Original Mini Cooper: The Enthusiast’s Lego Chassis?


The original Mini Cooper is a great platform to build, whatever you want to build.

The original Mini Cooper is not exactly the most appealing chassis for the American public.  Its’ diminutive size and boxy styling, doesn’t really lure in automotive enthusiasts looking for sheer speed and style.  Its’ practicality and low costs helped put the automotive world into the hands of UK drivers.  Now that production has stopped for this particular model, people are adapting the car to their personal interests. It’s the most flexible chassis to build, whatever you want.

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Have you ever played Forza?  Have you gone so deeply into the game, that you have excess money, and decided to do an engine swap and a drivetrain swap?  Have you ever built a Mini Cooper with a VTec engine and put all-wheel-drive in it?  While that is an awfully difficult switch for most vehicles, there are actual kits available that make the job easy.


has the most extensive website in the U.S. when it comes to Mini Cooper modifications.

But, why the Mini Cooper?  The original Mini actually has a racing heritage around rally racing.  It has won several stages against vehicles that were bigger, with more horsepower.  It was easier to flick around on low traction surfaces, and its’ low weight helped maintain high speed in the corners.  It has a racing platform that can be easily built upon.

MiniMania has brought the flexibility of the chassis to the American public.  Conversion kits that basically include an entire front end can be found on MiniMania, and adapt a multitude of Honda engines to the chassis.  Multiple B16 and B18 engines can be adapted.  There are also conversion kits for D-series and K-series Honda engines.

While engine swaps are fairly common in the automotive world, powertrain swaps aren’t.  There are also all-wheel-drive conversion kits for the Mini Cooper.

Hypothetically, you can build a car that gets more than 200 horsepower per ton, with all-wheel-drive, and a short wheelbase.  Depending on the manual transmission being used, it should be able to average over 30 miles per gallon as well.

Isn’t that what we want out of a daily driver?  Something to get to point-B in a variety of weather conditions as fast as possible?  Doesn’t that sound like a sleeper rally car?

It does to me.

For others, it may not be enough.  Some may want to hit the drag strip.  Some people have placed Hayabusa engines with a mid-engined placement into the Mini.  Others, put a supercharged K20 in the back.

The driver couldn’t even get a proper launch, and still put up an 11.5 second quarter mile with a trap speed knocking on 120 miles per hour.

Personally, I’d try to build a rally car myself.  I love the idea of having a small car that produces big numbers, is cheap to run, and has just enough practicality to carry four people uncomfortably.  I’d also have it look like this:

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No, it’s not the most appealing car in the world, but for some strange reason, it fits well in the modern world.  Parking comes easy.  It has just enough room for a weekend trip for two people, or a quick grocery run while carrying four people.  The rally lights and tires add to its’ identity, and with power coming from a Honda-series engine and all-wheel-drive, low grip conditions are easy to handle.  It should be plenty of fun.