Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Another Love Story of woe in the quest for more bhp…… Part Five

UKMotorTalk's Mike Jones, concludes his story of Mini obsession...

If you've missed any of the previous parts:

So, the day came... Flick that switch... Bump that button.... Bubba! Oh, Mama!! She sounded just so wonderful those adrenalin filled petrol veins were on a high....

Back to the real world, Ann had been promoted at work and now had to drive 28 miles on the busy M4 motorway every day from Bridgend, our home town, through the congested and busy streets of Cardiff.

For me, I was once more promoted downward and had to be content with riding my pushbike to work every day whilst my honey drove my Mini.

Needless to say, by this point I had fully restored my faith in Ann so far as the safety of the vehicle was concerned. She drove it for the summer months, back and forth, and hence more reality slowly unfolded as time rolled on.

The first problem: - was the stock Mini rubber joints inboard at the gearbox drive end designed to take a neck cracking 50 bhp.... but, not 125bhp.

They lasted two weeks.

I nearly lost the whole engine-transmission unit as one disintegrated and the drive shaft started to smack the aluminium sump that contained the transmission.

Ann was, by now, an expertly trained breakdown techie, with her vast experiences of Minis. Bless her, she stopped the instant she heard the clacking noise of the drive shaft smacking the sump and saved the engine/transmission unit.

The solution was to fit a set of shafts from an Austin 1300 automatic. They had 'Hardy Spicer' type couplings at the inboard gearbox end, more than capable of taking 125bhp.

No sooner was that problem solved, number two was quick to surface.

Stock Minis had a single feeble engine stabiliser bar that bolted onto the engine from the bulk head. Perfect for 50bhp but, again, useless for 125bhp.

Modification number two therefore followed... Back to the fabrication bay at college for the manufacture of race engine stabilising rods, four in fact, two on the top and two on the bottom of the sub-frame.

The bulk head also had to be strengthened to take two serious chunks of machined angle iron to bolt the stabilising bars to.

Over the following weekend I asked Ann if all was OK with my baby.

"Yes", was the reply, "it has definitely stopped knocking and clunking when I take off from the lights!"

"What do you mean, you shouldn't be taking off from the lights!"

"I have no choice," came the reply, "my weakened left knee cap, you know, the one you dropped the old Mini on along with the heavy clutch pedal, does not permit anything but a 'take-off policy/protocol/wheel spin start off the lights' when they change to green."

I had forgotten the injury that I had subjected my honey to a few months previous (be reminded in Part Three!) and the consequential weakness that been sustained.

I had also overlooked the racing clutch, a seriously heavy diaphragm spring that could not be assisted in any budget format.

In any case it was not a problem for me, but was clearly a problem for her.

She then revealed some more information... On route to work she would drive down Manor Way, a straight road into the East end of Cardiff, directly off the M4, with a set of 6 busy traffic lights.

Most mornings, the standard Transit van would pull along side her, with a full load of 'geezers' in the front, gesticulating the stock profanities of the day toward my honey.

However, when the lights changed to green, the take-off start left them chocking in her exhaust smoke and smoke from the tyre rubber.

That was it, she could then make it through to the next set of lights before they changed to red and avoid the harassment of the same van load of geezers pulling alongside her once more. Nice one honey, I will leave the clutch as is for now then?

One morning, a van load of geezers DID catch her up at the next set of lights. With a huge grin on his face, the geezer on the passenger side knocked on the roof of the Mini. Ann slid back the sophisticated split window on the driver's side, said nothing and waited for the gruelling stream of profanities.... “Nice one…..I’ll have one of those engines in this thing!”

Twin Tanks: -

A stock 800cc Mini would have done this journey of 280 miles per week on one tank of fuel with plenty left for the following week.

The snag was, my fire breathing Mini Copper “S” (Austin 7) was having its twin tanks filled once a week.

As the winter months rolled in more trouble was to loom...

You will recall that Alec Issigonis did not design this gem with heat and ventilation in mind.

Despite having the heat and vent system from an Austin 1300 GT, the windows would dangerously mist-up, and she was always cold inside this car during the winter.

The busy roads of Cardiff on a cold winter morning was not the place to be if you could not see through the windows that constantly misted-up!

No choice really: -

So, I had a choice... My honey (Mrs Jones) or my baby (the Mini)?

My honey is still with me after 38 years, so obviously my baby had to go... in exchange for a Gold coloured Ford Fiesta Ghia.

My baby was sold for £1,350, not a bad price for a car that was now 25 years old.

Luckily for me the new owner had a fledgling Mini accessory shop in Cardiff. He appreciated all the time and money that had been spent on the car and was happy to pay the price to utilise it as a promotion tool for his new business.

The Ford Fiesta Ghia was two-years-old and fitted the bill perfectly. Ann was kept warm, safe and secure, and had excellent vision of the road and traffic surrounding her every day on the busy roads of Cardiff.

Goodbye Baby: -

I had recovered most of the costs including the Oselli engine prep, rebuild and dyno tune, but, be reminded that the cost was a third of what the same would cost today. My time would be difficult to cost, there were 1,000s of hard, long, dark hours put into the construction of this car, but when it’s a labour of love, there can be no realistic cost on time.

True Love: -

So, that ended the love affair with my baby, but, secured for eternity the love affair with my honey. Today we reminisce those good times and thank the lord for all the blessings and keeping her safe whilst I fulfilled an immature male thing.  Goodbye little red Mini and hello cruel world, or maybe it was just pay-back time for Ann having to lose her beloved Cortina in exchange for me wanting to do my thing. Well what did I learn, would I do it again if I had my time over, well of course! …..I would not change one thing!

 Mike Jones

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