Shell is perfect. So I should hack it up.

Yeah, I’m gonna cut a lot of this extraneous sheet metal out of the shell.

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The parts that held the factory roll hoop frame, seat belts, etc. And the flimsy vertical wall that separated the passenger compartment from the top storage area. This will provide unobstructed access to the big frame rails that the roll hoop bolted to. That’s where my new roll cage braces will weld in, allowing for a shallower angle for the braces and making the new cage much stronger, and making the car even stiffer.

I’ll re-craft the interior side wall trim as needed to blend, eventually. I’ll use this opportunity to get rid of the seat belt bumps on the side walls, that do nothing since I no longer use the factory belts. That should also let me widen the main roll cage hoop, since I’m not worried about leaving space for the OEM side interior trim.

I’m really liking the creative freedom this new build is giving me. The ability to do it RIGHT…

I may be a little crazy

I’m starting a list, “signs you may be certifiably insane”…

* develops, but “recovers” from, strange obsession with Union Jacks
* attempts to rebuild own automatic transmission
* commits to convert automatic transmission MINI to manual, buys a totaled GP as a donor, on faith, sight unseen
* vows to build a car that never existed, but “should have” (MINI GP Roadster)
* buys a Clutchmasters clutch, knowing that they fail frequently
* puts a Chevy S-10 part on a MINI
* after flipping a convertible end over end and surviving, buys another convertible
* commits to complete body swap on a car, without a second thought
* owns three non-functional MINIs at the same time (if they were cats, would qualify for Crazy Cat Lady)
* vows to design and build a unique convertible top for a non-existent car
* buys RMW TVS kit (which isn’t yet running on ANY car) for a car that is in pieces
* spends hours sifting through Google image search results for “convertible top latch”
* contemplates using parts from old Impala, VW Thing, or VW Rabbit on MINI Cooper
* … more to come

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Lab work is back on the Stroker…

Oil analysis is back… and looks GOOD

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This is 180 miles on Rotella T, plus running the motor up to temp on the lift after the crash. The tiny bit of lead is well within normal range. All the wear metals look great for a brand new motor. And the strong compression and leak down numbers from my earlier tests show that the motor already has good ring seal. With the run time on the rack after the crash, if the bearings were damaged, we’d see more lead here.

Happy Dance TimeĀ 

Starting work on the shell…

Today’s task – assess what I just bought, and start stripping more stuff off it.

Because of the damage to the front left wheel (more later on this), I can’t just roll the car on and off the tow dolly… dragging is required. Every load/unload requires some engineering…
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What could POSSIBLY go wrong here? Other than pulling down the garage, or having the shell (with no brakes) roll into the BMW?

Well, nothing went wrong. Everything worked as planned.
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It’s amazing, how high the car sits, with the stock suspension, on 18″ GP wheels, with probably 1000 pounds removed. The side skirts are 10″ off the ground here!
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Here’s the main issue with the rolling shell… it doesn’t roll.
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The primary failure mode when you hit something with the front suspension, or when something hits you there, is the lower control arm (“A-arm” or “wishbone”) folds, allowing the wheel to move rearward, to the point it contacts the wheel well liner and the body underneath the liner. Then you basically have something you have to drag around, or put on dollies to move.

Here’s a view most folks have never seen… what a MINI cabrio looks like, with everything including the top removed.
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Click the image to open in full size.

There’s a lot of stuff here that I really don’t need… might be able to trim some sheet metal out. And there are two beefy frame rails that are normally hidden by trim in the boot… that may be great attachment points for roll cage bracing.

Got the car on the lift. Here’s Locutus Mk1, and Mk2, together.
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Time to assess what’s underneath.
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Last owner said he had been unable to unbolt the header from the exhaust. What he didn’t say (or realize, probably) was that he left a wrench on there. And, amazingly, it stayed on over 250 miles of bouncing on a tow dolly.

Took some doing, but I got the header and exhaust off. Wrung off one of the studs in the process. Dropped the heat shields to access the shifter and cables for removal.

