket for now until I can conduct better research and intel.

So we have plumbing done, rear sub, wiring harness in and still in process, doors aligned and all hardware refreshed…I guess up next is a fresh new headliners and window seals. But first it is off to the boot to finish….

RESTORATION REPORT#17: Time for a Hot ‘Cuppa and Some Touch-Ups

SO this installment, while not HUGE in stature, is really about fixing all the niggly stuff and old uninspiring white paint removed some several pieces to get Basil right. Once again, the more I dig into the pit with Basil, I find out that this Mini was loosely patched together for a quick sale and I am the one making everything, nae, E V E R Y T H I N G right again.

So a short list of things done – scraping off all the cheap white paint from items removed from Basil long ago (door mechs, locks, handles, etc) as well as removing the ‘black grille paint from your local hardware store’ from the air vent plates, switch panel and a ton of other stuff. What a dis-service to these parts that really make a Mini shine with vintage awsomeness. Interesting thing….some of you may be wondering what is up with the switch plate – that my friends is from a Mk3 Van and OE spec and fits nicely over the slightly Mk3 bigger hole in dash rail and forgoes the tacky padded cover, etc. I decided to give it some love and strip it down to bare metal and only crinkle coated the center part, leaving the outside ring polished. Very vintage and looks the part. Although, I as not 100% happy with the stuff I used (crinkle coat can get testy depending on the humidity/heat), I will go back and re-shoot it again for that perfect finish.

Next up was getting the windows refreshed and ready for aligning the doors and re-installing all the hardware. Some of the metal supports (2 per window) were badly corroded but easy to replace…yet again, replace more parts with brand new parts and some that will never be seen again.

So next up will be wiring harness and doors….stay tuned.

RESTORATION REPORT#16: Starts with The Plumbing

Once again, I am slightly behind the ball on getting updates out the door for Basil, but in this report, he is officially up on jacks for the final stretch. With this kind of fresh canvas, you really have to think through where you want to start….and what needs to go first, second, third, etc. Clearly it all comes down to the plumbing and the subframes. In this case, I am planning on installing the engine in the front subframe and then lowering the body down vs coming in from the top and possibly damaging the freshly painted body.

One of the things I wanted to correct with some 3M under sealant that did not cover some areas in the fenders, etc. Clearly I made the right choice by going with standard black underseal as I was able to touch up those areas that were missed. The pic below you can see the fan shroud area with all those longated cut outs…clearly a PITA to cover, but with a quick spritz here and there, I was able to fond those spots and correct.

Then I moved on to the plumbing – with some proper UK help from Philip Middleton, my teacher and mechanic for Basil. It’s no secret that I wanted to get the correct help here to do things right the first time and with Phil at the controls, things just go so much smoother on those hard areas. One is the brake/fuel plumbing. He did a cracker of a job with the new lines and bending them the way I wanted up front. It was also at this point that I rolled the dice and put Basil back to RHD. Why? Because that is the way he was made in the UK and while I know it is going to be hard to see around cars on the road at times and struggle to get my BIG gulp from Taco Bell, it was the right thing to do. And I love it.

Thankfully Phil had a Mk1 accelerator pedal and quickly replaced those items needed for the RHD conversion (new rack, etc)…in fact, I started replacing a LOT of items with new ones to be safe…including brake/clutch master, the brake PDC/balancer (freaking expensive), etc. Also replaced a LOT of old hardware with fresh Grade8 bolts, etc…especially for the read subframe. Which was installed with no issues and looked the treat when on! Also treated myself to some finned brake discs as well as entire Cooper S front brakes/hubs, etc.

There was so much done at this stage that it simply will look like a business audit (this is supposed to be fun, right?!) I finally had the vintage roof rack resprayed in Olde English White and re-installed all the oak wood slabs and my lord – looks amazing!

Stay tuned for the next installment!

RESTORATION REPORT#15: Now the fun starts

So after a long hibernation at Sentry Auto Body, Basil came up unscathed on a flatbed. Sentry was nice enough to lend me the steel body roller that they had been using to work on Basil, and I took my lame wooden cart back home to be dismantled. The caster wheels were not big enough in the long run and many just collapsed and got destroyed.

The great thing was that when on this steel cart, you could wheel him around so easily and effortlessly that I almost got in him and with a PUSH, down the driveway I went…sadly this did not happen (thank god) and gently put him into Garage Potato for the next stage. So from here, we start a long journey or rebuilding. I think it will be very straight forward here with the rebuild – with lots of reference pictures to go buy. From a high level, we will be assembling back as such:

1) Off cart and on jack stands
2) Rear subframe install (plus battery cable)
3) Brake/fuel line plumbing (incl tank, slave, etc)
4) Wiring harness and start on basic lights, switches, etc
5) Attend to doors/windows in doors (align, etc)
6) Remaining windows and new headliner
7) Front subframe/assembly/hubs/brakes and engine install
8) Engine tune and overall check
9) Interior install (new from Newton)
10) Body (arches – still debating) and prep (waxyol, etc).

