June 2018

[1-Jun_18_Classic_Thermo.jpg] The thermostat housing on the classic Mini.
Photo by Iain Barker

Regular Engine Maintenance: Mini vs. MINI
by Iain Barker

I normally write articles about the trials and tribulations of restoring and maintaining my classic 1967 Morris Mini Cooper S 1275. But I am also the owner of a 2009 MINI John Cooper Works R56 as my daily driver. What follows is a bit of a “compare and contrast” for some common maintenance tasks on both models.

Other than the vastly increased complexity required for modern computerized engine management, the most obvious difference between servicing these two cars is the recommended service intervals. As always, the mantra to follow is air, oil and water.

Air

Replacing the engine air filter on both eras of car is trivial. Unscrew the top of the air box (one or two wing nuts on the classic, three Torx screws on the modern) and replace the paper element (or re-oil if using K&N). Change the filter about once a year for normal highway use in New England, or every 3 or 6 months if you live in the desert or go rallying on the back roads. Elapsed time, 5 minutes.

Oil

The classic Mini uses the same oil for its engine and gearbox, and the Morris 1967 handbook recommends a conventional oil change every 3,000 miles/3 months, or 6,000/6 if using multi-grade. In practice I suspect most of the 5.3 million classic Minis built only got an annual service, at best.

BMW recommends 12,000 miles/12 months as the oil service interval, but the onboard computer on my Gen2 MINI seems to recommend service every 15,000. That is far too long, in my opinion generally I change the oil every 6,000/6 months, which is reasonable for a turbo engine.

So in reality, despite over 40 years of progress, nothing has really changed. You service the oil regularly to avoid engine problems. Of course, actually performing that service is a little different.

On the classic Mini, unscrew the gearbox drain plug and remove one bolt to drop the Purolator oil filter (or spin it off using a pipe wrench if your Mini is Mk3 or later). Replace the filter/element, wipe off the accumulated metal shavings from the magnetic drain plug (and worry briefly about where they might have come from), then refit the plug and refill with oil. It’s an easy 10-minute job.

On the MINI, draining the engine oil is just as straightforward, although the gearbox oil is “lifetime transmission fluid” per the BMW sticker (whose lifetime, mine or the car’s?) I suggest replacing it every few years. For a bi-annual service, only the engine oil and filter need to be changed. The oil filter on the MINI is a little harder to access than on the Mini, since it is tucked away underneath the turbo. Unbolt the cooling radiator expansion tank and move it to one side to gain access to the oil filter. In all, about 15 to 20 minutes for drain and refill.

Water

The other regular maintenance task on any car is to flush and replace the coolant and replace the thermostat. Generally I do that once per year when bringing the classic Mini out of winter hibernation, although every couple of years is probably sufficient on the MINI, as alloy generally corrodes less than cast iron.

On both eras of car, draining and flushing the coolant is the same. Place a large kiddie paddling pool under the front of the car and drain the old coolant. On the MINI it is easiest to disconnect the joint in the bottom radiator hose. On the Mini, unscrew the radiator copper drain plug if your car is lucky enough to have one, or remove the left road wheel to gain access, and then disconnect the lower radiator hose via the cutout in the inner wing. There is probably an official pressurization tool for the job, but I just flush the system with a garden hose to wash out the corroded detritus (make sure the heater tap is open on the Mini), then refit the hose/plug and refill with new coolant via the radiator cap.

On the MINI you also need to bleed air out of the screw on top of the thermostat housing. On the Mini you can do the same by loosening the heater tap hose. Both cars take about the same time, 15 minutes or so.

June 2018

[2-Jun_18_Jarvik_Thermo.jpg] ‘Jarvik’-style thermostat housing on the R56 MINI.
Photo by Iain Barker

What is definitely a very different task is replacing the thermostat. On a classic Mini the thermostat is located at the top front corner of the cylinder head and is retained by three studs (most A/A+ engines) or bolts (late A+ engines without a bypass hose). It has one inlet (from the head) and one clamped outlet hose (to the radiator). Ideally, the hoses should be replaced at the same time as the thermostat. Generally, the hardest part of the job is getting the alloy thermostat housing off the steel studs, due to the dissimilar metals corroding electrolytically over time. Total time to replace is around 10 to 15 minutes.

