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Booboo, The Mini Designer

Booboo was our daily run-around. We bought it in June 1998 so that we could take Monte off the road and clean him up. He served us well for over 50,000 miles and went without maintenance of most kinds. I changed the oil/plugs/points/leads every now and then but on the whole it was quite abused. I changed the cam chain just for the sake of it, tried to fix a few oil leaks, changed the head gasket (when I was supposed to be a fitting a 12G940 head that went wrong) and the rear brake cylinders. On the whole it was extremely cheap to run and keep running. I fitted a stage one kit and the LCB snapped after about a year so fitted another, ditched the RC40 and went for a Maniflow system. It was rust that killed it off and I retired it in January 2002. These pictures show the extent of the problem.

These are the easy to photo areas, the rear sub frame was very rusty but not in need of a change. A good wire brush up and paint would save it for a year or two. The radius arm bearings were extremely bad, it has about 15mm play at the wheels which made driving it interesting. Although the engine runs well the oil light took longer to go out on start up so that probably points to bearing problems for the near future. In all, it's been an excellent car and if I maintained the problems as I went along I probably wouldn't need to scrap it now. I borrowed loads of bits from Booboo and put them on Rhubarb so it still in some use.

Rhubarb, the Mini City

This is sort of a log for mini one particular mini. Rhubarb was fit for the scrap heap when we bought it but it was still in better condition that out daily run around, Booboo. I had a few rust holes welded up and a new A panel and inner sill on the drivers side. That much took me a year to do. There was no urgency as I bought an Alfa Romeo to replace Booboo but that was extremely unreliable and expensive to run so it had to go. I started work again on Rhubarb in the spring of 2002, while I was waiting for the Alfa's clutch to be replaced. It's a Mini City E and is the most basic model made. It has absolutely no extras, not even a temperature gauge or second wing mirror. The interior was very worn, the seats were grey and the carpets and door cards brown. I don't remember the 80's being so drab!

May 2002
Pre-MOT. There were several fundamental things wrong with the car, the head gasket had blown so that was replaced. The water pump was leaking water and very noisy so that was replaced too. Head gasket was £10 and the water pump £15. That got the engine running but I did an oil/ filter change and a basic service. Next came the looks, I painted the whole car with Hammerite and undersealed it. I bought some stainless steel bumpers from Brighton (at L2B) and a set of Falken's - 165/60/12's. Mike sold me his wheels from Nugget and I cleaned and painted them. The interior from Booboo was stripped out and cleaned. Everything was looking fine.

All this work paid off as it passed the MOT first time. Although it's a City E which was originally a 998 engine this one has a 1275 fitted. I believe it's an MG Metro engine but whoever fitted it left it running on the 998 exhaust and HS4 carb. That makes it very slow and only marginally more torquey than a 998.

June 2002
On the first drive around it seemed well. I took it for a slightly longer drive to take some photos and I noticed it was leaking oil from the clutch housing. Later on the same journey it became a bit of a problem as the clutch started slipping. Once home I investigated and figured it must the primary gear oil seal so I ordered the parts, it came to about £50 with a few special tools you need to do the job.

Another small adventure today! On the way to work there was suddenly a loud banging noise. I dropped the clutch and coasted along but the sound stayed, obviously not the engine. I pulled into work which was about 400 yards further along to find the front wheel was loose. One nut was very loose and the other three were finger tight. I took the wheel off and other than some mild enlarging of the holes it looks fine. I put that one on the back and tightened all the nuts up. I must have forgotten to tighten them properly!!!

Started fitting the bits I bought, fitting the solid sub frame mounts took three and a half hours which was much longer than expected. It drives much better and steering is now very sharp. It still has some annoying squeaks from the engine bay so I tried to fit an ultimate engine steady bar. This fits onto the thermostat housing then back to the bulk head. For some reason it didn't mount onto the cylinder head properly. It seems the hole are in the wrong place by about 5mm. I'll ring them to find out what's going on.

The engine has developed another problem. It's putting out a lot of blue smoke after it's been stationary in traffic. I'm told this is probably worn valve guides so I might have to put a different cylinder head on while I get them replaced. However, the only other heads I have is a 12G940 I'm grinding out to lower engine compression and a standard CAM4810 from a 998! I'll have to use the CAM4810, that'll be interesting!

October 2002
It's been a while and the clutch oil seal leak still isn't mending itself so I thought I'd have a go at it before the weather gets cold. It was all going well, got the clutch cover off and removed them two bottom bolts easily enough but I couldn't pull the clutch off. I managed to break two clutch pullers, the first snapped the centre bolt and the second stripped the thread off the spider! Something was obviously wrong so I called a mechanic out to pull it off for me. He cleverly spotted that I hadn't taken the key washer out (damn it). Anyway, using the special tool for the oil seal made it a very simple task and it was all replaced in about 2 hours. In all I spent about 10 hours on the job but most of that was swearing at the clutch puller!

First road test was really bad, it was very reluctant to tick over and rev so I sprayed all the plugs with WD40 and that sorted it out. The clutch still slips but it's much reduced. I'm not sure if it's the seal still leaking or old oil still on the clutch plate. I guess I'll have to put some miles on it and find out. I changed the clutch slave cylinder too as that's been leaking for the last month or so, I took the one off Booboo as it was fairly new. Oh yeah, and I broke the exhaust. Lifting the engine up to gain access to the bottom clutch cover bolts must have put too much pressure on it. It's leaking smokey fumes into the cabin too, which is a nice touch. I'll have to replace that pretty soon.

There seems to be a new problem. I noticed the steering wheel wasn't centred so I took it off and moved it around a few notches to centre it up. When I took the car for the drive to test the clutch I noticed the steering seems to centre in different places. I think something must be on the move but the sub frame is solidly mounted so I'm not sure what it can be. I'll have to ask a friend.

The exhaust is now replaced with a nice Maniflow system with an LCB. I've also put a MiniSpares inlet manifold on and put a K&N in the air box. It's running pretty well but the clutch still slips, sometimes really badly. I'm now thinking it's something a bit more serious like main bearings being worn. I might replace the clutch oil seal again and put a new clutch on just to be sure. If that fails I may put a 998 engine in while I decide what to do with the MG lump.

November 2002
More problems this month. The exhaust managed to separate it self from the two-into-one section and hang down under the car. It was really loud but I managed to hit it back into place with an umbrella and later tightened the bolts holding it in places. The steering rack worked loose, causing the play in the steering wheel, and that got tightened up too. That was causing real problems when driving as the play caused slight changes in direction. Nothing dangerous but it was very unnerving.

I sold Rhubarb in April 2003. Since buying a Smart Rhubarb has been sitting on the drive doing nothing and as I had an enquiry about it I decided to sell it. During the few months it'd sat on the drive it leaked all it's brake fluid out of the rear cylinders and grew loads of mould on the seat belts and steering wheel. Managed to fill up the drivers foot well with water too, probably leaked in through the bulk head.

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