Basil the Mini

REPORT#31: It’s all in the alignment

April – June, 2018

Between April and June of 2018 saw some weirdness happen to Basil, but he finally got an alignment and holy cow….it was needed.  He drives so much better now…especially with proper camber on the rears.  But as usual, Georgia weather is spot on and perfect driving weather for any classic mini, but in June we started to creep into the high 90’s (!!!) and therefore, the temp gauge was starting to freak out – freak out in a way to say – mate, you are over 200 degrees  now.  So clearly an aux fan will be needed on very hot days….at speed, Basil keeps it around 190, but at any stop light it starts to creep up.  This is also with a cooler thermostat and super big aluminum multi-core radiator.  Had my first breakdown just 1.2 miles from my house and it was a weird one…making turn, lost all forward drive.  Long story short, the left side outer axel came out of the outer hub.  Felt like the circlip just let go inside and we decided to toss the aftermarket one and go with old stock.  There was more thickness on old stock so I am not 100% sure, but this one just was too thin. 

Made a good friend who runs a flat bed and treated me like a king…have his card in my mini now for any other issues that may arise down road.  He was also very careful not to bend the lower body lip with his straps when pulling Basil on the back of the bed.  On to the break down of areas updated:

ENGINE

Watching the plugs closely and went for some NGK18’s which should be running cooler.  Also found out quickly, that my fairly BRAND NEW heater valve failed….just junk.  Complete junk from some of these vendors….I found out after some google searching, that there is one carried by one vendor that is stamped with 3 letters that indicate some kind of gasket update so went with that and all is fine now.  If it happens again, I am going to burn these things and just blank off the heater valve port.  Finished the engine updates with a nice shiny rad bracket from Smiffy Bits UK (http://www.smiffysbits.co.uk/) and looks the treat.

INTERIOR

Well, big one here…I gave up playing with the junky Delta switches that are plastic and poorly designed.  It was either the hazard switch (where all lighting voltage runs through) that failed internally and not allowing my blinkers to work or it was the main headlamp switch that sometimes would not contact correctly inside to power the lights.  And there are NEW switches!  After taking them apart and looking at my original Delta switches, the older ones are better made and swapped some parts around.  Again, the parts from the big classic mini vendors are JUNK.  Turned to my good friend, David Wilson at Wired by Wilson (https://www.wiredbywilson.co.uk/) and he whipped me up solid-state toggles and a custom black plate from Retro Sport – that replaced the polished version.  Just like the look of the black one better.  Switches now work with a nick SNAP or CLICK and power is on.

EXTERIOR

It was also at this time that I got the boot back from Sentry but was quickly met with a major sigh…the color was off (more blue) and just sat there thinking about what to do.  The paint also has some additional defects in the coverage as well…fairly big “dust blobs” but the guys did a great job on the mini for a good price and just will think about this later.  I know the owner is open to making this right…just don’t want to leave the mini with him for a longer period of time than I have to.  I might being him the hood and boot to see what the original color is…not sure that works.  Also installed a peep mirror on the drivers side and buttoned up the mounting points on the passenger side.  Again, little touches

SUSPENSION

Finally, aside from the disengaged drive shaft….had my suspension done at a local shop that is old school.  Reason being is 1) they do old classic cars quite a bit and 2) came highly recommended.  Invited my mechanic (Phil) to join me at  the alignment session and glad I did as well…it just took a LONG time…would say almost 6 hours on the rack?  That just seemed long, but I was there watching intently.  I think it paid off as the mini tracks so much nicer now and with all the suspension modifications I have, we could really dial it in nicely.

REPORT#30: Summertime Fun and bits-n-bobs

My sincere apologies as again, maintaining a job and a classic car and family life and then a blog always seems to intersect into a more of time that simply is not there. But nevertheless – Basil has seen some nice improvements and running really nicely. With where I am at now with this car, I am usually updating small things all around the car – so maybe going forward, I may break it down into Engine, Suspension, Body and Interior (and Misc) in my posts….because the pictures I upload are all over the place at times. And that is not a bad thing!