Underside of the shell is really clean, a little rust on a few studs, but none on the shell itself. But the subframes… have some rust.
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Click the image to open in full size.

That’s OK, it’s not much for a 9 year old car from the snow belt. And I plan to use either my other clean subframes, or new ones. This car only has about 10% as much rust as the GP I bought…

Apparently this is a special MINI built for circle track racing. Right side wheelbase is 96″ like normal… but left wheelbase is only about 91″….
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That’s what happens when you fold up a front lower control arm. But will be just fine with some new suspension bits.

Here’s what’s revealed with you pull off the crushed left front wheel, and the wheel well liner. The only damage I’ve found on the whole shell…
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Tweaked the bottom of the A-panel a bit, and mushed the exposed end of the lower frame rail below the headlight washer tank, and a bracket for attaching the skirts.

I think I can straighten out the bracket and the A-panel. The rest won’t matter… the washer tank is coming out, and the wheel well liner will hide the tiny amount of frame damage, that has no structural impact. Strut towers, frame rails, subframe all look fine.

I thought I’d swap on the LCA from the GP… but that one is rusted solid to its knuckle ball joint. And it’s quite rusty overall. I’ll either find another used one locally (a local salvage yard has a couple, I’ll check them tomorrow), or will buy new ones. Need to get that swapped so the car will roll. That, plus a bit more work to strip the interior, and it will be ready to haul to the cage fab shop.

A stripped cabrio shell is VERY light. I can’t wait to get this thing completely built and weighed. It’s gonna be light-ish.

Curb weight of convertible was 165lbs more than hardtop… BUT
The cabrio body shell (bare) weighs 233kg… the hardtop bare shell weighs 244kg!!!
And the cabrio tailgate is lighter than the hardtop hatch, with glass.

With all the top, extra cabrio bracing, factory roll bar, etc. removed, my final build will be lighter than a similarly equipped, caged hardtop.
The cage is only about 60-70 pounds of steel… so even compared to an un-caged car… it’s gonna be pretty light.

Picking up the new shell…

Dead MINI #3… 2006 Dark Silver cabrio, full toggle panel of options, HK audio, DSC, manual transmission, manual climate control. The PERFECT shell for Locutus Mk2.

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Click the image to open in full size.

Have a bit more stuff to strip today or tomorrow, to ready for the cage fab.

Hauled my gear to SC, to help the previous owner pull the engine.
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While there, also moved his latest salvage MINI from his apartment, to his storage unit. Lovely 2005 Purple Haze cabrio, that was well-loved by someone, before it hit something. Salvage MINIs make me sad.
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The car pulled well on the UHaul dolly… but those things do NOT back up worth a crap, with the bed pivot built into them…

Pulled it home between 11PM and 5AM, with a nap in the middle. Heard most of Coast-to-Coast AM…
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Heavy tear down commences

Got a ton done today.

Spent most of the day under the car. Which isn’t so bad, with the car on a 4′ lift and me on a padded TailBone seat. I’m soooooo happy I have the lift, to do all this stuff. It would REALLY suck on jack stands and a creeper.

I never met a fan I didn’t like. But this radiator did.
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Anyway, removed the remaining side skirt, all the rear suspension / brakes stuff, under-body braces, exhaust, heat shields, EVAP system… lots of stuff.
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Not many surprises, but a few. One was… the front swaybar moved enough to pinch off a wire on a nearly-new O2 sensor. Drat. Might try to repair it.
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While I was under there, I did all the under-the-car engine removal stuff. Then, was like, “no big deal to go ahead and pull the engine”… so I did.
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Healthy heart harvested from the corpse, ready to transplant into a healthy body.

Sad…. this old friend of mine will never carry a motor or passenger again. Headed to the shredder very soon.
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Only about a day’s work left to finish stripping it. That will probably happen sometime next week, after the new body goes to the fabricator.

Parts continue to arrive. Excellent, clean used left Xenon…
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Also received the tapless adapter for my oil pressure sensor.

