Basil the Mini

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#10: Spring is here and getting closer to painting

It has been awhile since my last post and mostly due to work on my end.  But the good news is that I have seen Basil several times in last few months and things are moving well.  The body is active at Sentry – meaning that they have 1-2 people on him now.  I think due to a slightly slower winter business for the shop, they can now start to work on the classics and get them out of the garage to make space.  The Mini seems to have been identified to make more room – so yea for me! Also, Basil is sitting next to a wonderful 70’s era MGB GT – so they are quite a pair representing a unique time in the automobile industry. The MGB will be painted Snowberry white by the way.

So far, they have really worked on smoothing out the body a bit – repairing a few surface rust spots here and there (minimal rust spots to begin with), adjusting some panels, and just getting things done right.  Looks really good and they even removed the doors.  Also visited Sentry in November 2014 and dropped off several parts like new door hinges and mounting plates, etc.  The body also got some minor time on the frame machine to pull out the rear two fenders about 1/4″ on each side (something I did not notice first).  It was so odd to see the same amount of force that pushed in both rear panels at same place – we could only determine that maybe the car tried to back or drive into a really small garage in the UK and bob’s your uncle! There was some concern on the two front wings – they did not look symmetrical with each other – one had looked a few mm higher than the other and I did see this at the beginning.  At that time, we decided to carefully just sand and shape, sand a shape a bit, etc.

Well now that it is Feb 2015, the wings are just simply filled with too much bondo, so I ordered brand new BMH wings from 7 Enterprises and sent directly to Sentry.  At the end of the day, this is the best bet in making sure it looks correct up front and the headlamps will be aligned correctly.  The good news is that he will be ready for paint soon.   Yes, I have picked a color after months of samples painted and looked at every which way – in sunlight and under UV lamps.  It drives you crazy at times looking at some many period correct colors!

So there we are.  Pictures below from Nov 2014-Feb 2015 at the shop.  My hopes (knocking on wood) that another 2 months to go or less to complete and back in my garage for the re-build.  Its going to get crazy again soon.  I’m ready.


RESTORATION REPORT#8: Color Study and Powdercoating

A few months ago, I took my old front subframe to a local powder coating shop here and was really impressed with the job.  For about $90, my front subframe looks brand new and ready to go back into place.  Some of you may know by now that I did not go this route with the rear as it was in so-so shape.  I am sure it is normal to have a rear subframe in this condition and some people would be able to recondition it, but the front was clearly in better shape and decided to match it with a brand new BMH rear subby that I purchased for a steal.  With the Mini being such a simple car and a majority of the chassis designed by two independent subframes, these kind of improvements really make a restoration project complete.

Last year sometime, I started to look at colors as I really was nit digging the refrigerator white that Basil was sporting.  I would have been happy with an Olde English White, but the white that covered the little car was just too bright and modern for my taste.  At some point I came to the realization that I would retore Basil to my vision – more RestoMod than say factory spec – he was going to embrace a very retro rally theme with some Italian hints mixed with some Japanese Miini Culture queues.  If you ever wondered what the Japanese embrace from a Mini standpoint, then look no further here.

My design theory started with factory colors from the 60’s that I just fell in love with.  Then I started to see a few modern twists on some of the older colors (particularly greens and BRG’s).  And to be honest, this continues to plague me today.  It seems every week (ask my wife) that I am jumping from one color to the next based on my mood or the color of the sky.  Mix that with a cool picture that I come across of a vintage Mini, and every thing goes out the window.  For a long time, green (a particular shade) was my go to color – but I am so in love with a red interior.  Red interior just floors me every time I see it in a mini.  I included a few pics below that continue to inspire me – so really at this point, it is all up in the air.  Just last week, I started to really fall in love with one of the Singer Porsche’s that they just launched in London in early 2104.  Working with an incredible sexy old Porsche color (took me weeks to find the color code), they weaved some serious magic here and have never seen anything like it before.  The interior was a blend of smooth tobacco tan leather mixed with some woven style carpet materials and textures.  I call this look the automotive Snicker’s Bar and you can see why below.  Yummy!

