Meet Rupert

Last night we talked about restoring a car together, sometime. It might be a fun project! What sort of car would we like? Hypothetically speaking, of course. Let’s have a look at Trade Me- just to see what’s out there.

Today we’re off to Silverdale, cash in pocket, to look at a Mini. Funny how that happens.

Meet Rupert: he’s a 1963 Mini Super Deluxe, though someone’s gone to a lot of trouble to collect as many Cooper bits as they can. And I think he might become ours.


He looks to be in fairly good condition underneath the faded paint and well loved interior. All the right bits are there- “it should be a fairly easy restoration”, I said at the time. (Here’s a tip: if anyone ever says that to you, just slap them until they come to their senses.)


The interior looks original and fairly complete, and the floors haven’t been replaced.


Original swing down number plate holder….


Cooper ventilated wheels, overriders, stainless sill trims, piano hinge rear windows- all the good stuff! A (far too brief) test drive and he was ours. Deposit paid, we’d be back in a couple of days to pick him up.

He’s home!

There’s a Mini in our workshop! The drive home was uneventful, though Brian did discover that the brakes pull to the side a tiny bit.


We also purchased the seller’s entire hoard of Mini parts, including a few somewhat rare bits, and some things that probably don’t come from a Mini.

There’s work to do.

Brian made a few notes about work that would need doing:

Headlamps have water damage (but they’re British Pre-Focus units anyway, so will have to go)

Something suspicious is happening around the front wings.

Not sure why the roof has rusted just in the middle- maybe the previous owner was short and couldn’t reach that spot when waxing the car?

Look at that gorgeous engine bay!

The drop-down number plate in action.

Moustache and whiskers are still there, but there’s obviously some rust there.

With a switch panel this complex I’m not sure the Dymo labels are necessary.

It still has the original service book! Well, *an* original service book from a Mini.

Now strip!

The strip down begins, and doesn’t take long: it’s a Mini.
First, the interior. Half the carpet was already missing, but I think the floor is salvageable.
Rear subframe is out, and looking surprisingly solid, if a little dirty.
Next comes the engine bay.
 The brake booster bracket is distinctly home made- I’ll have to fix that. (Funny what seems important when you first start a project).
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The previous owner had added an expansion tank (a good idea) and mounted it in the driver’s side wheel arch, where you couldn’t get to it without unbolting it. Bizarre. So I’m fitting it in an equally bizarre but slightly more accessible place.
Our haul of spare parts included a right hand fuel tank, so we fitted it at this stage, just for the hell of it.

Keen eyed viewers will notice that the retaining strap is on the wrong side. I didn’t notice at the time, but I’m sure it’ll come back to haunt me.


Disk brakes were a nice surprise, but they’re going to need a bit of work.

Drop the engine.

How to remove a Mini’s engine and front subframe.

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Step 1: remove everything that’s not the engine. Unbolt the subframe from the body.


Step 2: Realise you need the rear wheels to do this properly. Put the rear subframe and suspension back in, then use an appropriate hoist to lift the body up. If an appropriate hoist is not available, use a piece of string and some pulleys you found. Don’t worry, the shell is extremely lightweight and this photo wasn’t posed at all.


Step 3: the engine will now gracefully exit the engine bay- unless, like everyone else, you forgot to undo the earthing strap or brake lines.

It’s a miracle of packaging! Also, very dirty, heavy, and awkward to manoeuvre.
Once removed from the subframe the engine is heavy and quite unstable, so mount it securely to the engine stand before commencing disassembly. Alternatively, get excited and prop it up on a nail box and block of wood. That works too.
Your stripped Mini shell should now look great, ready for a quick respray and rebuild. This is the easy and fun part. It should only take a month or two, and be very inexpensive. Not.

Rust. Quelle surprise.

So the pressure washing showed up a few areas that are less than ideal. The boot floor is a confection of steel, rust, bog, and underseal.

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Let’s cut out the rotten metal and see what’s left. Shit.

Nothing for it but to get stuck in- we’ll start the ball rolling with a small repair.

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Cleco temporary rivets are awesome for panel repair, holding everything in alignment while you weld it in place.


That went well. Now feeling a little more confident, its time to tackle the boot floor.

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Cardboard and masking tape to make up a template in situ…

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…transfer to steel and cleco in place.

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Lots of plug welds into the rear subframe mount, and spot welds everywhere else.

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Wings! Or lack thereof.

Meanwhile, at the front of the car:
With the front wing out of the way, we can really see what’s going on.
That used to be a hinge mount, but luckily it’s easily replaced since the internal a-panel is entirely separate from the exterior skin.


Unpick the spot welds…

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…and out comes the rotten panel.


More boot floor nasties.

At the back the horror continues. One of the previous owners was a master sculptor, but once the bog’s ground away the true quality of the repairs is evident.

IMG_3169Oh god.

Just keep cutting, and cutting, and cutting until all the rust is gone…

Old rusty/patched floor is being removed with extreme prejudice. IMG_20120723_111218

…and install a replacement floor.

Bzz. Bzz. Bzz. (repeat) And maybe just a few MIG plug welds where the spot welder couldn't reach.

The right side corner was also a masterful confection of bog and paint. Out with the cardboard templates again…

Surprisingly little rust in this corner, a Mini trouble spot. Cut... ...reproduce... Perhaps brushing it will make it look better? Or I could just grind it off.

Good as new. Ok, fine, good *enough*.