ENGINE
After getting the timing down to a level that worked with the Swiftune maps on the distributor, I finally got the aux fuel pressure regulator to play nicely with the OE mechanical fuel pump. Its not a LOT of pressure here, but the nut on top helps you dial in the pressure and needs to be done very carefully.  One thing I also wanted to correct was the kink and possible sharp edge of the body to the rear fuel line coming off of the fuel tank.  Cannot imagine what would happen over time here…Also did a full oil change and used some new oil on the 1293 – Valvoline VR1 with Zinc. Basil seems to like this blend better than the older Castrol so will stay with this for now. A quick run around town and he was singing the right notes.

INTERIOR
At this stage, I had that issue again with Netwon sending me (again) the wrong speedo panels…this is second set of “round” speedo panels I got and while I was flustered, without any questions they sent out the oval set. Arrived and swapped out with no issues. I also was having a longer look at the DNS polished panel and just was having issues with a couple of those delta switches. It may be time for a technology upgrade here as my hazard switch was playing havoc on my turn signals. The interior at the end of the say was looking really sharp. Lots of compliments from anyone who stopped me in traffic. The final update is a big one…I finally purchased the slider mirror in homage to my old car, The Blue Potato. There is a small JDM shop that makes these for classic minis and I am in love with it. It was one of those additions I have been wanting to make way back when I first started to look at classic minis. Really chuffed here.  Also added an old 1975 Tax Disc and holder to compliment the period look.

EXTERIOR
It was apparent that the rear boot-lid was now splitting the paint worse than before and now needed to be sent back to Sentry to correct. Shame really as the color was a perfect match and really was a nice coat of paint. So I took off the boot and drilled in new holes for my new/old boot badges – so when painted, it would be done right. The great news is that the old MK1 boot I grabbed from a guy who was tossing out all his old mini stuff, worked like a treat and gave a cool rat-rod look….so will have some fun here while my Mk4 boot is being redone. Finally – after a year or so of looking for the C(lassic)JDM-inspired look…I went with one spot lamp that was offset – this one in yellow and was a Lucas used on an old Vespa. I love the look and will need to make sure that new spot bracket I got from MiniMania is finally bolted down correctly. I still need to wire it into my fog switch at some point.  I celebrated with a proper pint of ale.

SUSPENSION
Not a ton here for updates, but one thing was for sure…the camber and caster was all done by string and an eyeball…so Basil was REALLY twitchy at speed…so I knew I needed a goo alignment and has this rear camber plates I needed to install to dial it in correctly….so put those on and was off to the alignment shop weeks later….more on that in my next update.

REPORT#28: The Light of Day (finally!)

Wow – what a journey this has been….seriously, what a journey from that day where I crossed Peace Bridge to pick up Basil and then drove it back to Atlanta. And the decision to start all over again on a fairly “rust-free” Mini – finding secrets that revealed themselves over time and then just focused on getting him back on the road. I just sit here sometimes and just cannot say a word at times.

Last update, you saw the results of the engine starting for the first time – only to have an issue with the fuel pressure (will come back to haunt again) and finally got the 1293 started on the stands. It was now time to get Basil on his feet for once and roll him out with the engine started and just check everything over. At this update, I was only comfortable with driving him out in the driveway to turn him around and then back into the garage. But that was exciting enough!

The engine was basic tune for now – running off a simple road map within the distributor, so not optimal. And had some wiring to hide still as well as properly vent the engine and crank. Still using break-in oil, we let him run for about 30 mins in the driveway – all was fine until he pissed coolant after reaching a high temp. Turned out to be the makeshift plug in the bypass union we capped off. Not the best capping per se, but in the next report we quickly took that plug out and fitted a strong fuel line plug built for years to come.

Temp wise, he holds at a decent level….creeping slightly pass 190 while sitting for about 20-30 mins, but when moving – nice and cool.

The pictures and videos below tell the entire story in all its beauty.

REPORT#27: IT’S ALIVE!!!

The day is here – the engine is finally started for the first time in a long time. In fact, this is a new engine and not the old 998 fire-breathing peanut…more like a Booming Potato. So where to start….lets cover the engine first.

