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Justification

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The 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.

My 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!

There's 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.

The Vauxhall engines are cheap, reliable, and easily tuned to achieve even greater BHP than the Honda VTEC.

Every 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 Mini soon.