Building out the MINI trackcar, we’ve been trying to balance weight savings, safety, and utility. We removed most of the interior trim, but decided to keep the panel that runs along the bottom of the door jam to the fuse panel (called “trim panel leg room”) to protect the fuse panel as well as the wire bundle that runs along the door.
Once you remove the carpet, you’ll realize that the floor beneath the pedals is quite uneven. To fix that, we filled the voids and leveled the floor with closed-cell foam and bolted plywood to the chassis. To improve heel-toe downshifts we added a set of Rennline pedals like we have in the GeorgeCo Porsche. The pedals are fairly straight-forward to install. (The accelerator pedal is easier to install if you remove the accelerator module first.)
We finished it off with a set of DiamondMats that will be bolted to the plywood as well.
One of the easiest weight-saving mods you can make to your MINI is to replace the stock battery with a lighter weight one. Lithium Ion batteries are ridiculously expensive, but Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) are not and they weigh about half of stock. For this application we used the Braille B2618 which an 18 lb., right side positive sealed battery. It has 472 cold cranking amps and is rated for 26 amp/hr. Braille also makes a very slick aluminum cage to mount it that fits nicely in the MINI battery compartment (with some slight modifications). The neat thing about sealed batteries is that the can be fitted wherever you want and mounted vertically or horizontally. If we ever corner balance the car, we’ll think about relocating it, but it works fine now where it it.
I know the MINI has the aerodynamics of a brick, but we can still try to maximize the brick. In a previous post we showed how to smooth airflow under the car with underbody panels and a belly plate. In this post, we install the Leap Alpha C spoiler attention. We had been exploring how to install a gurney flap when we found this product online. It comes in gray primer and ready to paint. We decided to paint it black because the shape matches the splitter. Installation is very easy with the provided 3M automotive adhesive and is an exact fit.
At the end of production for the first Generation new MINI came the GP. It was the fastest MINI to date at the time and had some interesting aero tweaks including full length under-body panels to smooth the airflow under the car. Those panels run at least $200 each if you can find them, but there is an alternative that is almost as good (but also at end of life.) The second generation (R56) Cooper S had optional underbody panels which were 90% the same shape as the original ones and only about $60 each. Fitting them is fairly straight forward, but does require some modification of the panels and perhaps fabrication of one bracket.
The first Gen cars have two of the necessary mounting points already attached. Just remove the air flaps ahead of the rear tires and the panels slip on. Once you work to the front of the car you will see the bits that need to be trimmed away to make them fit. You will need to drill six new holes in the floor pan to attach the rest of the mounting points, but don’t worry, there is nothing in the way of the bolts on the other side. On the passenger side, you will need to use a thread cutting tool to capture a bolt for the outboard side and the bracket for the inboard side. On the driver’s side you will need to thread the outboard side then figure out how to attach the bracket. I had it welded in place. Now move to the front. You do not want air washing over the leading edge so get some 1/8th inch thick ABS plastic, bend it to fit and attach using screws or pop rivets. That’s it. If you have a lift, it could be done under 2 hours. If you’re working on jack stands like I was, plan to double that and add a trip to chiropractor to the list.
The first parts list shows the R53GP part numbers. The second one is from the R56. The next three are before, after, and the leading edge modification. The last photo is the Rennline Skidplate we installed the week before.
We didn’t expect to be in the car market so soon, but life tends to throw you curveballs every once in a while. We certainly got one last week when our daughter totaled her Jetta. Fortunately, she walked away with only a minor airbag burn, but the Jetta was a total loss. So we decided to get my wife a new car, and hand down the old one.
We were on our way to see a 2012 Audi when the dealership called to say it had sold already. Starting the search anew over lunch, we ended up at Rockville Audi. Alex, our salesman was a great guy, and took us on a tour to find the 2013 car we had seen in the ad. We didn’t find it (it was out for a test drive with its eventual owner) but we did find this 2015 CPO car with 27,000 miles. Amazingly it had only the features we wanted (nav, powered heated leather seats) and no extras. It had only been in service for 12 months but was only 58% of the new price. So we took it. We weren’t in the market for a black car, but this one is gorgeous.
When Alex was explaining how the car achieves maximum cooling, he mentioned that the car figures out the best combination of vents to use for maximum effect. When asked how it knows, he said it just knows. That’s when the name was born, because The Shadow knows.
If you’re removing the carpet from your Gen 1 MINI, here are a couple of helpful hints. Besides the fact that the thick backing makes the entire piece of carpet somewhat unwieldy and hard to maneuver, the last sticking point in removing it will likely be the removal of the accelerator pedal. This image shows the two pieces that make up the assembly:
For cars built aver 10/01, the accelerator consists of these two parts. There’s the accelerator pedal module (in this case, for manual transmission cars) and the base. To remove the module, push down on the tab below the bolt and insert a screwdriver just above the number 2 in the drawing, and then pull the module to the left. It slides off. Pinch the sides of the electrical connector to remove the plug. Removal of the base is a little more difficult.
To remove the base, first remove the bolt with a 13mm socket. Carefully pry the two tabs simultaneously and pull up on the base. You can see the tab in the photo below (and the one on the right that I broke off.) Given the position of the base in the car, it’s hard to get a good visual before you begin, so be prepared to break it when you try to get it off. The part number is 35 42 6 772 703. Expect to pay about $20 for it on ebay or your local dealer. Online dealers have it for as low as $8.
With the pedal module off, it’s a good time to think about a couple of upgrades. Consider adding a Sprint Booster module or larger pedal set.
I’ve been working on videos for HPDE classroom and this one I’m currently editing is supposed to show large angle oversteer from both the external and internal perspectives. Click the photo below to see the video of out-takes. Thanks to Bob for recording. (14mb download)
Click the second photo to download a clip on oversteer. When the car in front appears in the middle-to-right of the windshield, then the trail car is also in oversteer. Notice two things about the driver’s inputs: 1. Quick to catch; and 2. Smooth. (30mb download)
If your HVAC controls are starting to wear or the screens are starting to go bad (as were mine), the replacement is a simple DIY repair with only minimal tools and skills. With the car powered off — I suppose you should actually disconnect the battery — begin by removing the trim around the HVAC control unit. Carefully pry it free using a plastic pry tool. My car has the HVAC controls in the lower position. It may be located instead in the position below the radio, but the process is essentially the same. Once the trim is removed, remove the screws on either side. If in the lower position, remove the batwings. There is a lower tab that sits behind the cross member that’s at the top of the batwings that you have to press up as you pull out the control unit. The wire harness may be very short, so spin the unit in the opening and pinch each of the connectors to release them. Note the order and color of the connectors for when it’s time to reconnect them. Connect the new control unit to the connectors. If unsure of the condition of the new control unit, reconnect the battery and turn the ignition key to the accessory position. Check functions. If all is OK, then press the control unit into position, reinstall screws, reposition batwings, and replace trim. It should take you 10-15 minutes at most.