To ease my dilemma, I invested in some custom mixed paint samples and painted/clear coated several pieces of aluminum sheeting and bent them to resemble say the front wing of a Mini.  And then I looked at the contrast with the MB gold wheels as well as color swatches.  Quite a contrast on some colors and some not so much.  But this is the first time I am showing this exercise and hope you can see in the pics below where my passion is coming from and hopefully will turn out beautiful.


Today was a big day as I got the rear subby out as well as those pesky door windows. My god, if there ever was a more ill conceived design out there, these Leyland windows and crank mechs are for the dogs. I mean complete crap. Utter crap. But they are out and now I see more as to why things are where they are – more on that in a moment.

The morning started out with removing the union jack from the roof – feet and feet of low grade vinyl that continued to tear at every corner. While I did this cold and should have warmed the vinyl up a bit, it was just the quickest way and easiest on the fingers.

So the rear subby – I knew going into this that the rear had some rust issues and quite honestly this was freaking me out a bit. On top of that, whomever had this car before, decided to DOUSE the underside of the Mini with under-seal – which is not a bad thing once all the floors were replaced, but to cover the rear sub as well as trunnions, rear drums, hand brake cables, trailing arms, fuel lines, etc….it was just poor decisions that has led me now to where I am now. Thankfully, the mounting bolts to the rear was not seized and came out fine and she dropped like a 300lb anchor when it was all said and done.

Clearly I have rust at the seam lines on the frame – including one hole that needs attention. Will need to seriously look at this if this is even an option to spend the amount of time to paint or PC back to shape. Clearly I can get a new frame for about $400, but may have to replace all the drums and hardware as well.

Moving on to the doors….the passenger door just would sink to one side as you rolled up and it is now apparent as to why. Someone put this window back in (it is a replacement) and did not install the front window bracket. So what was happening was that when you wound up the window, the winder mech arms were hitting glass and scraping away the glass on the edge over time. I just continue to be amazed and shocked as to what I got into at times with this car. Clearly these things happen, but why take the short cut here? What person decided “Sod off, I am not going to complete the job and just do it half way so I can get home on time” or “holy cow, $30 for the extra bracket is going to bust the bank for me!” Seriously, it is just shocking to me.

The day is gone and the Mini is another step closer to paint nirvana. Just cannot wait to get that thing back on the new MB Racing wheels and out on the road again.

(EDIT: Last 3 pics were taken last year with exhaust swap – wanted to include some pics of the underside of the Mini)

RESTORATION REPORT#4: Getting into the thick of it

Well Report #4 comes to you today by Makers Mark – when you just need the best, the best is here. Or maybe today is brought to you by Live from Daryl’s House…I can’t go for that. Ok, long story.

So today was a good day. Monday of next week, it is my hopes to knock out the rear subframe, doors and just some ancillary parts. That will leave me with some good time to really prep the shell for painting and modifying. This will be things like documenting all hardware that will need to be replaced (i.e. the engine bay), rubber grommets, wiring loom and repairs that need to be made there. Also things like sanding down some of the interior for tape residue, etc. I just need to get Basil in good shape before bead blast and then the coats that will truly transform him into something unique.

Today started and ended with a beer. God I love beer. But needed to keep level headed and not get carried away with an angle grinder and soft flesh. So I focused on the interior some more and the front and rear windshield. Mix that with some serious engine bay work and getting all my parts put away in boxes – this takes up a good part of a day. And quite honestly I am taking my time as I cannot get into the body shop until the UK shipment arrives.

So FINALLY – out came the heater and man was that sh*t brown! Coolant mixed with rust – and couple that with the fact that the motor does not work, I really need to just remove it and store it until I have some down time. I think it is a grounding issue, but we will see.

Next was the front and rear windshield and my lord, it was super easy. I spent more time on cleaning up the gunk applied than anything. Funny thing is that Basil has multiple replacement side windows (removed last week) as indicated by the secret codes stamped on the windows (yes, go google that one – there are secret codes).

