A Mini Adventure

Words: Dave Smith, photography: Simon Cooke

Hands up who had a Mini as their first car. Who has had one since? Can you even call yourself a proper petrolhead unless you’ve owned a Mini at some point? Do you remember the noise, the bouncy ride, the Routemaster bus driving position, the easily-soaked distributor and the fact that, prior to every MoT test, we had to use enough welding rods to build a fence around the Isle of Wight? Of course you don’t; we’ll happily forget all that and remember how much fun they were.

Sadly, this diminutive Brit has now been all but priced out of the market for young drivers – it’s a rite of passage that has… well, passed. There are some still out there, though, and they’re not afraid to indulge in some modification… and we aren’t talking a set of 12″ Wellers and an RC40 exhaust, here.

“I’ve always been into Minis, right from an early age,” says Oliver Scull, the Bristol-based owner of this beauty. “I was brought up around them, and helped my neighbour with his grass-track Mini. As soon as I passed my test, I got a Mini and got into the scene straight away, then began modifying mine slightly. Then I bought another one, then another one – by this time I’d realised that you could do almost anything you wanted to a Mini.

“Just over four years ago, I was on my way back from a charity car show in this Mini and got shunted in the back whilst sat in traffic. It was a horrible moment, and I’ll never forget getting out and seeing the rear end completely crumpled in. I knew the guy who’d hit me, and knew that his insurance premium was already outrageous, but fortunately his parents said they’d pay for the damage. The bodyshop they took it to jigged the shell, but said they couldn’t match the orange paint. I realised that this was a blessing in disguise, and that I could start again and do something completely different.

“From then on, I had this crazy image in my head of what I wanted to do and how I wanted it to look. I asked the body shop if I could pay the difference and have the whole car painted in a custom colour – I picked House Of Kolor Tangerine. I wanted to make some worthwhile power, and the initial idea was to fit a BMW K1100 motorbike cylinder head onto the A-series block and add a blower. This went out the window when Swiftune told me that the price was heading for £20,000 – not including labour – to make about 180hp.

“I built a shed to build the car in, and decided to go down the Honda B-series road. I know it’s been done before, but I’ve kept my front end completely stock – I haven’t moved the bulkhead, and the front panels are stock; the only changes I made were to the inner arches. I cut the mounting towers out of an old A-series subframe, adapted some axle stands to cradle the engine, and built the subframe to suit. I messed the first one up – the steering rack didn’t fit – so I had to start again.

“The B16A engine was from a Honda Del Sol that my mate was breaking, and he let me have it free! I’d always planned to go 4WD, so I just rebuilt the gearbox with new bearings and M Factory carbon synchros, and bolted in a cheap kit that converts the diff to LSD – it’s nowhere near as good as a proper LSD, but it does the job. The engine has a whole list of modifications that give me over 300bhp at the wheels.

“I took it to Spring Action at Castle Combe last year – I got it finished and running at 3am that morning. It wasn’t properly dialled in, it had just been mapped, so I didn’t put it on the track, but we were messing around with it on the way, and at 7.5psi of boost, the torque steer put me on the other side of the road!

“It’s insane. You have to treat it like a beautiful woman – mistreat it, and it’ll turn nasty, but treat it right and it’s the ride of your life. It still has the Mini handling, so it’s like it’s on rails, but boot it into a corner and you’re going straight. The doors shake, you feel every little thing through the steering, and above 120mph you’re holding on for dear life, but it’s everything I wanted and more.

“I knew this wasn’t going to get built overnight, but here we are, four and a half years later, and I have the Mini of my dreams, and one that I can honestly say I built. I can’t take the credit for the paint, the mapping or the interior trim, but everything else I modified, fitted, adapted or fabricated. I did have all the bits to go 4WD over winter, but a health scare before Christmas meant I’m under doctors’ orders to take it easy, so maybe next winter. And still, every time I park it in the garage, I have to look back at it before I shut the door. If you don’t do that, you’ve got the wrong car…”

1985 Austin Mini

  • Honda B16A gen II 1,595cc four-cylinder
  • ACL bearings
  • Wiseco forged pistons
  • Crower connecting rods 
  • Cometic 1.66mm head gasket
  • Skunk2 block guard
  • Skunk2 valve springs
  • Ti retainers
  • ARP head studs
  • Custom intake manifold
  • Stock B16 throttle body
  • Garret GT3076R turbo
  • Custom ITG 4″ air filter
  • Greddy intercooler
  • Drag Gen.3 manifold
  • 38mm Turbosmart Ultra wastegate
  • Forge dump valve
  • RC Engineeing 750cc injectors
  • Fast-turbo oil lines
  • Oil filter relocation kit
  • Mocal oil cooler
  • Samco silicone piping
  • Custom 3″ downpipe
  • Walbro 255lph fuel pump
  • AEM high flow fuel rail
  • AEM fuel regulator
  • NGK BKRE7 plugs
  • Hondata S300 ECU
  • Greddy boost controller
  • CC Competition stage 5 clutch
  • Lightened billet race flywheel
  • Standard ratio gearbox
  • M Factory/Synchrotech carbon-lined synchros
  • Moroso turbo oil sump
  • Davies Craig high-flow aluminium electric water pump
  • Mishimoto radiator under boot floor
  • GSXR 1000 radiator
  • 304whp, 358hp at flywheel, 217lb.ft.
  • House of Kolor Candy Orange
  • Zmax body kit
  • Subaru WRX bonnet scoop
  • Voltex rear wing
  • Tegiwa custom rear wing mount
  • Force Racing SLR wheels
  • Yokohama A048 tyres
  • Gaz fully adjustable coil-overs
  • Wilwood big brakes
  • Goodridge braided brake lines
  • Arc Angels carbon fibre boot floor
  • Arc Angels carbon fibre boot lid
  • Arc Angels custom carbon fibre wing tips
  • Full custom ICE install
  • Pioneer AppRadio SPH-DA110
  • Audiobahn 15″ subwoofer
  • Vibe Black Death 6″ component speakers
  • Vibe Black Death 6×9″ speakers
  • Custom half cage
  • Recaro seats, retrimmed
  • Luke harnesses
  • Luke door pulls
  • Retro-Retrims custom headliner, door cards, carpet and boot liner
  • Dakota VHX gauges
  • Defi auxiliary gauges
  • Arc Angels custom fibreglass dash

Thanks to: “Thanks to Chris Burns at Retro Retrims for the interior.”