Project Mini: The Halfway Point

Occasionally, Classic Car Adventures will have an update on our in-house project cars, and also those of our readers. In this first installment of the Project Mini series, Warwick has reached a milestone in his first ever restoration – the teardown to bare shell is complete!

Owner: Warwick
Car: 1966 Austin Mini 850
Project Status: Car has been fully stripped and sent for a hot bath!
Sense of great satisfaction from getting the teardown done.
Cons: Scared to death of what the shell is going to look like when it comes back from rust dip!

The First Day

First off, let me introduce you to “Abby”. She is a ’66 Austin 850 from Vancouver, Canada. The car has lived here it’s whole life, having been in one family since new. Approximately 40,000 miles on the clock and is in a decent state. I bought it in November 2008, and it made its first public appearance on the 2009 Spring Thaw. I drove it all summer, so it was certainly in better nick than some projects I’ve seen people start with! The car had been sitting under a tarp on the side of the road for goodness knows how many years, so I just *had* to rescue it. After a minor tune-up and safety check, we were on our way for the Spring Thaw.

Apart from nearly popping the motor on the first major climb on the ‘Thaw – coolant spraying on the windshield is never good – the Mini handled everything I threw at it for the rest of the event, and indeed the rest of the summer. The usual rust bubbles were popping up, however, and she did have some mechanical gremlins to sort out. As the leaves turned orange and the temperature dropped, I decided I was going to take the plunge and start on a basic restoration. I could turn this thing around in 7 months, right?

Subframes, doors, and glass off - time to get dipped!

Fortunately for me, the ‘Rookie Restorer’, the Mini is as simple as they come. My lack of experience with wrenching on cars has often caused frustration in the past. I told myself at the beginning of this project that I was going to put my head down and just motor through any problems or confusion. Apart from a few rusted and stripped bolts, the Mini didn’t throw up any problems that a forum search or manual read couldn’t solve. Each problem solved resulted in more satisfaction and confidence to attack the next task.

It’s now mid-January, and the Spring Thaw is just three months away. At the beginning of the month, I finally got the last nut and bolt off the car and the shell was officially ‘bare bones’. Its very satisfying to stand back and look at a car that you’ve totally stripped with your own hands. In effect, undoing 40 years of “togetherness!” Visually, it marked a big turning point because now the long climb back to roadworthiness could begin.

It's sometimes handy to have a small car!

I decided to take the shell to Redi-Strip in Vancouver for chemical cleaning and rust removal. As of January 14th, that is where the car sits and I am scared to death of what the car will look like when I pick it up!  Was the shell in as good a condition as I thought, or am I going to get a horrible surprise? I should know by Monday whether I’ve got a 3-month or 13-month project on my hands!

As co-organizer, am I allowed to delay the Spring Thaw a few months to ensure I have a car for it?

Abby disappears into Redi-Strip's warehouse

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One Response to “Project Mini: The Halfway Point”

  1. john hinde January 14, 2010 at 4:44 pm #

    After racing our mini at Mosport in the late 60 s we finally got a sponsor. We did what you did over the winter. It was put in the spring Auto show…beautiful..

    The second race of the year my friend flipped it end over end. Completely destyoying the car and breaking is neck in the process. {he recovered…the engine was put into a street mini]..good memories

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