Project Mini – it begins

Yesterday, my co-worker David V. (aka DJ Dav, Ozbot, others) acquired his first Mini. This is a 1962 Morris Mini, exported from New Zealand (I am not sure all the details yet), it was sitting in a guy’s field for some time before we rescued it and another Mk1 shell in pretty rusty condition. It was sold as ‘drivable’ though with Minis, that’s kind of a “I wonder how much mileage we will get out of that” statement. Here is an excerpt of some communications with the seller, who we shall keep anonymous unless they otherwise say it’s OK, and a short story about our journey home..

The original ad looked like this:

Title: 1962 austin mini morris cooper 1275 project – $4000
Content: 1962 austin mini project. runs and drives but needs some work to become daily driver. hoses/belts/tires. mostly original paint with some rust repairs in the past. needs rear valance and rust spot under window repaired at some point otherwise very solid!! 1275 rod change with cooper s mk3 head. twin leading drums with brake booster. interior is complete. floors are great! the best I’ve seen on a mini !! this car will get registered today. car is located in Xxxxxxx which is two hours north of Sacramento
4000.00 firm





With a call and a email off to the seller, we were seeking to purchase it Friday night.. the seller replied, we chatted for a bit, and then off we went on Saturday morning to go get it!

It was questionable whether we’d make it back, here’s a summary of the drive home:

We got to the gas station near the seller’s house, put in 4 gallons, added the other 1/2 quart of oil, and got ready to enter the freeway. We checked the lights. Other than being a one-eyed car with no horn or turn signals, the Lucas wiring was kind to us. I was following Dave, driving his FJ Cruiser, and snapped the daytime cellphone photo you see here:

I-5 SB

The clutch was stiff and actually I bent the lever with the force of my foot. Oops! We bent it back by hand, figured we needed to go lighter on it, and off we went. A bit of smoke here and there, otherwise okay. The engine sounded great and ran remarkably well for one that had been sitting around so long. These A-series engines really do go forever. A bit over 1 and 1/2 hours later, driving along at the top speed of around 60-65 mph, we stopped at Williams (I think it was called) to check things out and fill-up again. We were happy to find it had only used 2- 2 1/2 gallons, so milage was decent. Oil was still low so we bought 3 quarts, put one and a half in, and were good to go, or so we thought.

This is where we ran into some more trouble. Dave wasn’t used to cars with a choke, so flooded the engine, but after a few tries she turned over. Still, the linkage or something in the shifting seemed seemed goofy, so shifting was odd, and I managed to bend the clutch lever again (even though he did 90% of the driving) and considered throwing in the towel at that point, but Dave wanted to press onward, so we were back on the road again, confident she’d have enough gas and oil to last the trip home.

Somewhere near Davis, we came to the realization that we were stuck in 4th gear, and although we could clutch, it wasn’t going to shift anymore.

Day turned to night, and I snapped the 2nd photo you see here:

on I-550 SWB

We got as far as Berkeley, 1/2 mile North of University Avenue, where our merry pace was suddenly interrupted by the backup at the Oakland Bay Bridge.

Traffic was stop and go, and there was no way we could proceed, stuck in 4th gear, without probably doing some damage to the clutch and engine, so we called it a day (well, a night actually), pulled off to the shoulder, and called a tow truck to bring us the remaining 30 or so miles to Pacifica.

It took awhile for the tow truck to arrive. AAA told me 20 mins, and exactly at the 20 minute mark I got an automated call telling me it would be 20-30 minutes more. The tow truck driver was a hoot though, and made every effort to get the Mini safely onto his flatbed. Snapped one more cellphone picture:

Berkeley Towing, I-80

No small task, mind you, with Dave having to hold the clutch in while the tow guy placed the car onto the truck. At first, we thought of using the tow hooks in the front. The Mini was missing the driver’s side (that’s RHD) and when the tow guy tried using the left one, it snapped off. Good ol’ British pot metal. So, we ended up strapping the tires in the back and routing some chains around the rest of it in the front, gave the tow guy one of our FasTrak devices, and onward across the bridge we went.

Looking at our arrival time, we got home almost 12 hours to the mark from when we left earlier that day, but alas, the Mini had made it and more-or-less survived the journey. She’s sitting out in front of my house today. Dave is naming her “Bonnie”

It was a great day of motoring! 🙂 We missed dyno day at Seven Enterprises, but have a good story to tell and look forward to fixing her up to do more.

Miniologists will be helping with the rebuild – do you have services, parts, or free time to help with the project? We’d like to make this a community and club thing. Please let me know.. did I say free beer, pizza, and schwag will be provided? 😉

Here is a video walkthru around the car, I took this on Sunday morning before going through and cleaning her up, this is basically the condition we picked her up in. If you are sensitive to seeing rusty Minis, please look away now! 🙂