Carolynn and Dave’s Mini Challenges.

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Mini Turbo - PART 2


As anyone with a Mini Turbo will know, they are not for the lazy Mini Owner !! and require continual support and maintenance to provide  trouble free operation. The 1 litre engine went fine but a string of head gasket failures usually within a few weeks of each other led to a trial of different head gasket manufacturers and a head skimming/modifying. The conclusion of the head gasket trials were that you basically get what you pay for, a cheap gasket from a Mini show doesn’t last 5 minutes when subjected to the pressures of forced induction combustion and a stronger more expensive head gasket is definately required. After fitting a pricey gasket it hasn’t been changed since which must say something !!??



I had a string of failures from vacuum and pressure pipes, mainly caused by petrol and heat damage. By far one of the most annoying failures was the failure to start when hot, basically if left standing for 10 minutes the carburetter gets so hot the engine will not start until left to cool down being in a permanently flooded state. The solution I found was to put a thermostatically controlled fan blowing cold air over the carb when its temperature rose above 50 deg C, it would appear that above 50 degrees it will not start and below it will start with lots of throttle opening to clear the excess fuel.

I was lucky enough to be offered an MG metro turbo engine which I prompty used to replace the 1 litre engine, this gives more power when the turbo is not up to pressure and obviously more power ‘on boost’. Another decent head gasket was fitted and is still running strong after a year or so later.

Numerous other things have failed since the engine upgrade, pipes split, turbo bearings gone, turbo oil pipe fractured, distributor broke, coil went, standard sub frame mounts just pull apart etc etc.

Talking of sub frame mounts, this is another area of significant trouble. Standard rubber mounts just pull apart ripping the glue off the rubber under harsh acceleration, I then upgraded to poly-flex boshes all round as being the latest (and therefore best ..... ??) items on the market. Rather unfortunately the poly flex bushes turned out to be a complete disaster allowing sufficient ‘flex’ to pull all over the road (as proved by minature cameras pointing at bushes), these were replaced with solid mounts which helped a lot but it still suffers hideously from torque steer. A lot of this I’m sure is due to the sub frame not being strong enough.

.One of the most comical failures was the time the wastegate (device for stopping excessive pressure from building up) pipe split and whilst hanging on for grim death thinking “wow!, its going well tonight” I happen to notice the boost gauge had gone off the end (1 bar) and back round to the start!! at which point it went weak and started to misfire. It suffered no ill effects from this failure.

When I started the project I was expecting the gearbox to be the first failure item of the system, to date this has never happened !!, and never will cos the engine is being ditched in favour of a Honda vtec ..........

In conclusion the turbo fitment has been the most unreliable car I have ever owned (not the most expensive, that was a Fiat Uno Turbo that similarly broke everything there was to break), with fuel economy of 15mpg worst case and normal of 25mpg reaching 35mpg on a long run ,its expensive in petrol. It let me down in Great Yarmouth on the Kings Lynn to Yarmouth run when it wouldn’t start cos it was too hot thereby missing the parade!

None the less however it is the most fun to drive, not for the wimpish driver I ahsten to add, its a case of  hang on tight until your knuckles go white  and boot it which really puts a huge grin on your face which can’t be beat!!

Would I build another turbo Mini ? .... No, definately not, the recent changing of the water pump that took three evenings was the final straw, there is no space to work on it under the bonnet, the constant cooling difficulties are a pain, more radiators fitted than you can shake a stick at! and the insurance is NOT cheap.


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