Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
12/1/20 9:29 a.m.

We finished the metalwork. We sent the body to the paint shop. Now we wait. 

Waiting doesn’t have to mean sitting around doing nothing, though. With the body shell for our 1967 Mini Cooper S out of the way, we could lay out our parts and take stock of just what we had–and what condition it was in. From there, we could see which pieces were restorable and which ones needed to be replaced.

When we first bought the car, we made a rookie mistake: We got a bit overeager with the Mini Mania catalog and ordered way too many parts. There are a few reasons you should do as we say and not as we do. First, buying parts years in advance is not an example of great cash flow management. Second, most companies won’t accept returns on wrongly ordered or defective items a year or two after they’ve shipped. And third, the more parts you have, the harder it is to avoid damaging or losing them.

Some of our parts were already organized, though. When we purchased the car, the engine had been removed and dismantled. Before we even dove into the metalwork, we dug through all the engine and chassis parts. We powder-coated the subframes and rebuilt the entire drivetrain, along with the brakes and suspension. To make sure we did everything correctly, we even ran the drivetrain sans bodywork.

Now it was time to organize the rest of our parts, order what we still needed, and find a few hard-to-get items. Once our Mini comes back from the paint booth, we should be able to very quickly assemble and sort the car.

Step 1:

You don’t know what you have if you aren’t organized. Step one: Gather and lay out the entire inventory of parts. 

Step 2:

Next, we noted which parts we needed to order. Our original grille looked good, for example, but the chrome mustache that surrounds it had to be replaced. 

Step 3:

Organizing parts, like everything else in a restoration, goes more smoothly if you develop a system. These shallow plastic bins, which we found at Carlisle’s import swap meet, are just the right size for car parts, and their low sides make it easy to determine their contents. 

We filled each bin with parts that go together: gauges and items from the dashboard in one, pieces that go back on the firewall in another, hydraulic system parts in a third bin, and so on.

If an item was a duplicate or wasn’t recognizable after a bit of study, it went in a separate spares box. Nothing was thrown away at this point.

Step 4:

We created a parts-cleaning station in an area of the bench where we could leave things set up for a few weeks. We brought in parts a few at a time, cleaning, painting and polishing them as needed.

Step 5:

We do a little of this bench work each evening and find it to be one of the most enjoyable steps of a restoration. Here, we’re cleaning the headlight rims with a bit of metal polish and some very fine steel wool.

Step 6:

Our ultrasonic cleaner makes short work of transforming our old parts. From a nasty old jack to a license plate lens, this machine can clean almost anything.

Step 7:

Our bumpers were nearly too large for our bench area, but they still went through the same cleaning process. 

Step 8:

All of our glass turned out to be original to the car and in great condition. Mini glass has a date code that reveals its age, and original pieces should be dated a month or two before the car was built. Our car was last registered in 1978, back when it was just 11 years old. 

Step 9:

You can reuse the original wiring harness, but most are brittle by now or have been hacked up over the years thanks to repairs or aftermarket equipment. We ordered a replacement from British Wiring. 

Step 10:

We love swap meets. We found these new-old-stock taillights at the Carlisle Import & Kit Nationals meet last year. 

Step 11:

Our finished headlights now work perfectly. The original Lucas sealed beam's low- and high-beam bulbs have been tested, our wiring pigtails and plugs have been cleaned with our ultrasonic cleaner, and the buckets, cups and hardware have been powder-coated or painted as needed. 

Step 12:

Eastwood’s Silver Cad works very well to duplicate original plated finishes. They also offer sprays that can duplicate gold, red and green tints for an even more authentic look.  We use this product often if we aren’t replating original parts.

Step 13:

In our box of parts, we found the correct jack for our late-Mk1 car. We repainted it the proper shade of red. 

Step 14:

Ron Jernigan of the Mid Atlantic Minis club also runs a screen-printing company, and he specializes in restoring Mini heaters. He repairs or replaces the heater blower motor with parts purchased from Mini Mania. If necessary, the core gets replaced as well. Then the housing and side panels are media-blasted and power-coated with a satin-black finish that duplicates the original. The final touch: He screen-prints the original instruction markings. Ron charges $250 to restore the whole heater or just $65 to redo the outside.

Step 15:

Whenever we build an English car, we send the gauges to Nisonger Instruments. Peter Bayer and his crew do such a nice job cleaning, repairing, painting and detailing these gauges that we don’t even try to do it ourselves. This time they even found us a period-correct accessory tachometer that we plan on mounting to the dash next to our gauge pod.

Step 16:

Our car came with one original seat and one seat from an Austin America. We sold the incorrect seat at Carlisle and bought a pair of rare, optional, reclining seats from DJ Minis. They were even finished in the correct grey, red and gold brocade combo that our car came with.  

Step 17:

We haven’t tracked down an original Cooper S steering wheel yet, but in the meantime we found this gorgeous, period-correct, aftermarket, 13-inch-diameter steering wheel on eBay. Soon we’ll be bolting these parts onto our totally refurbished body. 

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