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Mini Cooper

Mini Cooper Published: 16th Mar 2016 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Mini Cooper
Mini Cooper
Mini Cooper
Mini Cooper
Mini Cooper
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WHY NOT OWN A...? Mini

Minis are one of those rare cars that’s both classic and contemporary. Discontinued only 16 years ago after a glorious production run spanning four decades, let’s face it – if you haven’t already done so – everybody should own a Mini at some point in their motoring lives because they make as much sense for modern motoring as they did back in 1959 and no economy car has ever provided so much fun, be it a bog standard 850 and 998 Deluxe to a super-dooper Cooper.

MODEL CHOICE

A production encompassing saloons, estates, commercials, soft tops and booted and suited prestige models from Riley and Wolseley, mean there’s no lack of choice when it comes to buying one with something out there to suit all budgets.

Most thoughts turn to the iconic Coopers, and the Cooper S in particular, but speed isn’t everything and all are fun in their own way. The Mini spanned seven generations and with age came maturity, such as proper wind up windows (1969), 1100cc engine (1979) 12 inch wheels and disc brakes (1984), a cabrio (1992) and a front mounted radiator with electric fan, air bags and more on the last models. Yet, despite many improvements over the years, the fundamental character remained largely unchanged, meaning you can own a ‘modern’ Mini yet still treat and enjoy it as a classic just as if it were one of the originals.

The relaunched (1275cc 61-64hp) Rover Cooper of the 1990s reinvented the car to a new breed of customers and while they aren’t quite the real deal, are good enough for many plus are appreciably cheaper to buy and a bit easier to run.

Counterfeit Coopers (particularly the coveted S) have always been rife and even now you can get tucked up (see our advice elsewhere), but on the other hand there’s nothing wrong with a ‘Cooperised’ Mini just as long as you know what it is and it’s priced accordingly – after all modified Minis are hardly a new idea!

All old Minis are becoming collectible, including the handy Traveller and Countryman estates of late and now the less fancied Clubman. Perhaps the real surprise, in terms of investment, are the commercial van and pick-ups which can easily fetch Cooper-like prices.

BEHIND THE WHEEL

Superbly nimble with tenacious roadholding, the Mini is as cheeky today as it ever was and while modern front-wheel drive hot hatches do it with more finesse and grip, none offer the pure and simple thrills of a Mini proving that you don’t need to go fast to have fun. Frenzied on a faster Arterials and motorways, the Mini is at its best in the nip and tuck of urban driving or zipping through country roads like no other car.

There is a price to pay for all of this and that’s the car’s refinement. The ride in particular can be a real culture shock if you have never been in one before (surely not after all those years-ed), being intolerably harsh and buckety on ‘Dry’ suspension models or surprisingly wallowy on ‘Wet’ ones.

If you intend to use a Mini for longish journeys on faster roads, then perhaps you should consider a last-of-the-line MkVII first and foremost because they run on the tallest gearing ever found on a production Mini to make the legal limit that bit more bearable plus possess reasonably comfortable seating, too.

WHAT TO PAY

Good Cooper S 970s start from around £12,000 with a 1275 variant some £2-3000 more but you can double this for truly top cars where a famous competition past can mean £50K tags. The real surprise are vans, estates and pick-ups which have amassed strong followings, to the point where good ones can make decent Cooper money with ease.

Coopers typically sell for around 25 per cent less than the S (which is why fakes abound) and the only ‘standard’ Mini making the money are very early original Mk1s. Otherwise, it’s anything between a few hundred quid for a project to around £4000 for a nice example, and this includes Rover Mini Coopers. The once overlooked 1275 GT is now making firm friends and £6000 is the current rate for a tip top example; you can dock a grand for a normal Clubman.

Special editions abounded during the 1980s to inject some new life into the ageing Mini, sporting snazzier trim and appointments but with no performance gains so their ‘collectability’ is pretty debatable.