For the MINI, the thermostat isn’t listed as a service item in the handbook, but they all seem to start leaking after a few years. I found I had to change mine when doing the most recent service.

An R56 MINI thermostat has no less than seven hoses connected to it. Others have compared it to the Jarvik artificial heart. It certainly looks that complicated (see photo). To make matters worse, it is buried in the engine bay on the side of the block, and several layers need to be removed before it can be unbolted.

First, drain the coolant and remove the expansion tank for access. Next, remove the cold intake tubing and the air box, the turbo air pipes, and the noisemaker from the bulkhead. Finally, disconnect about a dozen engine management electrical connections and lift the ECU loom away from the engine.

Now the seven hoses can be unclamped and the thermostat unbolted. As with the classic Mini it is retained by three bolts, but this time the thermostat housing is made of plastic so there are no bi-metal corrosion issues to be concerned about. Of course, using plastic in such a hot environment could be why it degraded and leaked in the first place. Just sayin’.

At this point you will feel some measure of confidence that the whole endeavor will be successful. Unfortunately, that feeling is likely premature. Inspecting the removed part, you will most likely find evidence of leaks around the O-ring seal of the water pump to thermostat transfer pipe, again made of plastic and prone to degradation.

Unless you have arms like Stretch Armstrong, you will need to remove the inlet manifold and throttle valve assembly for access to the water pump coolant transfer pipe. The passenger side road wheel will need to be removed for access to the lower manifold bolt via the cutout in the inner wing. I guess some things never change.

With the transfer pipe and thermostat replaced, refitting is, for once, the exact reverse of removal. Elapsed time is around 2 hours for disassembly. After refilling and bleeding air from the new housing, allow another 1 to 2 hours for reassembly, depending whether you changed the transfer pipe.

In this case, 40-plus years doesn’t seem so much like progress. But despite what many people say, home servicing is still possible on modern cars — it just takes longer than it used to.

June 2018

[3-Jun_18_Kids.jpg] Enjoying MetroFest 2016. This year’s event is on Saturday, June 16.
Photo by David Schwartz

Arts! Music!
Food trucks!
by Ken Lemoine

Join us for the MetroFest Arts, Music & Food Truck Festival on Saturday, June 16th, at Bowditch Field in Framingham, Mass. That’s right, it’s a food truck festival with 20 trucks from across New England, plus 130 vendor booths, a climbing wall, a beer, wine and hard cider tasting tent, an electric bike test track, and “Kids Town” with fire trucks, DPW vehicles, a pair of ambulances and a SWAT truck to climb through. And, of course, there will be classic cars from NEMO members and friends.

Admission is free, and it runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Bowditch Field is at 475 Union Ave., Framingham, and the link to the event is www.metrowestvisitors.org/explore/MetroFest.cfm.

Contact me at alvis1934@aol.com or (508) 259-6314 about including your classic car at MetroFest. There is space for 20-plus cars this year and participation, as mentioned, is free. Plan to arrive at Bowditch Field around 10 a.m. We will enter the field through the iron gates right at 475 Union Ave. There will be a guide to get you settled in. The event runs until 4 p.m. but if you need to leave earlier they understand and exit access is very simple.

June 2018

[4-Jun_18_MINI_73.jpg] MINI JCW #73 charging hard at Mid-Ohio.
Photo by Jake Galstad, LAT Images, courtesy IMSA


MINI 1, 2 at Mid-Ohio
by Dave Newman

The MINI JCW Team finished 1st and 2nd in their class on what was otherwise a lackluster day for British cars in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race at Mid-Ohio, “the Mid-Ohio 120.”

The two-hour endurance race included cars from the GS (Grand Sport) and new TCR classes along with the ST (Street Tuner) class, where the MINIs were competing against a Porsche and a BMW.

The Mid-Ohio track is 2.4 miles long with 16 turns and many elevation changes and blind corners, perfect for a MINI. It was the first time the team had raced at Mid-Ohio, as the last time IMSA was here was in 2013.

The recently married Nate Norenburg qualified 1st in class in the #37 MINI JCW. At the start of the race, he initially fell back but fought his way to the front before the driver change, with Derek Jones taking over.

