Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Rover Mini Cooper J213 HML: Part 2

J213 HML, c2003, looking much more muscular than it was back in 1993.

OK, enough of the biohazardous Beeny: let’s get back to matters of substance. So there I was, back in 1993, driving around London in my sooper-dooper Mini Cooper S, thinking I was the dog’s bollocks. I then discovered that the Mini has an entire industry devoted to customization and I showered my little car with presents. Better wheels, sports suspension, twin fuel tanks, walnut dashboard, genuine Webasto fabric sun roof, extra spotlights and so on. Every month I would scan the pages of MiniWorld for new ideas and over a period of a few years the car got faster and sportier. I drove the length and breadth of the country at demon speed but I was still hankering after one more thing. Horsepower! The 1275cc “A” series lump was willing but certainly no firebreather. I talked to most of the engine tuners and I particularly liked the sound of Bill Richards. I took the car down to his facility in Ashford, Kent, and lo and behold I found myself agreeing to a 1380cc big bore conversion. This was the start of a beautiful friendship.

The engine was duly rebuilt and converted to the classic twin carburettor format. Once run in the car was truly very quick. I saw 124mph on the M20 motorway, albeit with downhill with the wind behind me, and I once drove 271 miles from London to Durham in under 4 hours. Fantastic! However all this performance came at a price. I was constantly fettling the car. Something was always in need of adjustment and it developed lots of silly minor faults. The cam made the engine too lumpy for slow moving London driving and the radiator barely coped with the extra heat. I started to dread any kind of traffic jam and my eye was always riveted to the temperature gauge. I’d tried to turn the car into a modern GT cruiser and while I’d got tremendous performance, I hadn’t realized that to achieve this objective in a 40 year old design it is also necessary to do a lot of maintenance. Really I’d converted the Mini into something more like a Porsche –and it was no coincidence that that I’d convinced myself I needed something like a German autobahn cruiser. So reluctantly I sold J213 HML in January of 1998. I got a good price for it and it went to a good home. Nevertheless I felt teary about its departure. Somehow I’d sold an old friend. I think that Minis, despite their shortcomings, are the only cars that can get under your skin like this. I did indeed buy a Porsche but that’s a tale for another day….

So where does the story end? Well for four years I often thought about my little green friend. Then, in early 2002, a few months after my move to the USA, I was reading the classified ads in a copy of MiniWorld and noticed a familiar looking description “Rover Mini Cooper S, BRG, Bill Richards motor….” J 213 HML was up for sale! I emailed the owner the next day but the car had been sold and the trail was once again cold. But not for long. Within a month I was contacted by a gentleman by the name of Skip from Michigan, USA. Skip had purchased the car through a broker, had it converted to LHD and exported to America. I felt incredibly relieved to know that my former little companion was at least on the same continent and was living with an enthusiast. That was three years ago and Skip and I correspond regularly. All in all a happy ending I think. It’s nice when things work out like this…

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