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Carolynn and Daveís Mini Challenges.

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Vtec Mini Conversion - Click on Pictures for a larger image

Since the 16 Valve Mini scene started to take off over the past couple of years it struck me that this is a far easier and more reliable means of getting a high performance engine along with high reliability in a Mini. The turbo engine was fun but suffered from so many failures and problems that using it as a reliable daily runabout was just well out of the question. That combined with the hideous torque steer and the failure of the water pump which took 3 days to change due to the cramped nature of the engine bay was the final straw. Having had a Toyota MR2 for a couple of years now the Japanese engines have really grown on me giving stunning performance and ultra reliability. Therefore it was only a matter of time before I decided to go for the Vtec conversion. This page details the progress (or reasons for lack of progress) and the problems I encountered along the way.

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The first decision was regarding the sub frame, there are only a few options here really, make your own or buy a kit from one of three retailers, P&L minis, SAE mini Vtec or Watsons Rally. I looked at making my own but decided it was too much effort to be honest and looked at the kits, everyone recommends Watsonís as being the best so I went for the SAE one instead (it does make sense!) , the watsonís kit was much more expensive than the SAE or P&L minis kits but mainly the reason for choosing the SAE kit was that it uses the existing mini suspension setup, i.e. brakes/hubs and wheels. The wastonís kit uses honda suspension and therefore requires special wheels to be made, just more expense in my view. The fact I already have uprated turbo brakes and had the spax suspension kit and didnít want to have to spend more money on the same items from honda were the main factors in subframe choice.

The subframe came in record time from SAE, they quoted 6 weeks but delivered in 3 weeks, I was very impressed after hearing lots of negative feedback on 16vmini.com and what arrived was very well packaged and solidly built.

Getting hold of an engine was much more difficult than I expected. I didnít have anywhere to house a complete car so had to get just an engine and after much searching found a B16A2 engine from City Auto Salvage in Sheffield. They were very good and supplied me Ďa kití including everything I needed to do the conversion, this included everything, including driveshafts and ecu/complete engine and part of car loom, hubs and brakes (not needed) . The Honda loom is huge but includes everything up to the dash and ignition switch so I plugged it in and tried the starter which worked fine and gave good compression (and spark) on all four cylinders. Looks promising.

At the earliest opportunity I hacked the front off the Mini (as you do when you have a house full of vtec bits and no room to move!). This didnít take long although it took a long time to remove the turbo engine purely because of its complexity and lack of access. The front came off easily with an angle grinder.

A week went by and I decided to try the sub frame fitting. The SAE kit came with clear instructions on what to do and I set about try to fit it. I used a wooden trolley (on loan from Alan at work) to support the subframe and allow it to be wheeled in and out and the car supported on the trolley jack. I was able to raise and lower the car to the perfect height to slide in the subframe. This required several attempts to trim the inner wings to the point where the subframe fitted easily. I was stunningly impressed that it just slid straight into position with relative ease and after lots of careful measurements to ensure it was straight and level I bolted it in place. I then drilled the rest of the mounting holes including the 6 holes in the footwells and bolted it in with the strengthing plates that go on the inside of the floor. And hey presto, frame is fitted. I may well weld in more strengthening just in case, havenít decided yet but I can jump up and down on the front of the frame and jack the car up and down with no flexing or creaking which is encouraging.

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The subframe was fitted much quicker than I expected and this I thought would take several days of effort but instead one day was all it took as everything just lined up. The subframe on a wheeled trolley really helped a lot here!

The next weekend I fitted the hubs and spax suspension (coil overs) back on and did  an initial suspension geometry line up, i.e. camber, castor and toe by eye. There is little point setting this properly as it changes when the engine is fitted and suspension arms rise up. Ideally I plan to set everything as best I can and then take it to a 4 wheel alignment place to do it properly (unless of course I get it right .. but what are the chances of that !?).

The next step is to fit the engine, however I know from other peopleís experiences that the injection manifold will foul the bulkhead and quite a large chunk needs to be removed. Before I can do this I need to work out where to cut and remove the dash/stereo (before I angle grind through it!!). I hope I can measure accurately where to cut and engine will literally drop into position (I can hope canít I ?), alternatively it will be a case of repeatably fitting and removing the engine to see where it fouls,  not an easy job as its quite a bit heavier than the Mini engine.

Engine fitting is planned for this coming weekend.

Engine Fitment

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