• Brand new exhaust system and various other new bits
• As seen in Mini Magazine
The term ‘icon’ gets thrown around a lot, but it sums up the original diminutive city car perfectly: Alec Issigonis's eye for clever packaging and offbeat engineering solutions saw an unprecedented level of interior space being freed up by the canny idea of rotating the Mini’s engine to be fitted transversely, and mounting the gearbox down in the sump. Back in 1959, this smart packaging really was a game-changer.
The keenly-priced Mini inevitably sold like the proverbial hot cakes, particularly when a certain John Cooper suggested to BMC Chairman George Harriman that perhaps the quirky new platform could be engineered for sporting hijinks rather than mere utility…
Fast-forward to 1967, and the Mk2 Mini hit the showrooms having made a splash at the British Motor Show. This revamped effort was a case of gentle evolution rather than revolution, featuring a larger rear window, redesigned front grille, and a raft of detail changes including rectangular taillights. Most significant among the upgrades was the option of a larger 998cc engine, allowing the newly-minted Mini 1000 model to be a more appropriate companion among Britain’s growing motorway network.
The model continued to evolve and, by the early-1980s, the Mk5 was on the scene, the 998cc joined by such improvements as larger pedals, column stalks and myriad chassis developments. The car we have here is a 1985 Mini 1000, starting life as a base-spec City E. But as you can see, it’s been comprehensively upgraded over the years…
The transformation of this ’85 has created something impressive to behold. While the City E was close to the entry-level end of the Mini range, there’s nothing entry-level about this one.
The car’s been treated to the wider Sportspack arches from a later Mini, filled out by chunky 13” alloy wheels, and the body repainted in Vermillion Red (which is actually a rather delightful orange). The 998cc engine wears a Stage 1 kit, and the interior sports bucket seats and a custom dash.
The Mini is currently owned by the editor of Mini Magazine, and a number of jobs have been carried out on the car in recent months (including a new exhaust system, headlight bowls, and adjustable tie rods) to be documented as how-to guides in the magazine. However, with another Mini project incoming, this car now has to find a new owner in order to make room.
There’s a decent file of paperwork with this car. The correct V5 is present, showing the Mini to have first been registered on January 9th 1985. A thick sheaf of receipts and invoices is here, the most recent being from December when £270 was spent on fitting the new tie rods and carrying out an oil and filter change – there’s also an accompanying receipt from Mini Sport for the tie rods, fitting kit and polybushes at £75.
In late November, over £300 was spent on fitting the new exhaust system and the headlight bowls, the parts coming to another £165. Other very recent receipts are present for a new dipstick and breather hose, as well as a Crypton tune and setup by cartune-co.uk at £200.
We also find a number of other receipts stretching back over the last few years, many of them from Mini Sport. The MOT runs till May, with the car having passed with no advisories.
There are some tasteful custom touches in this interior, the most prominent being the diamond-stitched quilted dash. There’s a wood-rim steering wheel in excellent condition, and alloy upgrades to the door handles and winders, gear knob and handbrake handle. The car’s fitted with a KAD quick-shift, and there’s a battery cut-off switch secreted beneath the driver’s seat.
The front seats are period-style buckets with red piping, tilting to allow access to the rear which has been fitted with a 1990s-era bench. The door cards have been renewed, and have matching red piping. A sunroof is fitted (untested, but watertight), and the original headlining is in place.
The carpets are dry and there’s no evidence of water ingress. The heater works, as do the speedo, fuel gauge and temperature gauge.
A rev counter and oil pressure gauge are also fitted, but not currently wired in. The sidelights and taillights are wired to come on automatically with the ignition, with dip beam operated by the dash switch and main beam on the column stalk – the spotlights are functional and come on with the main beam.
Inside the boot we find a spare steel wheel, a recent Lion battery, and a carpet-trimmed board to make the load space more usable. There’s also an outdoor car cover rolled up in there.