The Engine – started out as a metro 1275 and expertly modified to 1293 spec for spritely runs along the English countryside…

* Started life as 1275 MG Metro/Rover Mini Cooper spec
* APT Fast 1275 Head (Cleaned, Blasted & Magnufluxed, Under Coated With Grey Primer, Chambers Swept, Hard Exhaust, 12G940 Casting)
* Rebore: .020″ pistons / 1293 cc. / 9.75 : 1 compression ratio
* Twin H2S carbs (reconditioned)
* MED Engineering Twin Substack System
* Swiftune SW5-07 Billet Camshaft & Spring Kit
* Swiftune CSI Electronic Distributor – A+ 59D
* Minisport Ultralight Steel Flywheel – 4.423kg w/Pre-engaged ring gear
* Center oil pump/pickup
* Duplex timing chain
* Standard (new) gearbox came with std ratios/3.4:1 diff

* Royal Purple Break-in Oil with Zinc

So with the engine firmly in place with my master engine builder, Phillip Middleton, it was a matter of just making sure all the connections (fuel and electrical) were checked and re-checked. From the electronics side, I had a few wires from the new loom that were not going to be used or used in the future (front fog lamps for example). The connectors at the starter were a bit difficult to work with, but quickly found their home. The wiring to the coil is a work of art as well as finding the right points for the tach…especially finding a better ground which worked out well. Fuel wise – this is where we had a problem. When we started the motor for the first time, we could not get fuel from the tank to the pump…only to find out, we never connected the fuel line from the tank (!!!). We were idiots for one day. Still struggling to get fuel into the pump and out – thinking it was the pump, but finally after priming and re-priming, we got fuel into the Fuelking filter housing and she fired up and die…fired and died…fired for good. One thing that happened was that the rad fan was binding on the fan shroud and we quickly rectified that. We had one small error that was my fault….the DNS Retrosport oil housing unit was installed with the OE filter gasket and not the more oblong one provided in the kit….and therefore, he pissed Royal Purple on the floor and we quickly caught it and put the old OE unit back on until we got/found the right gasket. With that scare over, it was now time for Philip to do his magic and start to tune the engine and carbs to get it to idle nicely.

While he was working on that, I quickly jumped into the interior and started to work on a list of things that needed to be done. Seats installed and adjusted…The Tach was checked and mounted temporarily until I got the dash panels fitted (pain in the arse). The steering droop bracket I had in there from Kidd Speed was just not working and I was not happy…would not mount at a straight angle and went back to the OE bracket. Honestly, the steering angle needs to be free and not bind with the rack, so I am happy with the results for now. Because I was at a point where we were starting the engine, I decided to rip open the heater again and just replace the OE matrix with an aftermarket plastic one. I did not want to risk having a leak with an old unit while the lines were dry, so I documented that install (feels like third time) with some good pics. Vent tubes were routed around the dash/pedal box – but I am still struggling with the larger fresh air tube. Just too big and need to get creative here with no space. I must have dropped that heater unit down 10 times while trying to get the wiring loom, coolant lines and air vents to all play nicely. Later that night, I got the dash panels in place, but quickly realized that Newton cut holes for airvents which I did not need or will be using (they are sending new ones out now).

One of the BIGGEST problems was the flashers and hazard switch. I decided to replace all my switches with new reproduction ones (made by Delta?)…all but the Hazard worked….that hazard was not making the right contact inside and therefore creating havoc on the blinkers for normal operation. After a few beers and a LOT of swearing, I put together parts from my new switch and old switch and seems to be working fine now – although the light no longer wants to work in the switch, but the hazards do. I also found out that the Lucas relay I was re-using was just old and no longer warming up the elements inside, so quick run to Napa and I grabbed a generic switch relay that works like a truck. I also had an inline fuse that continued to blow every time I replaced the fuse – to find out that the interior light was wired backwards….oh the love of putting a car back together.

More updates in my next report.

REPORT#26: Almost Ready to Take Flight

Not much for this update – just a lot of little things that I was working on but the big focus was on getting the carpet modified, cut and installed correctly. It was a fairly easy install, but holy cow – lots of cut, install, remove, measure, cut, install and repeat like 30 times. The one thing that I think I may have focused on too much were the small Newton cir-clips that are used as anchor-points. I really wanted to use them but like any old technology, these things are just more effort than what it is worth. Meanwhile I have like 6 small holes in my floor with nice stainless hardware that I now need to plug up. Just pointless as the carpet sits fine and honestly does not need any further anchor points other than the 3M spray glue for the sides of the inside wells, etc.

Also installed a wonderful bit of kit – DNS RetroSport oil mount kit that really makes the engine bay shine….BUT…there was a horrific ending to this story. Read the next chapter or so to see what happened….all my fault of course.

That’s it from here!

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.

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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