The MINI JCW Team has technicians from different local MINI dealers helping out at races as part of MINI USA’s Service Tech Education Program (commonly referred to as STEP). This race had four techs from Cincinnati MINI and one from way down south, Tom Bush MINI in Jacksonville, Fla.

The STEP techs noticed that the #37 MINI JCW had a torn CV boot. They could not fix this and still be competitive, so while Derek was sent back out onto the track, they probably were not surprised when the CV joint (axle assembly) broke with about 30 minutes left in the race. Derek was forced to retire.

This left the race up to the #52 MINI JCW, first driven by Colin Mullan. At mid-point Colin handed the car off to Mark Pombo, who would run a close, bumper-to-bumper race in 1st or 2nd for the last hour with the team’s third car, the #73 MINI JCW.

Number 73 started with driver Mike LaMarra, who swapped positions back and forth with the #52 car, eventually passing his MINI to Mat Pombo (keep your Pombos straight here!). Mat led the race with his brother Mark in the #52 on his tail for some fantastic racing in the last half hour.

The television announcers clearly love the MINI team and the competition between 1st and 2nd was tight. Mat in #73 MINI crossed the finish line inches in front of Mark, bringing home the victory.

Luis Perocarpi, who campaigns the three MINI JCW cars for MINI USA, runs a tight and focused team. Except for the CV joint problem on #37, they had the perfect race. For those of you with a MINI: have you checked your CV joint rubber seals lately?




May 2018

[1-May_18_Daves_Report.jpg] Dave Black reports on club finances.
Photo by Robert Izzo

NEMO Annual Meeting
by David Schwartz

FRAMINGHAM, Mass., Apr. 8 — This year we held the NEMO Annual Meeting at the British Beer Company (BBC), a small restaurant chain with 12 locations in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The BBC features a large beer selection and British pub menu and is popular with other British car clubs.

The Framingham BBC provided us with the “Mad Dog Room” free of charge. Sadly, this location will be closing at the end of April, as the landlord wants to replace the restaurant with a larger building. This is the third time a venue is closing after NEMO held an event there. Hopefully, this is just a coincidence.

We had a great turnout, with 27 adults and one child in attendance. In addition to all the regulars, there were several surprise attendees — Charles and Nancy Gould, the Microcar Classic organizers long-time member Phil Darrell at his first NEMO event, and Kathleen Fitzgerald, Nuala Barker’s mom and Iain’s wife. Four new members were also present — MINI owners Eric and Leslie Wickfield, William Ellis, owner of a nice Innocenti Mini, and Ken Howe, also a MINI owner. Ken joined at the meeting after seeing the event listing on the NEMO Facebook page. To paraphrase Ken, “Beer and British cars, how could you go wrong?”

The parking lot contained two classic British cars, the Goulds’ Nissan Pao, and lots of modern MINIs.

Every year we hold a free raffle of Mini- or classic car-related items donated by members. Faith handed out raffle tickets as people arrived. Prizes were fewer than usual (some years we have too many) and included car parts, books, toys, magazines, Mini tchotchkes, etc.

The meeting started with a social hour followed by an à la carte lunch. People ordered a variety of British and non-British dishes and the food received positive reviews.

Down to Business

Faith Lamprey called the meeting to order by pulling the first raffle ticket. This got everyone’s attention and the best prizes went quickly. After the raffle we moved on to the business portion of the Meeting.

Dave Black provided a financial report. The NEMO bank balance is healthy, with the Holiday Party being our major expense, followed by British Marque subscriptions.

Ken Lemoine gave an Hrach Fund update. The Fund is in honor of founding member Hrach Chekijian and is intended to help young people get involved in the British car hobby. Please contact Ken (alvis1934@aol.com) if you have an idea for a worthwhile project or recipient.

May 2018

[3-May_18_Phil_and_Carb.jpg] Phil Darrell shows off the refurbished carburetor set that Iain Barker wrote about last issue.
Photo by David Schwartz

Mini Meet East

Lorine and Derick Karabec provided a Mini Meet East 2018 (MME) update. Their other British car club, Brits of the Hudson (BOTH), is hosting the event. MME will take place in New Paltz, N.Y., from Monday, July 2nd through Thursday, July 5th. Lorine and Derick ran MME in 2013 when NEMO was the host club. They deserve our support and help for taking this on again!

