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THE MINI SPRINT STORY
Following a visit to my Godfathers back in the winter of ’95 the idea was born.
Gerry Hawkridge, the owner of Transformer Cars, was in the midst of building a mini sprint! We were amazed at the quality and strength of his design. The built-in roll cage was most impressive. Knowing that Gerry’s previous work was first class, an order was placed. Dad and I knew a donor car would have to be sourced. After speaking to my mum she told us about a mini which her cousin had in her garden. We looked and ended up buying the mini, it was in a pretty sad state to say the least.
The following months saw the mini being totally stripped, and the body shell was disposed of. I stripped the sub frames, had them and all the suspension components shot blasted and powder coated.
The engine and gearbox were then worked on. Because of Insurance reasons a 998cc unit had to be used. I was still at school at this time and enjoyed re-building the engine and gearbox, it was totally standard apart from slight work on the cylinder head. A Stage 1 kit would also be fitted.
Time flew by and March ’98 saw the delivery of a GRP Mini Sprint shell, number 15 out of 17. By this time Gerry was having problems with Rover over the Sprints. Unfortunately, production ceased.
It took two years before the car was ready for the road. The wheel arches took some serious modification to clear the huge 8” x 13” wheels. As the arches only came as fronts for space framed minis, the rears had to be specially modified and custom made.
I had seen American hot rods with no door handles and wanted to apply that to the mini. Solenoids were purchased, the doors and rear quarter panels modified so they could be operated by remote. The boot lid was also modified.
Going with the smooth look, the car was de-seamed, bumper seams were removed and the lip taken off below the doors. I had seen a TVR with no external number plate lights and modified the boot lid for the backlit plate. BMW M3 wing mirrors were sourced, the doors modified for them to be fitted.
Ten months later and the mini was ready to be painted. Barry Hicks and Peter Fenner set about preparing and painting it in Lamborghini Blue and Fiat red. All this was carried out where I work at a local VW dealership. Once back from the paint shop we could set about fitting up and preparing the car. Firstly, all the electrics had to be wired in, this proved quite a nightmare. All fuel, brake and battery lines were run internally. Due to the extra load on the batteries it was decided two would be a better option, the original box had been cut out and fibreglassed over. The rear vanity boxes were extensively modified to house the batteries, speakers and solenoids.
The centre console was fabricated from aluminium by my Dad. I set about making the dash board from scratch out of fibre glass. The results were amazing!
Dials were sent away to be colour coded as was the dash. All of the interior was made or modified. Electric seats from a Rover Sterling were cut down to fit both the front and rear. This took a lot longer than we thought it would.
T.V., video, reversing camera and sound system were also installed.
Carpet was cut and fitted with the help of Bob Turner, who also made a custom boot board, sub box, steering column shrouds, hand brake and gear stick gaitors.
Once fitted up the engine was dropped in, lights and bright work were also fitted.
We managed to get the mini MOT’d and insured a week before London to Brighton. We worked on the mini every minute we could. The day before London to Brighton Dad and I were working on it until 2.00 a.m. We went to bed for three hours only to get up at 5.00 a.m. and left for Crystal Palace.
On its first outing it did extremely well and we took home first prize. All our efforts had been worth it. Since then we have been to many more shows, all taking first place!
Now the car has been built a year and the insurance has settled a replacement engine is under way.
1071 8 port power will be on its way soon ………………….. watch this space
For the photos of Ben's Mini Sprint Story, click here.http://www.minimania.com/images/webstuff/minisprint/index.htm