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.
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.
NEMO Annual Meeting — Apr. 8
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Hope to see you all there!
Gould’s Microcar & Minicar Classic — July 6-8
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 email@example.com.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
An incredible haul of presents at MINI of Warwick.
Photo by Wendy Birchmire
MINIs Make a Difference
by Wendy Birchmire
WARWICK, R.I., Dec. 3 — You want me to join you where, at what hour? Oh, the “MINIs Making a Difference” Toy Rally in Warwick. That sounds like a wonderful way to help bring some happiness to children who really need it. But we have to be there at 8 a.m. and it is an hour’s drive from home? I haven’t gotten up before 7 a.m. since I retired, but I can do this. Just get up, get dressed, feed the cats, pack up the presents and get on the road!
On arriving at MINI of Warwick, the first thing I saw was a line of brand new MINIs ready to be someone’s holiday gift. Better stay away from them. My MINI is only two years old and is in fine shape. Those new ones looked so shiny and inviting, however.
There were three lines of modern MINIs and one classic Mini lined up for the rally. Many of them were adorned with Christmas finery. Even though it was a brisk 44°, owners were out inspecting the rally cars. Incredibly, of the 47 cars I didn’t see two cars that looked the same. There were unique paint jobs and clever license plates.
Inside, the dealership provided treats catered by Panera. There were assorted bagels, muffins, pastries, breakfast sandwiches, coffee, milk and orange juice. They even had my favorite, chocolate chip bagels, and cream cheese to smear on them. Yummy!
The dealership also offered a discount on gift items for MINI enthusiasts. I wanted the blue 3D puzzle of a MINI, but decided against it. My friend bought one and I’m sure she will let me play with hers. Thank you, MINI of Warwick, for a perfect start to the day.
Then the presents started flowing in, brought by MINI owners and volunteers. There were bicycles, stuffed animals, games and just about anything a child could wish for. There were over 1,000 presents donated. One enterprising family contributed 170 items. Wow! Apparently all the family members had asked their friends to donate a present. The young lady who brought them to the rally said she wanted to collect even more next year.
There was also a charity raffle for $6,000 worth of donated prizes. My luck was not with me and I did not win anything. Oh, well.
A classic among the moderns.
Photo by Wendy Birchmire
At 11 a.m., we were off on the rally to Hasbro Children’s Hospital and the Newport Car Museum. Now that was tricky. Initially my car was sandwiched between two other MINIs. When we got to the highway, everyone spread out and it was difficult to see where to go at the interchanges. Once we got to Providence, local police provided us with an escort to the Hasbro Children’s Hospital. Later, on the drive to the Newport Car Museum, local officers stopped traffic at intersections so our little caravan could stay together.
The people at the Newport Car Museum welcomed us and provided cookies and coffee. There were many docents available to answer our questions. One of the things I really liked was there were no ropes surrounding the vehicles to keep visitors away. The private collection of 50 cars covers six decades of automotive design, from the 1950s to the present. There are separate exhibits of Ford/Shelby cars, Corvettes, Mopars, world cars and fin cars. There are also driving simulations and mid-century modern furnishings.
My favorite cars at the Museum were the 1954 Buick Skylark Convertible and the 2017 Dodge Viper ACR. Although they are quite different, I would be happy to ride in each of them.
All in all, it was a great day. We donated toys to children in need, inspected the other rally cars and were treated to a museum full of awesome vehicles. What could be better?
‘The gift’ this year was a blanket made by Wendy Birchmire featuring the favorite cars of NEMO members.
Photo by Robert Izzo
NEMO Holiday Party a Big Hit!
by David Schwartz
FRAMINGHAM, Mass., Dec. 2 — The NEMO Holiday Party was held at La Cantina Italiana in Framingham, and we had a great turnout — 33 adults and one child! The restaurant provided two adjoining rooms. A large outer room contained the bar, hors d’oeuvres table, small drink tables and the buffet table. Members congregated here for a social hour. We had lunch and the Yankee Swap in the smaller inner room. Feedback on the food and space was positive and we will probably use this venue again in 2018.
The Yankee Swap table overflowed with bags and packages of all sizes. There were several gifts that changed hands many times, including a mysterious greasy paper bag.
The only child at the party was Nuala Barker, our youngest NEMO regular. Yours truly bent the rules and presented Nuala with an un-swappable gift, a Finding Dory treasure chest filled with Nemo and Dory items. Nuala quickly caught on to the Yankee Swap process and instructed her father Iain to steal a plush MINI Cooper.
The hottest gift this year was a fleece blanket printed with photos of NEMO member cars. The blanket ultimately went home with Barbara Neiley, who as the first ticket taker was able to make the last steal. Wendy Birchmire designed the blanket, and her British flag Mini was the largest photo, followed closely by my Mini Traveller. Due to popular demand, Wendy ordered several more blankets for members who held “the gift” ever so briefly.
The greasy bag contained a beautiful hand-drawn sketch of a classic Mini. This also changed hands several times, with Lorine Karabec stealing it near the end of the Swap. Dan St. Croix was the artist, and his work has been popular at other Yankee Swaps.
Another unique gift was a signed photo of Paddy Hopkirk driving a works Mini Cooper S, ORX 777F, to 5th overall on the 1968 Monte Carlo Rally. Iain Barker ordered the photo from Europe, and Nuala provided the handmade wrapping paper. The photo was stolen several times, but Dan St. Croix managed to hold onto it.
Be sure to check the Facebook page and NEMO website for photo albums of the guests and Yankee Swap.