New Paltz is an easy drive, and a lot of NEMO members plan to attend. Classic Minis and modern MINIs are both welcome and BOTH members will participate with other British marques.

Registration is now open. See www.minimeeteast2018.com for additional information. To get involved, contact Lorine Karabec at wolfelor@aol.com or (845) 532-8891.

Other Business

Yours truly provided an update on the NEMO Facebook page, which currently has over 655 likes. We discussed needing more member car photos for the NEMO website. The event photo galleries are updated periodically, but the car galleries are quite out of date. Please e-mail photos to Faith at nemo@auroratechedi.com. Members are also welcome to add photos to the Facebook page in the “Member Cars” album or as a visitor post.

I then led a discussion of the 2018 events calendar. Event listings are updated throughout the driving season. See the website and Facebook page for the latest information. Please let me know about any events you would like to have included.

There was a request from the floor to note whether an event is open to classic Minis, modern MINIs or both. In general, the major British car events welcome both. Most modern MINI events generally welcome classics, though the opposite is not always true.

There were a few other items of note: Wendy Birchmire sold her last “member car” fleece blanket to John Gallagher. The original blanket was the most stolen Yankee Swap gift at the 2017 Holiday Party, so Wendy had some extras made.

Faith gave special recognition to Iain Barker for the great articles he has been writing. The subject of his April article, “Mini Twin SU Carb Conversion,” was shown off by its new owner, Phil Darrell. You do great work, Iain! Phil also bought a 1380cc engine from Iain, and will be installing the engine and carb in his recently acquired 1972 Austin Mini 1000.

People started trickling out around 3:30 p.m. We may try a different British Beer Company location next year, perhaps Franklin, Mass., but are open to other suggestions.

May 2018

[2-May_MINI_Brewery_Rally.jpg] A car for the MINIons!
Photo by Wendy Birchmire

MINIs Invade the Breweries!
by Wendy Birchmire

Wow! Josh Amato is setting up a Brewery Rally for MINIs of Boston. I’ve got a brand new MINI (a 2018 Convertible JCW) and I like beer. This could be a fun event! I think I’ll try it. I haven’t driven “Silver” any distance yet and this will be a great way to see how it handles on the curvy roads of Massachusetts.

One of the best parts of the Rally was reuniting with some of my MINI-loving friends. They were there to greet me when I arrived at Panera in Leominster. Despite the chilly day, participants wandered around admiring each car. I always find it amazing that 22 modern MINI Coopers can assemble and no two look alike. Standing out from the crowd were the yellow MINI decked out with Minion decals covering the entire vehicle, and a blue MINI “time machine” adorned with Tardis stickers.

After a quick trip into Panera for some breakfast, we were off. Josh had set up an ingenious Mapquest program for us. All I had to do was go to the link he’d e-mailed and the route appeared on my iPhone. This was a great idea. If I got separated from the group at least I knew which roads they would be traveling.

Following the voice on my iPhone and a Volcanic Orange MINI with a spoiler bar, I figured that I couldn’t get lost. I was able to stay with the pack, but when we arrived at the Wachusett Brewery I had to check my car to make sure it was still intact. I’d misunderstood what a “rally” is, and didn’t expect to be “cruising” at speed on narrow, windy, back roads!

At the Brewery, most of us sat outside around a gas fireplace for warmth. After imbibing small samples of Bella Czech Pilsner (nice) and Hard Cider (horrible), I was ready to fly to the next stop.

We were running late and skipped a stop at the Clinton Dam. My Mapquest program noted the change and kept me driving right along to the Wormtown Brewery in Worcester. It turned out there was a private party present, and thus not enough parking for 22 cars, or seats in the brewery for 38 people. After a quick trip next door to Volturno Pizza, where we found there was a 20-minute wait for tables, we decided to bypass that stop, too. Others agreed with our choice and our little caravan hit the highway.

My new concept of a rally was confirmed when our group motored along with exuberance on the way to Jack’s Abbey in Framingham. After eating some unusual pizza (bacon and mashed potato) and washing it down with some Smoke and Dagger Black Lager (interesting!), I headed home.

My little MINI performed admirably on the trip and I enjoyed the camaraderie of others who have a (slight) MINI Cooper obsession. Now that I know what a rally is, I would like to go on another one!

