Is this about the cutest little car you have ever seen? It's almost toylike with wheels that look like they came off a golf cart. This is a 1966 Austin Mini Cooper S, the performance version of the Austin Mini built by the British Motor Corporation.
BMC started in 1952 with a merger of necessity between the Austin and Nuffield auto companies. A fuel shortage plus those Germans and their fuel efficient VW Beetles motivated BMC to hire Sir Alec Issigonis to design a competitive vehicle.
The requirements were that it had to use an existing BMC engine. It had to be able to carry four people in reasonable comfort plus some luggage. Passengers and luggage could actually weigh more than the 1,275-pound car
The Mini was a box on wheels. The finished product was introduced in 1959 as Austin Mini and a Morris Mini, the only difference being the badging. It was 10.25 feet long, sat on an 80-inch wheel base and was almost as tall (53 inches) as it was wide (55.5 inches). One way to get the interior space was to have 10-inch wheels so the fender wells were small.
The front side windows slide to open and the rear windows push out to open. There is no upholstery on the interior part of the doors and the dash is a long package tray with a cluster of gauges in the center. It was designed to be basic transportation.
More than 1.5 million were sold in England. The Beatles (all of them) owned one as did Peter Sellars, Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood, Paul Newman and, since 2006, Danville resident Jim Premore.
Premore's 1966 Austin Mini Cooper S is the performance Mini and there aren't very many. Fewer than 1,300 were imported to the United States.
In 1961, the Mini Cooper was introduced and later the Mini Cooper S.
"The primary differences between the Mini Cooper and the Mini Cooper S is the 1275 c.c. high performance engine (80 HP), front disc brakes, and twin fuel tanks for range and balance," Premore said.
"The car is sort of a garage find," he said. "I was living in Southern California. One of my buddies bought this car in 1968. He had access to the old Riverside International Raceway and learned the hard way of its performance limitations when he blew the engine in 1971. He parked it in his garage with the intention of someday
"The car was in horrific shape. The engine was in pieces outside the car. I hauled it to Danville and vacuumed out the mouse nests. Because of all the stuff stacked on the car in the 35 years of storage, there wasn't a straight piece of metal on the car. The car club members looked at the car and named it Lumpy," said Premore.
His plan was not to restore, but to rebuild this car to be a daily driver.
"I tore the car apart piece by piece which took almost 2 ½ years. I purchased almost every new mechanical part I could, but then I realized that if it took me this long to tear it apart I needed a better plan to reassemble."
The solution was Jon Becker, a friend who has a shop in Concord called Minipart specializing in British cars, mostly Minis. Becker did almost all the mechanical work. The flawless body work was done by Jimmy Auto Body in Concord.
"I had to replace some of the fenders because of the condition, and those were sourced from the UK," Premore said, "from the original heritage molds."
The original color of this Austin Mini Cooper S was green with a white top and Premore said that if he had had it painted that color scheme, the value of the car would probably be greater. But he didn't like the green and does like red, so it is painted a Mercedes red with a white top and looks great.
The project was finished in June 2011.
The net result is a completely rebuilt British Austin Mini Cooper S with authentic British parts now being driven as a daily driver. As near as I could tell, the only thing that isn't British is the aftermarket cup holder in the driver's door storage compartment. That's definitely an American idea, but probably made in China.
Contact David Krumboltz at firstname.lastname@example.org.