As you can see from the photos, this is a striking and attractive Mini, resplendent in its orange paint with contrasting white roof, bonnet stripes and door roundels. The Sportspack arches and wide 13” Superlite wheels provide a real sense of purpose and an aggressive stance.
The body is largely free of cosmetic corrosion, with the only blemishes we can spot being a very small bubble on the roof and another nearby in the rain gutter, along with small areas in the corner where the bonnet meets the body on the passenger side, on top of the sill inside the passenger side door shut, and a ding on the underside of the bonnet on the driver’s side where it’s presumably been dropped onto something.
Beyond this, the exterior presents extremely well; all of the trim and brightwork is in place, with new headlight bowls and bezels, large Lucas spotlamps at the front and a Wipac spotlight on the bootlid. The bonnet is secured with a leather strap, and this car has also been converted to the later (and more secure) mechanism of opening the bonnet via an internal pull handle.
The window glass may well be original (it’s etched with the registration number in period style), and is all free from chips or cracks; there’s a little orange overspray here and there on the door glass, but this should be easy to clean off. The bumpers are in good condition, there’s a new filler cap, and the door handles have stainless base plates.
The wiper arms and window washers have been renewed. The wheels are 13” Superlite Formula Competition items, with a little kerbing to the rears; they’re all fitted with very recent matching Nankang tyres. A custom mesh front grille fills the stock surround, and a later winged Mini badge adorns the nose.
The photos of the underside demonstrate that this looks to be a fundamentally solid car. There’s the odd sign of surface corrosion, and there’s evidence of older patch repairs to the underside, which isn’t the most beautiful welding but certainly does the job – the fact that it passed its MOT with no advisories provides peace of mind that there’s no imminent threat of severe corrosion here.
The battery box and subframes look to be fine, and the local garage who recently carried out various works on the car were enthusiastic about its overall solidity.
The Mini’s 998cc engine has been treated to a Stage 1 kit, which comprises an uprated intake manifold and exhaust manifold; the former is a Mini Sport item, and the latter is an LCB (long centre branch) which has been heat-wrapped.
A few weeks ago this was also augmented with a brand new Maniflow centre-exit exhaust system – a quality item chosen to improve performance as well as torque, being a twin-box system. The SU carb is fitted with a K&N filter. The cooling system has been flushed through to ensure its efficiency, and the car has been upgraded to run electronic ignition.
The engine fires easily on the first turn of the key (which, incidentally, is a brand new key, as the ignition barrel has been replaced), and settles into an even idle on or off the choke.
It seems to be a fundamentally decent and willing engine, and has recently been Crypton tuned and set up by cartune.co.uk – it could probably now do with a full setup by a specialist to get it running at its best (or maybe even just a decent long drive, as the current owner has only been using it for short local journeys in recent months); the choke occasionally sticks open, but when this happens it’s easy enough to knock back in by hand.
The gearbox appears to be a sweet little unit, and works with a KAD short-shift which has an excellent short throw – it can be a little notchy going into 4th until it warms up, but on the whole it’s a very pleasing shift and the clutch seems to be good too.
The brakes are very strong, the front discs having been recently treated to new pads, and the car rides on Spax suspension. A brand new set of adjustable front tie rods were fitted just before Christmas, with new fittings and poly bushes.
At the same time, the engine was treated to an oil and filter change, using a Mahle filter and the correct 20w50 from Millers Oils. The engine also has new spark plugs and leads, new fuel filter, new dipstick, and a new breather hose.
The lifespan of the Mini stretched across so many years that there’s a near-infinite scope for variation, modification, customisation and cherry-picking of spec.
This 1985 City E represents an intelligent sort of tapas approach, choosing elements from various different eras to create a pleasing whole: 1990s-era arches, 1970s-style bucket seats, chunky alloy wheels evocative of late-model Rovers, and assorted custom touches to accompany the classic chrome details.
It’s a car which has had a lot of thought put into the decision-making, and should make for a very pleasant and usable proposition for its next owner. Best of all, it looks terrific!
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