May 2018

Coming Attractions

Mini Meet East 2018 — July 2-5
New Paltz, N.Y.

Have you ever experienced a Mini Meet? If not, there is nothing like it. Mini Meet is a gathering of a great group of people with enthusiasm for having fun with their cute little cars. And Mini Meet East 2018 (MME) is practically next door compared to the previous four Meets.

In 2013, Derick and Lorine Karabec took the lead on organizing MME with NEMO as the host club. When they learned that no other club had stepped up to the plate for MME 2018, they volunteered again to take the lead, with their local club, Brits of the Hudson, serving as host.

MME 2018 will take place in New Paltz, N.Y., from Monday, July 2nd, through Thursday, July 5th. Registration opens on Monday and the event concludes with an awards ceremony banquet on Thursday.

New Paltz is a great little town with a variety of restaurants, boutiques, artisan shops, and a historic district, all surrounded by the beautiful Shawangunk Mountains. Not far from town is the famous Angry Orchard and Tuthilltown Spirits, New York’s first whiskey distillery since Prohibition. This year’s Meet will feature a 2-3 hour organized drive every evening to introduce you to different points of interest in the area.

The host hotel is Hampton Inn, located on South Putt Road in New Paltz, with a negotiated rate of $99 per night, plus tax. This rate is good through June 1st based on availability, so make your reservation today.

Visit minimeeteast2018.com for complete Meet information. Be sure to check back regularly for updates. They are always looking for volunteers. If you would like to get involved, contact Lorine Karabec at wolfelor@aol.com. Hope to see you all there!

Gould’s Microcar & Minicar Classic — July 6-8
Newton, Mass.

When you come back from Mini Meet, catch your breath quickly, because Gould’s Microcar & Minicar Classic returns to Newton, Mass., July 6th through 8th — an entire weekend of microcar and minicar fun! This includes a Friday evening welcome reception, a Saturday drive and ascent of Wachusett Mountain, a stop at the Gould’s Matchbox Motors to view the entire collection, Saturday night barbecue and frozen margarita party, and a Sunday lawn show at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum with optional rides for the public.

A stuffy “park-and-polish” show this isn’t. NEMO is always well represented and we guarantee you will have a great time. See the event website, www.bubbledrome.com/index2.html or Facebook page www.facebook.com/bubbledrome for the full weekend schedule, photos of past events and registration information. You can also e-mail Charles Gould to request a registration packet at chasgould@mac.com.




April 2018

[1-Apr_18_Carbs_Before.jpg] As purchased on eBay.
Photo by Iain Barker

Mini Twin SU Carb Conversion
by Iain Barker

No, this is not your usual tale of changing a Mini over from single to twin carbs. This is the story of a little winter side project to refurbish a set of twin carbs from an MG and convert them to fit on a Mini.

The great thing about SU carburetors is that they’ve been around pretty much forever, so they are plentiful on the second hand market (eBay). The bad thing is that with so many different types and vehicle applications, it’s easy to buy the wrong model.

So it was that I picked up a much-neglected pair of HS2 carbs off eBay for $120. They came fitted to an ADO16 (actually an MG 1100) manifold, obviously hadn’t been used in 20 or more years, and looked like they’d probably spent most of that time sitting outside in the rain.

From the photos the carbs certainly looked the same as those for a Mini Cooper S. They just needed a good polish and I already had a spare Mini aluminum twin manifold, so it should be a quick bolt-on job, right?

Well, as always, the devil is in the details. I expected I would have to change the main needles (‘M’ for a Mini 1275) and renew the rusted piston springs, but I quickly learned the hard way that the Mini uses half inch wider spacing between the carbs. Further, the Mini manifold is raked upwards at 30° to clear the bulkhead, whereas these were set at 20°. Clearly this wasn’t going to be as straightforward as I had hoped.

Now the SU carb itself doesn’t really care which angle it is running at, but the separate fuel reservoir next to each carb contains a float that operates a needle valve, and that needs to be upright. So the first thing I had to do was order up replacement gaskets with the appropriate 30° offset — orange for the front carb and purple for the rear.