Tomorrow… trip to SC to pickup the new shell! Probably no updates until Sunday.

Starting to spend money for stuff

Replacement tow hook shafts ordered.
Also ordered a very good looking used left Xenon headlight.

It occurred to me today, I should have my cage welded in before the repaint. Since the cage work is as likely to mar the paint as anything. Plus then I could get the cage painted with the body, if I want.

Called my cage fab guy, told him his last half-cage saved my bacon, and lined him up to put a 6 point in the new build. When I get the rolling shell, I’ll strip it, then drag it to my fab guy’s shop. Should be minimal to no lead time, so that’s good. If I schedule it right, I can drag it straight from the cage guy, to the paint guy. Then home to get started on my part of the build.

Also, I put another big check in the mail to RMW today, for the TVS kit and other related stuff. 2015 is the Year of Full Retard.

Locutus Mk2 is gonna be EPIC.

Rennline to the rescue

In the crash, I broke BOTH my fine, expensive Rennline tow hooks. Sheared them off where they screw into the bumper.

I emailed Rennline, asking if they could sell me just the posts, since the rest of them are fine and I’m trying so save money on the rebuild wherever I can. I included a pic of a tow hook, as well as a pic of the wreck, with the car upside down, and description of what I did. Here’s their reply.

Hi Paul,

That is quite a wreck! You will need a pair of the E10 posts in the 96mm length. We still have your customer profile on file so if you want to give me a call tomorrow between 7AM and 5:30PM we can get that set up. They will be $x/ea so $y for the pair, they’re generally a bit more expensive but since you’re doing so much rebuilding and broke them in the most spectacular fashion I’ve seen yet I took a chunk off for you. Hopefully I will talk to you tomorrow!

Best regards,
Shawn Christianson
Sales, Support and Marketing
Rennline Inc.

“broke them in the most spectacular fashion I’ve seen yet”

I win!!!

Great customer service.

Disassembly begins… and parts start to arrive

Got started on some disassembly today…

Came across my GP mirror caps. When you manage to get asphalt scrapes on BOTH your side mirrors… you’re doing it wrong.
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Started pulling out the left interior bits, in hopes that I could get the door open once I got that out of the way…

Corbeau LG1 driver’s seat is in good shape, mechanism works just like it did before the crash…
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But note that the side bolster on the left side (right in the photo) is bent outward. Must have happened when I landed the car on the right rear corner, and all my mass hit that HARD. I wasn’t sore or bruised there, but I must have done that. There’s a steel frame inside there, I can’t bend it back by hand. I’ll probably disassemble the seat and inspect the frame, if it looks sound I may try to massage it back into shape.

Lots of Cool Blue paint flecks everywhere…
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It’s really starting to sink in, just how much punishment this car took for me.

The amount the left rear corner deformed. The open-wheel MINI look…
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The amount of deformation of the windshield frame…
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Click the image to open in full size.

In spite of that… the GoPro mounts stayed in place. Those things are STICKY…
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Click the image to open in full size.

When a window shatters, it makes a LOT of pieces inside the door…
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I thought the roll bar was just scraped from when the car settled into place… but it took a harder hit than I thought. There’s a definite flat spot on this corner, right beside my head, probably happened the same time I got road rash on my scalp at the same spot…
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Even with all the interior panels out of the way, prying and using the BFH, I can’t get the door to budge. I may just leave it, or I’ll have to cut it open. There’s some serious sheet metal origami going on here…
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Started pulling some stuff off the front, and got a better view of the left front frame arm. Some good folding action here, too. This airbag sensor did its job.
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Worked for a couple of hours to get the front wheels and suspension wreckage off. This was the part I was dreading the most, because it was a mess and the wheels were really jammed in there. Took a lot of doing, but finally got one free.
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Repeated the process on the other side, then had some fun on LXM…
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This tie rod met physics… and physics won.
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The sense of urgency for this, is I need to send my RMW axles back for a rebuild. They’re rated for 500HP… but not for vertical or inverted flight, or for deep ditch trailblazing. Still, with some cleaning, reassembly and maybe new tripod bearings, they’ll be good as new.
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And… new parts are arriving already.
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More diagnosis of the corpse

After a couple of days off to ride coasters at Cedar Point (yes, with a concussion!) and visit Wellzy… I’m back home and back to work.

