Early Minis are fast becoming collectors’ pieces, but that doesn’t mean you can’t put your own stamp on one. After all, people have been modifying Minis since the birth of this little game-changer back in 1959. For the sake of decency though, it’s best to ignore K Series conversions and 12-inch wheels…
We’re just scratching the surface here with a few choice mods. Whatever you want to do, there’s probably a kit available to do it!
Changing the body too much is likely to make purists chase you with pitchforks these days. If anything, you’ll find more people making later Minis look like these earlier, purer incarnations. Bolt-on mods are okay though, as they’re usually reversible. So, you can make your non-Cooper or MkII Mini look a bit sweeter by fitting the MkI Cooper corner bar and over-riders. Corner bars start at £13.12 each from Mini Sport, rising to £225.17 for a full kit including new bumpers.
Grille options are varied, due to the Austin/Morris differences until 1969, as well as the Cooper changes. You can even get MkII grilles with holes for spotlights – £76.61 from Mini Spares. Make sure you order the right grille though, as not all have the external bonnet release hole.
Out of sight is more out of mind, so you have more freedom here. The world truly is your oyster too. It’s more a case of what you can’t do to an A Series engine than what you can. From 848cc to 1275cc, you can experiment with the myriad of capacities between the two, and beyond. Sticking with what you’ve got, Mini Sport has a Stage 1 tuning kit suitable for all engines from £180. The kit includes a Superflow, side-exit exhaust, performance manifolds and a cone air filter. Replacing the restrictive cylinder head is the next stage, but takes the cost up to £1100 including all the aforementioned items.
Twin-carb kits for your non-Cooper start at around £725, but need tuning to offer their best. Don’t neglect cooling, especially if performance has increased. There are several different radiators available, all claiming better flow.
Coopers used tiny disc brakes behind their little 10-inch wheels. Mini Spares sells a kit to upgrade from drums to discs for £540. That’ll make a big difference, though you may need a higher pedal pressure.
When it comes to ‘dry’ suspension, you can have different cones, better dampers, coil-spring conversions – you really are spoilt for choice. For more comfort, you need a Moulton Smootha Ride kit. Dr Moulton carried on developing his suspension ideas long after Mini production began. The kit uses different cones and also has the benefit of greater adjustment – to the car’s ride height for instance. Mini Sport’s kit is £360. ‘Wet’ Hydrolastic cars have fewer options, but a better ride to start with.
INTERIOR & ELECTRICS
Some classic Cobra bucket seats would really look the part and prices start at £119 from Mini Sport. Around £200 will get you a nice wood-rim Moto-Lita steering wheel and boss kit. A proper period mod.
Sporty Minis tended to have a water temperature gauge, but fitting one to lesser models is a very wise move. They cost around £115 for one that doesn’t look too modern, or less than £40 for one that’ll look out of place in an early car. A neat idea is to trim out the boot: A board to cover the battery and spare wheel costs around £71.
In terms of electrics, consider upgrading from a dynamo to an alternator. A ‘stealth’ unit that looks like a dynamo costs around £400, so it won’t ruin the looks. Similarly, an in-distributor electronic ignition system will greatly boost reliability without looking out of place – expect to pay £100 for a Pertronix kit through Moss Europe.