Specialist Cars had two cars to show me, a Clubman and their own
was just a shell really, but was used to check the fit of a newly
constructed frame before it was sent for powder coating. It's a
shame Jeff didn't have a fully built demonstrator but he's promising
one soon. In fact the last one he built, the first bloke to try
it insisted Jeff sell him that very engine and frame straight away.
So much for the demonstrator!
you look closely at the pictures, you can see the subframe brace
bars. These run to the front of the subframe providing extra rigidity
and allow the car to pass the UK vehicle testing regulations (MOT).
other parts Jeff supplies are the necessary linkages between the
engine and the gearbox and a suitable linkage between the Mini steering
column and the Honda rack. Note that the conversion requires the
Mini rack to be removed because the Honda rack is mounted on the
Clubman shows that it's possible to fit the VTEC but I still haven't
seen one in a round-front other than the race one. For the latter,
a fibre-glass front had to be utilised with some length added to
it. These are now readily available in the UK due to the popularity
of the Vauxhall conversion. The real problem with the VTEC in the
round front is the placement of the radiator. There is no space
at the side, and whereas the Clubman provides plenty of frontal
space, the round front does not. I suggested that perhaps bike radiators
complete with tiny efficient fans could be used. Not only are they
probably more efficient than a typical car version, they are lighter
and curved. A curved radiator might be much easier to place
in the bay than a normal one. As an example, my ZX9R putting out
140BHP uses a tiny curved radiator complete with 12VDC fan for cooling,
and that engine needs a lot of cooling! Many bikes also have
incredibly tiny but efficient oil coolers. Perhaps this is the way
to solve the problem with the round fronts! Incidentally, one company
is working on a way of fitting the VTEC to a round front. I'll give
you more information on this as it becomes available...
car had just come back from an event in which it crashed into a
load of hay bales. The impact was enough to fracture the radiator
and break its mountings. Note in the picture how a strap is holding
the radiator on! This is how Jeff finished the race, with a boiling
radiator and virtually no cooling. He still finished though, and
the engine didn't suffer any ill effects! The race car runs a Superchip,
huge throttle bodies (I'll get the spec from Jeff ASAP) and non-standard
gearing. Other than that, the spec is standard and the car is very
competitive, achieving many wins so far.
the creative placement of the alternator to the front LHS! Also
note the use of standard 14" Metro wheels to suit the running
gear which allows a wide choice of tyres. The wheels stick out a
hell of a lot which gives the car an aggressive stance.
the car has kept the original cast iron manifold, something I would
change immediately. There's a performance tubular steel replacement
available which would certainly decrease the weight at the front.
However, Honda learned their lesson well with bike engines so no
doubt the standard item flows very well. I'd still change it!
Basic kit includes
subframe, alternator conversion bracket and other fixing brackets.
They can also provide all the other parts you might need including
coil-over shocks, Metro running gear, used VTEC engines and suitable
drive-shafts. Geoff recommends the use of spacers that he fabricates
for the rear wheels to provide a similar width to the track of the
The basic kit cost
is £750+VAT, drive-shafts cost £100. Microsoft Excel spreadsheet
containing all the prices of the parts needed for the conversion:
I've been to see
this kit and can appreciate the level of work that's gone into the
sub-frames. They're built on a jig and I imagine a lot of development
has been necessary. However, I still think the kits are expensive
considering that all the parts necessary are not provided. I'd like
to see the price of the basic kit lowered and a standard kit offered
which does include all the parts. The standard kit would include
the joint to mate the Honda steering rack to the Mini steering column,
the drive-shafts, a suitable loom conversion and the hydraulic clutch
I've compiled a
list of typical costs:
clutch conversion pipe £20
loom conversion £100
16v VTEC Engine complete £800 (est)
running gear (calipers etc.) £75 (est)
- radiator, tubular exhaust manifold
Kit Details - August 2000
to Andy for the latest pictures. Geoff explained that the latest
version of the kit includes an improved and less obtrusive method
of suspension. The coil-overs have been moved to the subframe where
the original rubber springs would have mounted. The new types of
springs are shown in the pictures and are mounted on a type of HiLo
(adjustable height suspension trumpet).
development allows you to use standard shock absorbers such as Spax,
Konis etc. and will be available in the near future to suit standard
Minis, fitting in the original subframe position, front and rear.
The suspension travel is more progressive with these springs. Ring
Geoff on (+44) 01924 361002 for more details or see his website:
pictures to the right show a black J registration Cooper with the
Honda B16 VTEC engine fitted by Watsons. What's special about this
conversion is that the front end remains fixed and has been extended
in steel by 90mm. It uses a fibre glass bonnet and appears to achieve
the standard appearance of the round front Mini. I believe the car
is for sale when complete and will cost £6,750.