But before I get there, it all starts to come down to parts and hardware. I will soon find out that hardware is going to be my nemesis with MANY trips to Ace Hardware (selection is amazing compared to say Home Depot) and trying to find lost items in boxes. Here we go…..

RESTORATION REPORT#14: Basil is coming home

So after a long and winding road, Basil is about to return from the body shop all freshly painted and almost ready to be put back together. As mentioned before the front wings were modified to accommodate wider 10″ wheels and then have the GP2 arches installed, but I decided to hold off on arches now – until I have a better perspective of how wide I will need, etc.

But for now, here he is in all his Tweed Grey glory with OE white top. Clearly there still needs some final touch-ups and paint that need to be trimmed around some openings. All the paint wax needs to be wiped away and i only focused on on the body work that needed attention. The floor is clearly patched together poorly, but stable and there is some filler still on some areas, but I’m happy with how he turned out and already had two people offer me $$$ for him as is now. So clearly drawing a lot of attention for a non-concourse runner. He’s meant to be driven, not for show.

The plan is to have him in my hands in a few days and now is the time to clean out his garage, re-organize all the parts, and look for all my notes on how to get him back together. More to come.

RESTORATION REPORT#13: This is the lucky one

So wow…where do I begin….LOTS of progress here and it is scary. The boys at the shop have stepped up their progress and we are almost at finish line now. Had a minor set back that will come back to haunt me – they wanted to remove headliner to keep the media/particles to a minimum and clean from the body when the paint is applied. Crap. Crap. and…crap. I know these things are very hard to do on a Mini, so we will see how this one goes.

So the body was primered and sanded and re-primerd again. More importantly the underside was given some TLC (thanks Mike for listening to me!) and some killer 3M Professional Grade Rubberized Undercoating was applied with this monster gun. Basil should now be sealed up nicely from the bottom. Went black this time because I want to treat it at home when needed, uncolored and expensive.

Finally, the color – yes, the color has been applied in all the inside locations – boot, engine bay, inside and on the lower sills and under the arches. As mentioned in my last post, I saw this mini (the blue one pictured in update #12) that had a great transition concept from undercoating to paint. It looked sharp. For now, here are some preliminary pics…but the best is yet to come. Stay tuned…

RESTORATION REPORT#12: It’s all in the details

So again, I fail to keep this site up as much as I would like, but my updates are really driven by the longer-term and painstaking efforts on Basil’s body work. I really do not want to rush anything and therefore, updates just saying “Body is still being worked on…” becomes old and tiring. In fact, this reminds me again just HOW many of my friends and family ask me daily/weekly/monthly “How is that Mini coming along” or “did you give up” or “you said that last time and the time before and the time before.” I am not sure how I can convey the ideology behind defining one’s patience with a classic car and the build sequence that comes along with a complete tear down. You have got to be patient with this kind of job and when you have an expert involved (like I do with the critical part of getting this body RIGHT and correct), you need to let them do their magic and follow their lead. The team involved in Basil’s body and paint are considered some of the best in N GA and I cannot thank them enough in working with me and their understanding of ‘patience’ when it comes to finicky customers. Sentry Body and Paint are black-magic wizards with body and paint. And when it all comes down to that phone call that I will receive soon, it will all be worth the effort.

So where are we to date as of August 2015? We we are far along now…and I literally see this as the deep breath before the biog leap over the ledge of color and art. We are at that moment now. To recap – we have done a ton of corrections on all panels. Filled some small rust areas (not much in fact), sanded down some high areas of body work, replaced two front wings with authentic BMH panels, added seam seal, primered grey with red guide coat and now about to attack the bottom. Ah yes, the bottom…something I have been struggling with now. Every fiber in my being wanted to do the bottom in matching color, but I recall much attention I have given my Miatas in the past when I gently scrape the underside of the car from weird angles in driveways or parking lots. I simply could not find an economic way to attend to those scrapes with a colored spray-guard with an aerosol can. Therefore I made the decision to do something I spotted on one of the Mini UK forms (see Blue mini below with the underside exposed). I am going to do a black/color split underside. The black area will be either 3M™ No Cleanup Rocker Gard or SEM Pro_guard so I can do quick fixes at home with a can of the junk, but keep the color in the areas that mean the most aesthetically.

Last month, I also kindly walked into the body shop with open arms and apologized for dropping the Mk1 boot lid off to them to ‘work it out’. Yes, it is tweaked, a bit rusty, but I love the Mk1 book lids so much. They were happy to take but I think I have to minimize the “Oh hey, can you also paint this while you are at it” kind of requests. Those things will kill any momentum and wear your welcome out quickly. I also have that roll bar, but I think I have decided to keep it black as it is now and not paint it Basil’s color. More on that one soon.

Finally, I have been in touch with Phillip Middleton on the engine build….once Basil is finishing up at the paint shop, he and I will get together possibly for a pint and talk strategy. Every fiber in my bones wants to do a BMW K-series swap where it can run fuel injection and have some HP to boot. But the cost on that is so high. The 1275 refresh is expensive enough so I really need to consider this one soon.

Anyway – pics below from the last 3 months or so. I suspect more updates will be coming soon and more frequently…but you gotta have patience. Did I say anything about patience? Gotta go get a beer.