April 2018

[2-Apr_18_Carbs_After.jpg] Work done, ready for air filters.
Photo by Iain Barker

Next up, a genuine SU full rebuild kit from Mini Spares UK, containing replacement butterfly, throttle spindle, choke jet tube, needle valve and seat, plus all the gaskets needed to service a pair of HS2 carbs, basically everything that can wear out over years of use and abuse. The kit comes with clear instructions and is easy to fit using hand tools. Just make sure to get the butterfly the right way around (it has offset chamfered edges) and that the jet tube is centered. The spindle bores were not worn on these carbs, but the kit does come with new bushings just in case.

The classic SU twin carb set-up uses a control linkage, which ensures both throttles and chokes operate together. This consists of two metal rods between the carbs, and an assortment of springs, cams, brackets and clamps. All these parts are identical between the Mini and the MG, except that the two rods need to be half an inch longer for the Mini. I cut some brass rod stock to the appropriate length, and brazed the original steel throttle stop bracket back onto one of the rods using silver solder and a MAPP torch.

The final job was to clean off the remaining surface rust and corrosion with a brass wire brush. I had submerged the bodies in a bucket of carb cleaner for 48 hours prior to disassembly, so it was really just a quick job to brush off the residue. It is important not to scratch the piston or surfaces inside the dashpot, as they are made to close tolerances in order to maintain an effective vacuum seal.

All in, I spent around $150 on parts, plus the original $120 eBay purchase price. At $270 that’s around 1/4 the cost of a new set of carbs. They might not be as shiny as a new set, but should work just as well.

April 2018

Coming Attractions

NEMO Annual Meeting — Apr. 8
Framingham, Mass.

Our Annual Meeting will be held on Sunday, April 8th, from 12 noon to 4 p.m. at the British Beer Company, 120 Worcester Rd. (Route 9), Framingham, Mass., (508) 879-1776, britishbeer.com/location/framingham. We reserved the Mad Dog Room, which is in the back behind the bar. The BBC features an extensive beer selection and British pub menu. Food and drink will be ordered à la carte.

An evite was sent to the membership list on March 4th. As of the Marque deadline, 20 people responded yes, with 3 maybe. Another evite will be sent out a week before the meeting. Feel free to join us at the last minute, even if you don’t RSVP.

Mini Meet East 2018 — July 2-5
New Paltz, N.Y.

Have you ever experienced a Mini Meet? If not, there is nothing like it. Mini Meet is a gathering of a great group of people with enthusiasm for having fun with their cute little cars. And Mini Meet East 2018 (MME) is practically next door compared to the previous four Meets.

In 2013, Derick and Lorine Karabec took the lead on organizing MME with NEMO as the host club. When they learned that no other club had stepped up to the plate for MME 2018, they volunteered again to take the lead, with their local club, Brits of the Hudson, serving as host.

MME 2018 will take place in New Paltz, N.Y., from Monday, July 2nd, through Thursday, July 5th. Registration opens on Monday and the event concludes with an awards ceremony banquet on Thursday.

New Paltz is a great little town with a variety of restaurants, boutiques, artisan shops, and a historic district, all surrounded by the beautiful Shawangunk Mountains. Not far from town is the famous Angry Orchard and Tuthilltown Spirits, New York’s first whiskey distillery since Prohibition. This year’s Meet will feature a 2-3 hour organized drive every evening to introduce you to different points of interest in the area.

The host hotel is Hampton Inn, located on South Putt Road in New Paltz, with a negotiated rate of $99 per night, plus tax. This rate is good through June 1st based on availability, so make your reservation today.

Visit minimeeteast2018.com for complete Meet information. Be sure to check back regularly for updates. They are always looking for volunteers. If you would like to get involved, contact Lorine Karabec at wolfelor@aol.com. Hope to see you all there!

Gould’s Microcar & Minicar Classic — July 6-8
Newton, Mass.

Gould’s Microcar & Minicar Classic returns July 6th through 8th, providing an entire weekend of microcar and minicar fun. This includes a Friday evening welcome reception, a Saturday drive and ascent of Wachusett Mountain, a stop at the Gould’s Matchbox Motors to view the entire collection, Saturday night barbecue and frozen margarita party, and a Sunday lawn show at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum with optional rides for the public.