Today’s task: More engine diagnosis. Pull remnants of bumper and put car in service mode so I can further inspect engine and sensors. Do compression and leak down tests (using new tools that arrived yesterday). If OK, let it run a bit to burn oil out of cylinders, see how it runs, and let the bearings work a bit. Pull oil sample to test for bearing damage.

First, took an opportunity to look at my left GP skirt which got removed WITH MALICE by the ditch. Sadly, it sheared off EVERY SINGLE MOUNT in the painted part of the skirt, and also ground it up pretty well. Also cracked up the GP sill plate.
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I’m gonna see if I can get replacements; I DO own a GP, after all. If not, I’ll fabricate replacement mounts and epoxy them in, and fix the other problems.

Then time to get started on the motor…
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Took about an hour to get the remains of the front bumper off. The left crush tube was CRUSHED, and bent with the bumper frame in such a way that the only hope (without cutting) was to get the tube and frame off together. That worked.

First, I had to fight for awhile to get the M7 air diverter plate off. The bolt holding it was also quite twisted. Sadly, the nice CF plate is history.
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I’m not sure if I can use one anyway with the RMW dual pass radiator I’ll be installing. If I decide to use the plate, I’ll get a new fiberglass one and paint it to match the GP bumper.

Took a minute to appreciate the carnage that is my left front suspension, wheel and tire…
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And the left front frame arm…
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My custom red stainless intercooler diverter plate was mangled, and the corner of the ultra-expensive GP intercooler cover was busted, but it’s fixable and usable, I think. Soon I plan to have the RMW FMIC anyway.

Once I got the covers off, I saw this. What’s wrong with this picture?
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Uh, the intercooler really shouldn’t sit at an angle like that…

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Right intercooler mount bent, and intercooler pushed back a bit, but otherwise OK. But the horn between the IC and the intake manifold is broken.

Oh well, I have a spare. And that will go away with the RMW front mount and custom manifold, anyway.

Also, my TMAP sensor was squished. That’s probably one reason it was “chugging” when I ran it for a few seconds last week. I have an old spare TMAP in a box… put it on.

Pulled off my strut bar. It seems fine.

But the strut towers… not so much.
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And looks like this Vorschlag plate may have some issues also. Won’t know for sure until I get it out.
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Ready to pull the coil, wires and plugs for testing.
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Plugs were super fouled with oil (shocker… the car was upside down for an hour or two).
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Once the plugs were out, I pulled the fuel pump fuse and did compression testing. Results:
1: 190 psi
2: 190 psi
3: 190 psi
4: 200 psi

That looks good.

Then did leak down tests, at 80psi. All cylinders held at 75-78psi, cold (you’re really supposed to warm up the engine first). That’s only 5-6% leak down, which is quite good for a cold engine. The oily cylinders & rings probably helped that a bit.

Since compression and leak down seemed OK, decided to top up the cooling system with water, replace the crushed TMAP sensor, and try to run it…

It’s amazing how well the motor runs, considering how broken the rest of the car is, and what it’s been through.

I pulled an oil sample for analysis. If it shows high lead, that’s an indicator that I may have bearing damage. If it doesn’t… I’m probably good to go with the motor as-is.

A friend sent me this oil analysis kit, he had extras. He gets them from the local Caterpillar equipment dealer… only $15 per test. I’ve used Blackstone and BobIsTheOilGuy previously… but will be using this service from now on, the price is RIGHT. Comes with a great little pump for filling the sample bottle from the dipstick tube.
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And the oil lab they use is right here in town… so I expect to have results this week. Then can make a go/no-go decision on whether I’ll run the engine as-is, or send back to RMW for rework.