Basil the Mini

REPORT#29: Initial Runs and More Little Things

So a small update today (writing this as of 6/5/18, so a bit behind), but after getting Basil running “well”, it was time to look at fuel pressure and overall timing. So on a sunny Atlanta day, we checked all fuel and ignition settings as well as distributor settings. Clearly this was done statically on the driveway, then a run around the area, back into driveway and adjust a bit more. He is running better now and got him to an even level with engine performance. The suspension is very twitchy as we aligned by eye (no string) so that needs addressing soon…including installing those rear camber plates to help dial in the rears.

Also in this update, also had some small additions as well….including re-securing/protecting the rear fuel line at the tank as it developed a nasty kink in the rubber fuel line. This may have lead to some fuel issues, so it was straightened out. Finally did some smaller jobs like some very small paint touch up and sanding….installed (finally) the Mini badge on the front as well as bonnet strap for that period touch.

One thing that did pop up was my boot developed a large paint bubble and crack as it sat out in the heat. Not sure why this happened but off to the paint shop again for a respray.

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#24: The Lump Returns and More Wiring

Here comes a big one and my oh my, how these things come in big waves. In this report, I am happy to say that I covered (meaning started) on some critical areas – that required some praying, some measuring, some luck and some bourbon. In no particular order, I got my hands dirty around the new (and upgraded to current tech) fuse box, relays, finishing off the head unit, auxiliary fan, rear spot lamp, headlamp wiring upgrade and FINALLY, prepping the new 1293 engine.

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

Wont go into all the details here, but at a high-level:

1) New fuse box and relay’d headlamp harness – enter Wired by Wilson, who in my mind, is a wiring wizard and quite possibly the new Prince of Reliability. Steve at WbW makes this really robust fuse boxes with stout wire as well as really high-quality shrink – as well as using exact coloUr codes for easy plug and play. I also grabbed one of his headlamp upgrade units that allows independent headlamp power so that if one blows, they other stays on. I mean simple, right? Of course!

2) Alpine Head Unit – this one comes to a close with the final wiring up front and running a long set of RCAs to the amp in the back. Again, this is an old radio and does not have newer tech for connectivity, but I dont care. I can easily plug my ipod/iphone in via cassette adapter up front and just use the 2 6×9 speakers in the back floor area. I also added an Alpine amp to help power those monsters and ran the wire accordingly as needed. Next up is to make sure the wiring works well with the carpet and may use some j-clips or conduit to route the wiring off the side and hidden. My biggest fear is that the head-unit may not work at all since it has been so long since I used last and then had it refurbished 3 years ago.

3) Auxiliary Fan – well, this one went bust fairly quickly. This fan I have seen used on other Minis (thanks Clay for all the help and tips on yours!) and thinking it would be a nice piece of heat protection when I am in traffic, but maybe not. So I ordered this fan – and I realized as soon as I opened the box, it was 1-2″ smaller than I needed. I think I needed a full 9″ fan and this one was 7″. Who knows if that will make ANY difference here, but the issue I had was with the new stainless radiator, I had no room to mount directly to the back of the radiator (as pictured). A shame really, so now she sits inside the wheel well and against the slotted fender well – with the hopes that it will ‘draw’ the heat out of the rad (push/pull configuration). This is the same concept that the newer Minis use as well, but includes a metal frame/shroud that helps channel heat away from the rad. More to come here.

4) Rear Spot Lamp – wow…this one was scary. Anytime you spend loads of $$$ into pristine bodywork and then DRILL a big hole in the middle of a perfectly flawless boot lid, you start to wonder….guess, measure, measure, measure, drink, sleep, remove tape, return lamp, re-open box with lamp and keep lap and install. So after many days of thinking though this and looking at a TON of pics of these lamps installed, I found the most logical and correct spot to mount and taped up the lid and started the drill. Needless to say, the step drill bit worked well and a clean cut. I also took my time to use high-grade shrink on the back as I routed the reverse lamp to the in-line reverse lamp wiring. Fingers crossed, I hope this works correctly.

5) 1293 Engine – Finally, starting to prep the engine bay for the engine and will be installed in my next update. My 998 sits sleeping in the garage and was a SOLID lump with zero issues…finding a mint 1275 that then went into some upgrades was an easy choice…This also includes getting the dual SU2 carbs set up with the manifold and linkages started as well. Also got the solid state distributor installed that should work like a treat with the Swiftune SW5-07 cam/spring kit. I am also looking at air filter options here as well and will have an update soon on that.

More to come!

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.

REPORT#22: Do Mini Owners Dream of Wiring?

….yes, yes they do – especially if you are an anal wiring guy like me where everything has to be new and in the proper place. I love new wire…just something about it and I went to the nines on Basil to make sure the botch job from the previous owner was eradicated, removed and burned behind the shed. New wire is good.

So we start update #22 with some more of the bumper project – this time the front, where the trickiest job was the front whiskers/mustache chrome parts that just hug the front wings ever so gently. Once again, I went overboard with hefty hardware to do the job right and to be removed if needed down the road. The original way to mount this hardware was to use pop rivets that 1) rust and 2) does not give you the flexibility to adjust the mounting line or to be removed down the road if needed. I also wrestled with the new Mk1/2 chrome grille where I had to accommodate the quick release grill knobs – was a bit feddly but managed to get it lined up correctly (still could use some further push back, but I am happy with the hardware I secured for a proper install).

Next up was looking at the inside of Basil to install the new Tach…now this project was a long one. Originally was looking to invest in a very expensive Tach mount from Turtle Trading Japan, but could not justify the price for milled steel that was power-coated to something I could make here…so even had some help from my buddy CAD up for me some plans to have one made here locally, but when you deal with low volume (meaning 1), the cost was too much. So off to Moss UK I go and there was one for just a few quid and with some robust hardware and thinking, I got the exact looking mount that Turtle was selling for over $60 shipped for under half that. Job done! I also started to look at mounting options for my original Alpine head unit…now again, Turtle makes this great mount (much like the tach mount) that allows 1DIN units to be mounted, but again, the cost! So again, I got my old thinking cap on and came up with a great solution that looks the part. Job done for parts I had around the shed.

No less than a day goes by when I discovered that the menacing rear window that I rebuilt in update #21, just did not seal 100% against the new window gaskets…so I had again a nightmarish job of re-drilling and mounting the latch bracket to the body of the Mini in order to become tighter – hence closing tighter to prevent any water entry. It feels good and is solid….but will not know if that helps with the rain. We will see soon….I hope not!

So some new toys for this update – I beautiful center CNC milled/polished switch plate from Retrosport UK (DNC) to accent the interior…the new wiring harness from Autosparks UK as well as a sporty cam/springs and solid state distributor from Swiftune UK for the engine.

More to come in #23!

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.

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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.