Cars


Mini Rebuild

 

Step 55 - Re-assembly begins

 

While waiting for the Mini to return from the bodyshop, I had lots of time to read about other people's car projects. I'm glad I did. It was both enlightening, motivating, and embarrasing. Seeing just how well others welded, fabricated, and designed things made me feel a bit ashamed of my work. Yes, this is the first project of this size and scope for me but now I'm not satisfied with many aspects of my work. In the interest of time and my wallet, I will have to be selective and choose only the worst items to re-do. See for yourself just how good a custom build can really be:

 

Audi Sport Quattro

4-Rotor RX-7

Subaru-powered Boxster

Porsche 996

V10-powered E30 M3

Twin-engined VW Lupo

VW Golf mid-engined racer

 

It also didn't help that the body is now in significantly better shape than when I last saw it. Remember that this car was stripped and laying a field when I found it. It had been modified poorly and was most likely headed for the scrapheap sooner rather than later. My initial plan was to upgrade the mechanicals significantly, add a cage, fix a few issues with the bodywork myself, then paint it myself, learning as I went. Somewhere along the way that all changed and now I have a painted shell so nice I would *almost* hesitate to drive it on California's roads. And so scope creep remains a reality of this project. With a slightly higher standard in mind and bodywork that raised the bar, let's begin with the re-assembly....

 

The first step was to prepare my workspace. I now had a 2-car garage but still no good workbench. Just before the Mini returned I resolved to change that by designing and building my own workbench/welding table. I'm tired of working on the floor! I don't plan to work on anything too large and since space is at a premium I settled on a 4'x2' countertop of 1/2"-thick steel. I picked up a lot of good ideas for the design from the Miller welding forum and designed the thing in Solidworks. I was pleased to find some adjustable leveling casters that can also act as permanent solid rubber feet. It took a few more weekends to build than I planned but the thing is great. I should have made one years ago.

 

Mini Rebuild Step 55

 

Mini Rebuild Step 55

 

Mini Rebuild Step 55

 

Mini Rebuild Step 55

With the workbench complete and the garage cleaned up, I got the Mini up on jackstands and removed Nick's trolley. Now the real work could begin, kinda. I'm actually holding off on going all-out until I have a vendor come look the car over as-is. I am currently looking for a car-wiring expert who can assist in the design and build. I figured it would be easier to have everything disassembled when they come to look the car over. Hopefully that will happen soon. In the meantime I am doing everything else that I can, even if it is just little stuff:

Mini Rebuild Step 55

 

Mini Rebuild Step 55

One of the next items and one that seemed like it would be a slamdunk was to install the radiator fan into the lefthand inner wing duct. Since Nick installed a set of new inner wings (and front fenders and front clip), there was now a grid of painted steel bars in the way, whereas before there was nothing.

 

Mini Rebuild Step 55

I tried to just trim out the center to make way for the motor to protrude through into the left front wheel well. That still wasn't enough so I had no choice but to remove the entire grid. Don't worry - I painted and sealed any sheetmetal I cut. I didn't spend this much time and money to let this car start rusting away without a fight.

Mini Rebuild Step 55

 

Mini Rebuild Step 55

 

 

Mini Rebuild Step 55

Here you can see the door card has been installed along with the kickplate, door latch mechanism and the door pocket trim.

Mini Rebuild Step 55

The door check strap is installed on both sides now.

Mini Rebuild Step 55

Next came the headlight mounting rings which are normally secured with screws. I'm not a big fan of using screws on sheetmetal. I know they work well enough but it seems like a great way to break through the paint and let rust get a foothold. During the initial build-up of the car I switched to nuts and bolts in a number of locations including here. Simultaneous access to both sides of the fasteners can be tricky so I've decided to go with rivnuts wherever possible.

 

Mini Rebuild Step 55

A rivnut is 'permanent' nut that you distort into sheetmetal holes. Once installed you don't need to prevent the nut from spinning. Just install the bolt and you are done.

 

Mini Rebuild Step 55

Here's the installation tool. The process is similar to traditional riveting.

 

Mini Rebuild Step 55

The end result is clean and easy to work on.

 

Mini Rebuild Step 55

I used rivnuts here to mount the rectifier/regulator to the front firewall.

 

Mini Rebuild Step 55

Now on to the front subframe. My Mini is an early one and would normally rely on the twin sets of small bolts to secure the tops of the turrets to the front bulkhead. That's not so easy on this car now since the rollcage was installed. The bar passes right over the top of the outer bolt hole. I've resorted to this:

Mini Rebuild Step 55

I've drilled out the bolt holes in the center of the subframe turret to accept a Grade 8, 5/8" diameter bolt. I drilled out the bulkhead to allow use of the spacer made from steel tubing. This will prevent crushing of the bulkhead. I then fashioned spreader plates/washers for top and bottom. And just for good measure I'm using the normal small bolt on the inside hole. Can't hurt, right?

 

Mini Rebuild Step 55

 

Mini Rebuild Step 55

Speaking of the front subframe, here you can see my incredibly rusty example. I had Gerald Dale in the UK build this one for me. He included all this usual strengthening tricks and lightens it in a few areas. I asked him to not bother powdercoating it since I have some more mods to do to it. It sure looks ugly in the meantime.

 

Mini Rebuild Step 55

I did a test install and without the weight of the engine in it, the bolt holes in the turrets failed to line up with the bulkhead holes. Nothing is ever easy on this car. After some headscratching I finally enlarged an existing hole on either side of the turrets and inserted a length of 1/2" allthread. With a few turns of the nuts I was able to flex the turrets apart just the few fractions of an inch needed. Hopefully that won't be necessary when the R1 engine is in place.

 

Mini Rebuild Step 55

Although I had the entire exhaust coated in a black ceramic material last year, the header got completely scratched up during the run-up to the first drive. I had the header redone by Jet-Hot and although they claim reduced underhood temperatures and a bit more power, I did it to increase the life of the thing. It is a custom piece and therefore not easily replaced. And since it came from England I can only assume it would rust at any moment if left untreated.

 

Mini Rebuild Step 55

This shot just shows off a nice detail that Nick handled for me. He smoothed out the transition from the lower dash panel where it meets the rollcage front downtube. It almost looks like the car came this way from the factory.

 

Continue to Rebuild Step 56

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