The BITCH of the day was two items…the wiper assembly and and the wiper assembly. My god…where do I start. First, the shaft nuts on the wiper spindles (the part where each wiper arm locks down on) just poking out of the cowl were stripped and would not BUDGE…and appears that no matter how much PB I blasted on them, nada movement. No beuno. Poop. I can see why the nuts were stripped…..BUT someone decided to just push the entire spindles THROUGH the small hole to get them out. It is clear to see this. Now I need to figure out what needs to be replaced here. Most likely the drive line and 2 wheel boxes as I think the motor is fine. The park switch is also questionable with some cracking plastic happening on the connectors. Jesus.

At the end of the day, I think it all went fine. The wiper thing just really irked me and it is clear that this one will be a big investment (looking at reconditioned drive lines on ebay now).

RESTORATION REPORT#3: Prepping for Rear Subframe and Interior

Blogs are a nasty habbit. Howe many times have you went to a blog and seen someone with the best intentions to start a blog and only to see that 1) they posted a handful of times and 2) they did this back in 1999. I mean what gives? So lesson to all you bloggers out there….content, content and content. And be consistent. Clearly I will not be following my rules because I hate rules – hence, I like to keep me hands on any lap dance….err, om moving on!

So update #3 is an in-betweener that needs some setup. #3 is the left over steps that I did not take as I started to move to the rear subframe and clearly the most dangerous. I mean, how many times have YOU drained a fuel tank? Crazy stuff – more on that below. So with this in mind, I wanted to attack the fuel tank and get that removed so I can get the boot cleaned up. I was excited to see the boot removed and once completed, everything looked fine. I can now see the grey color that this Mini used to be. It appears as a respray and I am seeing an OE white under the silver…crazy.

Once the boot was off, I moved to the tank, disconnected the fuel line and had a scare….I thought I only have 1/4 take left when I pulled Basil in for the final time as a White Mini….but clearly I drained almost 5 gallons from him and almost ran out of containers. Let that be a lesson kiddies keep more than you need on hand and at arms reach. The fuel came out slow and clean and off came the petrol cap. I am going to have it out with this cap – Basil has a tendency to leak fuel out the cap under hard corners and I can see why now. Either the neck part if pushed down and bent or the cap needs more gasket. Sounds like I need to do a cap test soon.

SO moving now to the interior – I removed seats, belts, door cards, rear bulk cards, etc….and I start to see more ‘short cuts’ from a previous owner – as you can see below, someone clearly taped machine screws UPSIDE DOWN to hand some kind of audio/amp tray. Ok, ok, I get it – need to get something done quick, but seriously – TAPE!?!? Moving on…

The day finished up fine with a GOOD start on the rear and interior. The engine bay continues to taunt me each day and mocks me – but I tell it to screw off and I will deal with it later. I know that one is going to be full of surprises for me. This is coming along nicely now and I did manage to put one final order in with Mini Sport USA before the end of the month. The parts coming should allow me to get him into the body shop where the magic will happen. KNOCK ON WOOD>

Until later – have a bourbon on me and stay inspired.

RESTORATION REPORT#2: Removing the Engine and Subframe

So big movement yesterday with some serious chunks removed from Basil….mainly the engine and front subframe. Cannot begin to tell everyone what kind of things I uncovered, but in general – fairly solid and sooooooooooooo ready to get this thing blasted and painted. But it is all in the details – lots of little hardware bits and pieces that need replacing or updating – that is the hardest part. I am struggling whether to just make a laundry list here of new parts or just and blast/clean the old parts for reuse. What are the cost implications here for say buying new vs. clean and respray. So lots to think about.

In general the new subframe mounting points (1 main bolt vs the 2 on each side) will need to be modified on body (body shop job?) and subframe powder coated, as well as new hardware. All bushings are gone or perished and noticing that there are metrics and SAE nuts mixed up. I will be replacing as I go with making sure the right size is included.

