Basil the Mini

REPORT#25: Moving Into The New Office

This is a big big big update and one I have been looking forward to – and one that needs the right touch. The interior for Basil was something I have been thinking about for some time as like with The Blue Potato, I really focus on interior aesthetics. I knew 3 years ago that I was set on a red interior….I really really wanted red….second choice was maybe camel or tan interior….and of course, the exterior paint would need to match. So in this case, Tweed Grey and Red or Fugly Green and tan…..the Grey/Red won out.

Here’s a quick video of some of the action in this update:

So from a few updates ago, you know a huge order was placed at Newton Commercial and the entire interior was hand made they way they do it at NC and within 8 weeks, I had a HUGE box show up at the front door. Once I inspected everything, the process started and started with the floor first. As of this posting, I am still taking my time with the carpet and making sure that the cuts are perfect and precise for things like seatbelt holes and mounts, steering rack, wiring looms, anchors, etc. I am about 80% ready to lock it all down now.

So now came the seats and without going into too much detail, they came out reasonably well with a few things that need some tweaks. One miss was that I forgot to use the new circular inserts (that goes behind the covers) over the pivot points. I need to see if I can get back in there and insert them somehow. The old covers were is really great shape and was a shame to see them go, but that white piping was just hideous. The foam was in fairly good shape – the seat bottoms and back were good. The thin foam that surrounds the seat bottom frames needed to be sourced and replaced.

The wire/twine diaphragms were not in great shape and decided to go with the newer rubber diaphragms from Newton. They are strong and hold up well and glad I did for this 5’11” guy who likes a Porter on a Sunday. The door cards and rear cards went on gently….although the rears were VERY hard to squeeze into the slots needed, but once you snap them into place, you can use some plastic tools to adjust with some swear words or two.

Finally, I did some minor updates in the engine bay with the final mounting of relays and the new fuel filter…including some carb hardware. All in all, the engine bay is really starting to come together and the wiring is being carefully routed away from the birds-nest I started with before I started this project. More to come and hope to have the interior done over the holiday break.

REPORT#23: Now We’re Getting REDcited!

Hello again and welcome to the crisp fall weather for 2017. The war still rages on with the project…this update will not be a HUGE one, but an important one. The entire Basil the Mini project originally started with a vision for me. One that started with that one Mini pic I saw a looong time ago of a Tweed Grey mini with a red interior…and I am happy to say that I am finally entering the ‘red dragon.’ What’s funny is when I purchased Basil, one of the first things I purchased for the interior was a set of red leather hand pulls – my small commitment to stay Red with this project! And the time finally came where I can finally marry them to a proper red door card and not this cheap looking black with white piping. The interior is now underway, but will take my time. First up was planning out any wiring that needs to be routed on left or right side of Basil as well as making any other adjustments needed. Part of this also involves replacing all the old worn bungs and rubber plugs on the floor pan. The floor pan was in really good shape – minus the slight floor pan bends where someone tried to jack up the car in the weakest part long ago. Normally this would make one cringe, but it happens and does not affect the mechanical soul of the Mini. Adds character they say!

Next up was a HUGE purchase with Newton Commercial as I finally had my bespoke interior hand made. I decided to move away from the standard Monte Carlo red and went with a more true British red ala Matador Red that you would fine on your favorite TR6. With a new set of the “Monte Carlo” interior, I was presented with lush new seat covers, carpet, and all the interior ancillaries. And once again, the old eyes missed a critical step on my part – ordered the wrong center speedo layout for the dash panel. But once again, Josh at Newton was THE man of the hour and without any question, sent me a new panel. Unbelievable customer service and experience here (and my job is to help organizations improve those customer experiences). Thanks again Josh!

Finally, sound deadening was installed without a glitch and used only in locations that I know will make a difference vs going overkill with all this added and extra weight. Seen some guys completely cover the back bench/seat as well as the top roof. Just does not make sense to me – after all this is a classic Mini, not a Lexus ES. I also ordered a new set of rain membranes for the doors and went with my special rain/weather stripping goop that I have been using for YEARS on the Miata.

More to come in the next update. Carry on….Red.

Project #5: Gonna Drop the Pressure

Well, something so simple can yet at times be so frustrating.  For a long time I have searched for a special Nardi wheel to go into the Potato and since that legend is no more in my garage, I decided to carry this desire over to Basil….and it came out beautiful.  The hard part was a very beefy steering drop bracket that I got in the UK that should have been an easy install and I think it all came down to 4 bolts.  More on that in a sec.

The Nardi I have is your standard Classico but with bent/swept arms downwards – very unique and very Italian.  For years I drove with the upwards swept arm version and really enjoyed the way that looked, but I kept seeing this downward swept version in Road&Ster Magazine.  So you know how the story goes….I continue to look for one and I see one up on eBay for around $300 (used) or $400 new.  Always from the same seller from Japan and just never pulled the trigger.  One came up for bid recently from another seller in Taiwan and I bit hard.  About $200 later, this beauty was at my door step and in perfect condition.  What sold me on this one was the center ring that exposed the mounting nuts – it is classic and no longer made that way.  And just looks correct on the Mini.

So now the harder part – a Mini specific steering boss hub.  Again, eBay to the rescue and found a used one from a really nice seller who was very helpful in answering all my questions.  I soon found out that this hug is applicable to MG’s as well and she fit like a charm.  I also needed to buy a monster 15/16″ socket to get the steering nut off and it was deep in the recesses of a pretty cheap and flimsy steering boss that came with the mini.  I really did not like that original wheel and hub at all.  Glad to see it go.

The final Pièce de résistance was a drop bracket from the UK – a really ROBUST piece of metal that is hand-made from a chap named Tom Kidd (KiddSpeed) and really is the donkey’s balls.  Problem was that the Mini steering rack is held under the dash by  a really bad design – a kind of slanted metal support that used two flimsy bolts.   I tried installing a few months back as a test fit and found out that she simply would not fit on the car.  I thought maybe this was for RHD only….but with a quick Google search I needed to simply loosen the steering rack brackets on the floor and this time she went in fine and better than I expected.  Funny how those 4 bolts to the rack simply held up this install for a month.  It was only when that rain storm hit during the Atlanta British Car Fare that I pulled the carpets out to reveal said bolts….Oh well.

The look and feel of the Nardi now coupled with a lower steering angle is just perfect.

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!