A NEW APPROACH IN AN AGE OLD BUSINESS+44 (0) 1926 691 141
Anyone who has commenced, what they hope will be, a bit of a refurb or a quick tidy-up with some fresh paint of their classic car will recognise the point at which a partial restoration inevitably becomes a full one and this was certainly the case with 5392 LJ on offer here.
The car’s Heritage Certificate tells us that it’s an Austin Cooper built on 16/10/1961 (within months of the start of production) and finished in Tartan Red with a black roof before being delivered to Imperial Motors in Bournemouth and subsequently registered on 03/11/1961. Our vendor purchased the Mini in 1969 and has owned it ever since. It was his daily driver and the following year was used to transport the happy couple on their honeymoon but, inevitably, as more modern cars arrived, the little Cooper was used less and less eventually spending long periods in storage. Around 2009, the decision was made to tidy-up the car and return it to the road in time for the couples 40th Wedding Anniversary, however, as Robbie Burns once said “The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft a-gley.” and it was to be a further seven years before 5392 LJ was returned to her sparkling best.
Once the car had been fully stripped it became obvious that the shell was beyond economic repair and luckily a rust-free 1961 CKD (completely knocked down) bodyshell was located in Australia and shipped to Birmingham to enable the restoration to commence. The rebuild was entrusted to ‘Old Skool Minis’ in Bloxwich and the quality of their work is evident from the photographs of the restoration in the car’s history file. The shell was closely inspected when it arrived and the outer sills were removed to properly inspect the inner ones before new outer sills were fitted together with rear quarter panels, two front wings and door skins. It was then fully prepared and painted to a very high standard in its original colours of Tartan Red (RD9) and gloss black. The original (final-quarter 1961-dated) glass was reinstated with the exception of the windscreen which is now a bespoke Triplex/Pilkington heated item. A new wiring harness was fitted and the electrics are supplied by an alternator cleverly located within a Lucas dynamo case allowing the standard look to be retained but with a better output.
Internally the front and rear seats are the original BMC Tartan Red/Gey and Gold Brocade with other items of trim, door cards etc. purchased from Newton Commercial. The new carpets are naturally Tartan Red and the original “Fug Stir” heater was restored and replaced and works in conjunction with the new heated screen. The original speedometer, which on the very early cars had no ‘Tenths’ on the odometer, was restored and set to zero and now indicates a shade less than 800 miles.
Mechanically the decision was taken to forego pedantic originality and build a car that was altogether more safe and usable with upgrades that are acceptable and often advisable. The original 997 engine was retained and fully rebuilt by Southam Mini (SMMC). The block was overbored by ten thou and fitted with new (OE) BMC pistons, the original crank (with modified oilways) was fine and the flywheel was adapted to accept a diaphragm clutch before final balancing. The head was overhauled and fitted with hardened valve seats for unleaded fuel. The rebuilt engine was placed on a fully-synchromesh Cooper ‘S’ gearbox with Hardy Spicer joints and a 3.7 diff and finally fitted with standard twin 1.25” SU carbs with Cooper filters, an LCB exhaust manifold and an RC40 exhaust system.
The brakes are Cooper ‘S’ 7.5 inch (no servo) with stainless flexible brake lines run underfloor in the original body clamps and the car sits on 4.5” Cooper ‘S’ (LP883) steel wheels. Other fitments include a Smiths capillary temperature gauge, H4 headlights, 12v power socket, tow eyes front and rear and a battery isolator. When finally finished, the car was carefully set up on the 'rolling road' at SMMC and now drives, handles and stops as well as you would expect.
This thorough restoration was completed in 2017 and inspected by the Mini-Cooper Register to facilitate the update to the DVLA. Since completion, it has been maintained by our knowledgeable vendor using his own four-post lift.
The history file includes an original receipt for purchase back in 1969 for £175 signed over a 2d Stamp, various continuation logbooks, the Heritage Certificate, the current V5c and, pleasingly, the chassis plate from the Australian-supplied bodyshell to tie everything together.
This is a lovely restoration of a very early Mini-Cooper and, as one of the first examples of the car that changed sporting saloons for ever, would be welcome anywhere including Goodwood where it proudly formed part of the Mini Parade at this year's Revival.