Snarkey Chapter 5


How much would you pay for a Mk1 Cooper S shell?  That is the question.

What if it was arrow straight, had zero rust and beautiful fresh paint in your color choice?  And it came with a legitimate VIN, clear title and a Heritage Certificate – in other words, not a fake?  If your price went up as things improved, you know your Minis.  However, you might figure a man could find the whole car for a few thou given some patience.  Good luck.  Pick your battles carefully.  I didn’t.

Had Snarkey been anything less than a genuine complete Cooper S, it would have been wise to scrap the shell and part out the rest.  But there is little challenge in that, right?  So your foolish author took up the cause to “save” what friends and wife were told is a rare car.  

What was salvageable from the original shell amounted to a roof, part of the door frames, the rear panel, rear side panels and the seat brace.  At this point, you anoraks can all chime it as to what constitutes a re-shell vs. panel repairs.  But I had a decision to make; punt or go for the first down.

But this shiny car body came at a great cost.  It took over a year, working often before and after real work, plus weekends.  I spent more money on replacement sheet metal than what it took to buy the car.  To you guys that restore these for a living, I have nothing but respect for you.  And I didn’t even do the panel beating, prep or paint.  I handed it off once it was a solid metal shell.  It deserved better paint and body than I’m capable of.

The numbers tell the story:


$1,120 Chemical strip shell to bare metal
$150 Primer to protect bare metal shell  
$250 Used front clip 
$300 Supplies, tools for welding and reconstruction
$4,143 New sheet metal to repair shell
$933 Shippings costs, local tax ,etc
$6,896 Total: not including body and paint (!)

Let’s say you’re a thrifty nickel.  You wouldn’t have blown over a grand on metal stripping when a gallon of stripper costs only $45.  You might have all the tools and supplies you need.  Take $1500 off my total.  Now we get down to what gets repaired vs. what to replace.  One famous restoration house in the U.K. told me on the phone “We don’t repair, we only replace.”  How quaint.  What about here?  Replace the whole side panel?



Otherwise, cut and bend some sheet steel and weld in a patch.  You’ll spend a good amount of time grinding the welds flat…


So they look like this.


But the hard part is over, on to more mechanical challenges like ragged out sub frames!   For dessert, we’re serving a ragged out motor and gearbox too. 

When frustration sets in and you want to throw a little pity party, motivation can come from myriad places, Tim Harber on YouTube for example: