A series engine was and still is an incredible engine. It has
a lot of history, it's easily tunable and has a lot of potential
for high power output and reliability. There is no doubt that
many people run A series engines successfully on the road and
in competition. However, it does have many limitations and even
its most ardent fan would have to agree on this.
experience with the A series started with a lowly 998cc in my
1985 Mini HLE. From day 1 (brand new) my Mini ran a bit rough.
Many months later I tracked it down to contamination in the
SU float bowl, a problem that still plagues any Mini with the
old HS type of carb. I fitted a pancake filter, then an exhaust.
Next, I junked the motor and fitted a 1303cc with a stage 3
MiniSport head, LCB and RC40. The difference was incredible
and all from a simple engine swap. I fitted twin 1.75"
HS SUs and it howled. Careful setting up on a rolling road showed
104BHP! Then I tried racing it against my mate's Astra Belmont
SXi. I got slaughtered. Something was wrong surely, but no,
modern car technology had moved on so much that even my super-tuned
engine was no match for even a mildly tuned Astra! Next, the
gearbox chewed its main bearing. The next gearbox split along
a hairline fracture. The engine lost oil pressure and died.
The crank ate thro' the thrust bearings and into block. So much
scrap. Next came a 1380cc from MiniSport (in another car) but
it seemed to be no better than the 1303. Finally I settled for
an MG Metro engine - reliable with electronic ignition (I was
sick of push starting my car). That engine never failed me and
was fast enough I suppose - 73BHP. Then I bought a bike and
forgot all about making my Mini faster until now!
no way I'm repeating the hassle I had all those years ago. To
get the kind of power I want, I'd need to spend thousands on
an A-series and even then I doubt it would be exactly reliable!
If I'm going to do it I'm taking the cheap and easy way. The
Honda VTEC gives 150+ BHP standard. No tuning, 5 speed box,
fuel injection, totally reliable. The engines are bomb-proof
and are relatively cheap (around £800 complete). They can be
chipped and super-charged. You can fit throttle bodies and up
the power to nearly 200BHP! They rev to 8,000 rpm and are known
to push 10,000 without problems.
Vauxhall engines are cheap, reliable, and easily tuned to achieve
even greater BHP than the Honda VTEC.
tuned A-series engine I've driven has some bad habits. Invariably
the worst is torque steer. You just can't get away from the
fact that the A-series has drastically unequal drive-shafts
in terms of length. It simply wasn't designed for power and
it shows when you drive a tuned car fast. Torque steer pulls
the car violently to one side and makes driving exciting but
also hard work. For my experience of zero torque steer in a
VTEC-engined Mini, see the road
test link. I hope to have a test drive of a Vauxhall-engined