A stuffy “park-and-polish” show this isn’t. NEMO is always well represented and we guarantee you will have a great time. See the event website, www.bubbledrome.com/index2.html or Facebook page www.facebook.com/bubbledrome for the full weekend schedule, photos of past events and registration information. You can also e-mail Charles Gould to request a registration packet at chasgould@mac.com.




March 2018

[1-Mar_18_DoctorWhoDalek.jpg] For the uninitiated or otherwise curious, this is a Dalek.
Photo from the Doctor Who TV series courtesy Iain Barker

Restoration of a Dalek
by Iain Barker

Warning: the following article contains science, science fiction and peppermint.

“What goes up, must come down,” said Isaac Newton. Well, in the case of my Mini, that would be the Hydrolastic suspension.

For those not familiar, Hydrolastic was a rather clever system fitted on many Minis from the mid-’60s to early ’70s. It connected the front and rear wheel hubs on each side of the car using metal hydraulic pipes and rubber displacers, in place of traditional suspension springs and dampers. To service the suspension, BMC dealers would de-/re-pressurize the system (between 30” vacuum and 300psi) using two levers on a hand pump manufactured in the UK by the (long-gone) V.L. Churchill Company.

The pumps are a black or blue metal box with two long levers at the front. They look a bit like the arms of a Dalek, the metal-cased evil aliens from the Doctor Who British sci-fi TV series, hence the nickname. One lever draws a vacuum the other lever compresses green Hydrolastic fluid (basically 50:50 water and anti-freeze premix) via two pipes connected to valves on the rear subframe.

Why am I telling you all this, you may wonder. Well, I managed to pick up an old Churchill pump fairly cheaply off ebay.co.uk this fall, and decided to restore it for use with my ’67 Mini.

To be blunt, this pump was knackered.

All these pumps date from the mid-1960s, but this one was in a particularly grim state. It had quite obviously not been used for many years as anything other than a storage shelf. It was covered in oil, dirt and cobwebs. The case was bent and corroded. All the main mechanical parts seemed to be intact, but there was a large split in the plastic fluid reservoir, which someone had obviously tried and failed to reseal many years ago using fiberglass resin.

March 2018

[2-Mar_18_Dalek_Before.jpg] The pump before reconstruction. The resemblance between it and a Dalek is extraordinary.
Photo by Iain Barker

I stripped it down easily in a couple of hours, minus a few layers of skin from my knuckles. Where a pump once stood on the workbench, now there was a large disorganized pile of what looked like brass and copper Victorian central heating parts.

I had no clue what to do next, but after a quick wire brushing I saw that the metal corrosion didn’t look too bad. The rubber parts were a different story — flexible hydraulic seals that had seen years of service in alcohol and water had been left many more years to dry out, and now looked more like circles made from hard, cracked raisins.

After a lot of searching (hint: “hard black rubber” is not a good thing to Google with safe-search disabled), I found an article on a vintage motorcycle website that suggested an old trick to soak the hardened rubber part in a mixture of alcohol and natural wintergreen oil. Apparently the methyl salicylate compound in wintergreen oil restores the plasticizing elastomers in natural rubber. It also smells like peppermint.

Since new seals haven’t been available for at least 30 years, I figured anything was worth a try. Wintergreen oil is expensive most uses seemed to be for homeopathy and it is sold by the ounce. Fortunately, continuing with my theme of using weird suppliers for Mini parts restoration, I managed to get a pint of methyl salicylate, courtesy of Big Dee’s Horse Tack & Vet Supply Company. I put the metal parts in a bucket of CLR (calcium, lime and rust remover), the rubber seals in a 1:3 mix of wintergreen oil and rubbing alcohol, and decided the best option was to go on vacation to Florida for Thanksgiving and forget about my troubles.

We returned from Thanksgiving vacation to find the Amazon fairies had paid a visit. They left me a package containing a dozen 1/4” BSP (an old, obsolete British Imperial measurement) Dowty sealing washers and a set of new neoprene piston seals. Now I was ready to try and reassemble the plumbing.

March 2018

[3-Mar_18_Plumbing_Done.jpg] Plastic reservoir tank refurbished, plumbing done, time to reassemble the Dalek and test.
Photo by Iain Barker

First up was the pressure pump, with its obsolete and very custom shaped piston seals. To my amazement, what two weeks ago had been lumps of shriveled hard plastic were now miraculously rejuvenated as supple, usable rubber seals, which smelled faintly like peppermint.