There is some GREAT GREAT news – I started to undo the rear subframe with the problem areas first – the 3 bolts at each side (2 on trunnions and 1 under) tend to rust in place. But I got all 6 started and worked out with no issues. Thanks to Blaster 16-PB for coming to the rescue! Have more to go on the rear subframe, but will continue to update as I go.

After all the running suspension is out, I will work on interior and get the wiring tidyed up. Will then move on to the doors/windows and body last. I am getting excited as each day goes by…

Restoration Report #1: Here we go!

Ok, so quick update here as I am famished from a long weekend of getting things in check. First, Basil is officially off the road and all fluids have been drained as well as power. So right now, he is dormant. So now the big question is – where do we go from here? Well, UPWARD you bloody idiot!

Having just spent the last few weeks of looking for body shops or paint and body professionals, I finally found one who will be carrying out the work. Highly recommended, Sentry Auto Body and Paint out of Lilburn will be handling the transformation of Basil and I could not be more impressed with some of the nicest body guys in the business. Mike Cottrell is not only a good body guy, but he knows his cars – having spent many hours in the seat of a NB Miata, he is an avid racer as well as having some history with the little Mini (his father was one of the first BMC dealers in Canada long ago) and he actually own a couple Minis. So last weekend, I finally got Basil out there and was not that bad of a drive and spent the better part of a chilly Saturday afternoon with him and his henchmen, Ken, to discuss what I’d like to do. Essentially – I will be stripping Basil down to just the body and rolling him into Lilburn on a throne of 2×4’s (see below). And it will take some time for this to be done correctly – so I am not expecting a month – maybe 4-6 months. We’ll see

So enter Steve Nack – a Classic Mini guy in his own right and came to my rescue last week when trying to find the perfect body shell roller I could either buy or build on the cheap. So I went the cheap route and got burned for about $18 from Harbor Freight for one of those furniture wooden rollers – funny how small these things have gotten over the years. So Steve showed me some plans and I built his roller that he has been using for some time. And boy is she solid. That took me the better part of 1 day – with a few beers and Jameson’s here and there. All total, the custom one came in around $55 and rock solid.

So once that was done, it was time to jump into the strip down with Basil. First thing to do was remove the bonnet – which came off easily, but was fighting with the space issues on the bonnet arms. Will need to get those off before I get him painted. Then I drained all the fluids and removed the sump guard. Then I worked methodically around the engine – disconnecting wires and making notes and noticing a ton of things that need to be replaced. While under the car, I saw a big tear in the outer CV boot. The boot latch mech is just old and rusty and the power block can use some overhaul. So then I moved on to the big one for the weekend – the radiator. Ok, so at this point I am going to say that I will need a new rad. I was told this one from the previous owner was new – but after looking at it closely, it just looks old and really beat up. Oh well…I need to keep reminding myself that this will not be a complete nut and bolt restoration, but one that I am going to seriously replace anything that looks really worn and will most likely be repainting a lot of the suspension, etc.

The last thing I did was to finally remove the 7″ headlamp buckets and boy what a surprise. The driver’s side (the side I thought was in great shape) looks like it is just rusted around the headlamp hole and I am struggling with now replacing both fenders just to do this right. Still thinking about this one some more and will seek advice on MiniMania.

So the plan – I have a laundry list of things to do to Basil at Sentry and now I have a list of items that need to be replaced. So I am going to carve this out in logical chunks. Chunk #1: The paint and boy will only be just that – and complete repair and respray and delivered back to me as a fresh slate. Chunk #2: The subframes will be removed before I send to Sentry and will have those blasted as well and stripped down. The rear frame is scaring me a tad – if you look back to my exhaust entry, you will see some rust areas and the rear drums are just looking worn. Chunk #3: start the rebuild with worn parts. Chunk #4: reinstall the engine (this is a BIG TBD right now).

The engine will be removed this week and will be set on the engine stand as I figure out what the next step is for the 998. I am really wanting to go bigger, but that costs some bucks and I may just hold off on that one. Stay tuned!