1967 Austin Mini Cooper "S"
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Just married and vacationing in Kingston, Jamaica in 1967, my father had his first (literally eye-opening) experience with a Mini. Every morning, during his daily commute, a Welshman would tear past Dad's hotel. The car would fly into the tee-intersection downshifting in a slight drift and power through the 90-degree turn faster than any street car he'd ever seen. He was amazed at the site, sound and sauciness of the little (then unknown) car and immediately wanted one. Later during the trip, he actually met the driver at a local pub and learned more about the tiny terrors over pints and darts.
He purchased this Cooper S in 1970 with about 7,000 miles on the odometer. An Atlanta friend, racer and car salesman Jim Downing, had it available on his lot at Auto-Sport and for the sum of $1,625 less $750 for the trade-in value of his 1966 Plymouth Barracuda Formula S, he now owned nimble horsepower vs. gas-guzzling torque.
Jim stated that the car was brought to him by original owner Bob Shane of the Kingston Trio and that the scratched paint on the rear storage pockets were from his guitar case that fit snugly behind the front seats. Later, dad found a single/45 of "Honey" under the rear seat - a popular song of the time. Yes, that's me (and Jim) in above photos (circa 1979).
We enjoyed many years, ,,,,,,,,,,
bought second 850 Mini around 1973 to use as an (even more) efficient commuter car....
while maintaining the coveted Cooper.
When old enough to drive, the 850 became my first car. With help from Dad, I maintained and customized it through high school and college. Sometime in mid-nineties, the car was rammed hard from the front. An unnamed family member damaged the nose, fenders and pushed the engine slightly into the firewall while failing to successfully back down the hill of our driveway.
Sat for 6-7 years in the elements rusting away......
then father/son restore and sold on BAT to a gentleman in NY.
But that's a another whole web gallery (that may not ever have a proper site page).
This page is about Dad's Cooper S.
In 1986, he had the engine refreshed and while out, replaced the transmission with a refurbished unit. Four years later, it was parked indefinitely due to a clog in the fuel system. With life's distractions, the car remained in his garage until 2012 when work began in my garage to determine the source of the problem and what ultimately took the bugger out of commission.
Fuel tanks were removed (determined clogged), cleaned, re-coated and reinstalled. Next task, determine additional parts needed to be restored or replaced after 20 years of use + almost 30 years of inactivity. But first, finish renovation of the house to place on the market, pack, move and settle back in the new space.... and finish restoration of the M3 to free up the lift for the Mini.
Fast-forward to 2017 when life allowed focus and Mini restoration was the center of attention. The goal was to get the car running again by the end of the year. As expected, all hydraulics (clutch and brake master cylinders, slave & wheel cylinders and calipers) needed renewing. The water pump also showed signs of failure. It was decided to remove the engine to simplify the repair while allowing easy inspection access to additional aged seals, gaskets and hoses.
The twin 1.25 SU carburetors were original and had never been serviced so they were removed, cleaned overhauled and calibrated. Miscellaneous rusty bits will be sent off for blasting and prepped for new paint.
Surprisingly, the original radiator was in fairly good condition. It was flushed and tested and although showed signs of age and corrosion, it held pressure and was put back into use.
When the car was parked, the rebuilt engine had relatively low miles so hoped it was still in good internal condition. Not wanting to remove the head unless necessary, was able to view the cylinders using a small camera. Remarkably, they were well preserved- even much of the bore honing was still visible. Cylinder #2 showed a thin rusty ring at the top to the head. Could be a leaking head gasket but more likely simply remnants of condensation. Would the head need to be removed and complete overhaul? TBD.
The rocker assembly and springs appeared almost new - a good sign - and clutch was supposedly new upon the rebuild. Upon inspection, there appeared to be very little wear and no main seal leaks. It was suspected that only 10k-20k miles were on the rebuild.
Suspension & Steering
Wheels, Tires and Brakes
Body & Interior
Dad's hand-lettered windshield spec card for car shows.