The vacuum pump seal, however, was swollen beyond its original size and cracked into three pieces. Fortunately, this was just a plain rubber seal, nothing proprietary, so it was fairly easy to find a substitute in the seal for the hydraulic piston on a pickup truck snowplow — eBay to the rescue.

With both pumps now able to hold pressure and vacuum, it was time to take care of that “historically repaired” plastic reservoir tank. The old tank was made of some kind of plastic, but of course it predates the introduction of recycling labeling regulations, so it had no material type markings to work from. I tried four different epoxies to fix the cracks in the old tank. JB Weld Plastic Bonder seemed to be the only one, which would adhere to the original plastic. Just in case, I also found a modern five-quart tank of similar design. That is less capacity than the original two-gallon tank, but unless you’re running a 1960s BMC dealership or servicing a fleet of Minis I doubt that would be much of a limitation.

In the spirit of maintaining originality (or maybe just masochism) I decided to use the re-repaired tank, and keep the modern one as a backup. With everything reassembled and a fresh lick of paint on the panels, the Hydrolastic pump was starting to look a lot more like it would have in 1964.

I half-filled the tank with the cheapest 50:50 antifreeze premix I could find, and hooked the hoses up to an old 10” Mini tire to see if the pumps would work. The vacuum side pulled, and held 25” mercury no problem when I put my thumb over the end of the hose. But when hooked up to the tire it was obvious the Schrader valve coupling was leaking in air. Add new Schrader seals to the to-do list.

Worse, the pressure side did not want to work at all. Had all this effort been in vain? No matter how hard I heaved down on the lever, no fluid came out of the hose. Hmm. Time for a beer and a think.

After a while I realized the problem. There is a one-way check valve to prevent the pressure pump from sucking fluid back out of the car on the upstroke. It’s basically a ball bearing floating inside a tube, and some idiot (me) had put it back together upside down. Hey, kids, remember to take photos during disassembly!

March 2018

[4-Mar_18_All_Done.jpg] All done! And ready to exterminate, exterminate... er, recharge Iain’s Hydrolastic system.
Photo by Iain Barker

With the valve reversed, the pump pushed fluid easily through the hose, up to the spare tire, out the top of the Schrader valve — and onto the basement ceiling. Now I had green antifreeze raining down on my head. That was not part of the plan. Add a second set of new Schrader seals to the to-do list.

Of course, neither of the Schrader couplings has been manufactured for at least 30 years, so there are no service kits available with replacement seals. Fortunately, the nitrogen-filled struts on aircraft landing gear are very similar to the Hydrolastic valves, and are still available. In fact, Amazon has them on next day delivery. So it was trivial to replace them with new parts that would hold pressure.

The only thing left now was to print a new instruction placard for the top panel. The pump is complete and ready to use when I reset the suspension height on my Mini in the spring.

March 2018

NEMO Annual Meeting April 8!

NEMO’s Annual Meeting will be held on Sunday, April 8th, from 12 noon to 4 p.m. at the British Beer Company, 120 Worcester Rd. (Route 9), Framingham, Mass., (508) 879-1776. We reserved the “Mad Dog Room,” which is in the back behind the bar.

The BBC features an extensive beer selection and British pub menu. This small restaurant chain is popular with other British car clubs. Food and drink will be ordered à la carte. Take a look at britishbeer.com/location/Framingham.

We will be holding the usual Give-Away Freebie Raffle, so if you have any Mini-related items you would like to donate bring them along. An evite will be sent to the membership list in early March. The British Beer Company is located on Route 9, about 1.5 miles from I-90.

Directions: 1) Take I-90 (Mass Turnpike) to Exit 13, Route 30 West, Natick/Framingham. 2) Bear right on the exit ramp and merge onto Route 30 West (Cochituate Road) toward Framingham. 3) Continue on Route 30 West for about 1.0 mile. 4) Turn left onto Caldor Road (mall service road). There is a McDonald’s on the left corner. 5) Caldor Road ends at a light. Turn left onto Worcester Road (Route 9). 6) The British Beer Company will be on your right, just after you turned onto Worcester Road.




 

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