The worst car I ever had was undoubtedly a 1970 Mini 1275GT, an early one with Hydrolastic suspension. I bought it for £500 in 1990 as an impulse thing. I was halfway through rebuilding a 1965 Cooper S and needed a cheap set of wheels. At first it went okay, but it wasn’t long before the clouds of doom set in.

July 1990 was a hot month and the GT’s cooling system was clearly struggling. Nothing seemed to work – I fitted another radiator and even ran some limescale remover through the system before hosing it through and replacing the hoses. In the end I took the head off, checked everything and refitted the head with a new gasket – and the very last head stud sheared off.

The head came off again, I drilled the remainder of the stud out, fitted another one and reassembled it with the same head gasket. I wasn’t about to buy another one. It ran okay again but still ran hot and it began to use (and leak) a lot of oil. The breather was like a second exhaust, although it didn’t smoke that much – you could smell it though.

Eventually, I’d had enough. I pulled the engine out, stripped it, honed the bores, fitted new rings and gaskets and got it going again. But it was never very good so when a really tidy 1980 Cortina 1600 turned up needing a new wing, I bought that, fitted a new wing and used it for a year. The Mini took some selling with timewaster after timewaster until it was eventually sold. Good riddance.

However, with that rebuilt Cooper S sold, I felt the Mini itch again and in a makeshift car sales place on the A43 on the way to Banbury, there it was again. The engine bay was soaked in oil and despite my bore honing and new rings it was clearly still pumping oil out of the breather – I believe ‘knackered’ is the apt word to use.

But it was £300 and I had a plan. Seeing as the rest of the car was still pretty decent (it had been fitted with new wings, sills and so on in the fairly recent past before I first owned it) so the thing to do was to pull that engine out and drop it into a foundry where it would not haunt anyone again. I found another engine; an original unit that ran well and had never been apart. This was found to be in very good order, but it had been rebored with new Metro pistons fitted (they were only £60 a set then), the crank polished, plus all new bearings, an oil pump and so on, fitted along with a Piper 270 camshaft I’d got for the S but not used.

Come the first start-up there was no oil pressure on cranking. Despite every trick in the book it was having none of it. As a last trick before pulling the engine out, the oil line to the block was unbolted. Oil pumped down into the block and the pipe was refitted. Success!

With plugs fitted, it fired up and sounded great. Apart from the oil leak from the flywheel housing, that is. So the flywheel came out again, the primary gear and oil seal were removed but no obvious fault was found.

The next day it was driven from Oxford to Darlington, but by the time I got there the distinct sound of a drop gear problem was all too obvious. So again, the flywheel came off along with the primary gear – but not the inner brass bush that had welded itself to the crank. This was swiftly removed with a very sharp screwdriver and a small hammer, the crank was then cleaned up (thankfully there was very little marking) and another primary gear was fitted.

This time it sounded good. For about three weeks: Driving to a job interview, I reversed into the parking space and upon attempting to select neutral, the lever was firmly jammed in reverse. This was just getting ridiculous. So, dipping the clutch with one foot and pushing the car out of the space with the other, I reversed the Mini as fast as it would go before banging the lever forwards. I drove forwards into the slot, was interviewed for a job I didn’t get and drove home. Only I couldn’t reverse it into any more into parking slots because the lever wouldn’t go into reverse.

That was the end of it. I advertised it for £500 (about half what it had cost me), took £400 and was glad to be rid of it. I learned that LHK497J was scrapped three years later.