MAKING ONE BETTER

Most owners attain more power by conventional tuning before tackling the handling next although the wise enthusiast would look at uprating the brakes as a first step, particularly on models still running on drum brakes, which are barely adequate for today’s roads if you drive hard.

Engines can be stretched to almost 1400cc and give in excess of 100bhp or, if you prefer, the Metro Turbo unit can be put to good use, as tuner ERA proved in the late 1980s. Rover Coopers can be given the John Cooper Works treatment for a very lively 84-90bhp and there’s also a rare (and pricey) five-speed gearbox conversion at long last.

If you find your Mini nippy enough (as they are in 1275 guise after mild, well established, tuning methods) then you can turn your attention to the exterior and interior where a wealth of gear is available – just like the good old days. The driving position usually needs improving.

MAINTENANCE MATTERS

Minis are a double-edged sword. On the one hand they are so well known that anybody, from a novice DIYer to a local garage, can carry out some level of repairs easily enough even though a few special tools are required for certain jobs. Yet on the other hand, working on a Mini is rarely a pleasure thanks to its tight underbonnet confines.

Despite being out of production for two decades, parts supply is no problem at all and anything you need is readily available, and this includes brand new British Heritage shells, albeit only for later MkIV-V and Clubman models although we understand that BMH is looking at the prospect of making earlier shells. Second-hand parts are even more plentiful on eBay and classic shows (and don’t forget the numerous owners’ clubs that are well worth hitching up to) although bear in mind that while Minis may look pretty much the same, surprisingly little was carried over to later the generations and it’s easy to come unstuck by buying parts blind.

Rust is as much a worry now as it was in the Mini’s heydays with the rear subframe and floors most susceptible to rot, meaning that regular doses of rustproofing is highly advisable.

BUYING TIPS

1. GENERAL

Fake Coopers and especially the sought after Ss are rife! A MkI will have a chassis number C-A2S7 MkII d C-A2SB. Seek expert advice if in doubt as counterfeit Coopers can be cleverly done.

There’s so many around still that you should look around and rarely buy the first you see unless it is something special. It depends what you want from a Mini – as a classic or daily driver – but, by and large, most will have been modified to some degree by now or fitted using parts from a later model.

New Heritage bodyshells are available from BMH so all Minis can be saved but whether they are economically viable is debatable as shells cost £7000 upwards plus painting and rebuilding can take it to ten grand.

2. BODY AND CHASSIS

It’s more a case of where not to look rather than inspect because Minis rot everywhere which is why you need to look past the shiny paint and glitz. Chief areas are the subframes, floors, inner and outer sills and the central crossmember.

Other areas are the A posts, scuttles, roof gutters, valances as well as a lot of cosmetic parts like doors, wings and so on.

3. ENGINE

A-Series is robust although Cooper and Cooper S ones are dearer to overhaul. What engine is fitted as it may have been swapped by now for a larger unit (1275cc is most popular) – and is the gearing right for it?

Look for oil burning, leaks, tappet and timing chain noise and general wear. Popping on the overrun suggests burnt valves while exhaust manifolds can fracture due to excessive engine rock.

4. TRANSMISSION

Always noisy, check for general wear and jumping out of gear. Auto is special AP semi-auto unit and hard and expensive to fix.

Check for worn driveshafts which can display a knocking or vibration; a clicking on full lock hints at CV joint wear.

5. RUNNING GEAR

Check for worn steering and suspensions, the rear radius arms are prone to this due to lack of maintenance.

Has the car been converted back to ‘dry’ suspension? It has been known by enthusiasts to do this for better handling or if the Hydrolastic system has failed although parts for the wet system remain reasonably obtainable new or second-hand.

VERDICT

You either love or loathe a Mini; there’s no sitting on the fence! To drive, they are as much fun as they always have been and yet they are as practical as ever. But Minis aren’t cheap classics anymore so buy wisely.



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