• Stunning, better than new build by Historic race car builder
• Period Cooper S spec or upgraded parts throughout
• Original late 60s Cooper engine built for performance
• Fastidious attention to detail
• Just 6 miles since completion
Following the Mini saloon's introduction in August 1959, the van version appeared in January 1960. Built on a slightly longer wheelbase than the saloon, the commercial Mini's front-wheel drive and compact independent rear suspension enabled it to match many more-expensive medium-sized vans for interior space. Identical - apart from the badging – Austin/Morris versions were built for the first nine years, the model being known subsequently as the Minivan.
A 998cc engine became available in 1967 but most customers opted for the more economical 848cc unit. Always more spartanly equipped than the saloon, the van retained the MkI's front grille, sliding windows, and external door hinges to the end of production in 1983.
Having had a long life, with 10 owners, this 1977 Mini Van found itself in a scrap yard in 2019, waiting for the final journey. Tired and completely rotten it was found by the Vendor whilst hunting for a Mini pickup project to restore with his wife. He decided that it would be a worthwhile project, and it was purchased, with work starting just as lockdown commenced. Having restored several Minis, and specialising as a builder of Mini Coopers for historic racing, he thought it would be interesting to keep a standard appearance whilst giving it all the best period Cooper go faster goodies.
With lockdown confining everyone, it was lucky he had the facilities at home, and now the time to create a van that is something quite special. Firstly the body was disassembled and all the rotten areas replaced - a massive job as there was plenty of rot! The front and rear subframes were repaired, shot blasted and powder coated.
Once the metalwork was completed the shell went to be painted in Cooper colours – Tweed Grey with an Old English White roof. The attention to detail is amazing, with lots of nice touches.
There is some paperwork from its early life on file; it appears that someone has spent some time researching the early owners, and there is a photocopy of its first registration in February 1977 where it shows Henlys (West London) Ltd as the supplying dealer. There is an old MoT certificate from 1994 that shows the mileage at 70,000 at that time, and the original chassis plates that were removed and replaced.
But all of this, though of interest, isn’t really relevant to the van you see before you. Since completion around Christmas 2020 the van has been driven up and down the private road outside the Vendor’s house; it has never ventured out in public. With the odometer reading just 6 miles it is essentially a new van looking for a new owner!
The first thing that strikes you when looking inside is how simple the interior is! No cup holders, no buttons, not even an ashtray! Two seats, a steering wheel, a couple of gauges and the large painted dash parcel shelf and that’s about it! Look closely and you will see that plenty of thought has been put into the build. The ignition key would have been on the steering column on a Mk2, but a Mk1 centre binnacle and dash was used so the ignition key is in the centre binnacle with its cream gauges.
The seats are grey Cobra Classic race style, very comfortable. The steering wheel is a lovely Moto Lita retro example, again perfectly suiting the 60’s vibe. A Mk2 would also have had the later plastic catches for the sliding side windows, but here we have early Mk1 catches like a Cooper. These are £400 a set! There is the luxury of a Mk1 Smiths heater.
The black carpets are clean as you would expect, in fact the whole interior is new, so no wear or tear and no age related marks to be seen.
According to the history file the van was originally 70’s Flamenco Red, but the Vendor prefers the less garish hues from the earlier Coopers, and chose Tweed Grey, with Old English White roof. Once the extensive welding was completed the paint shop painted every panel, including the underside, to the same exceptional standard –way better than it would have been back in 1977! The shut lines are perfect, the paint finish is exemplary and we could not find anything to criticise on the exterior.
The glass is all new and fitted with fresh gaskets. The bumpers are also new. New headlights and sidelights that are also the front indicators, along with replacement rear lenses are all new as well.
The 10 inch Minilite wheels have 60th Anniversary centre caps, and the tyres are racy Dunlop SP Sport period style, again unused.
We would suggest that a good look at the photographs will show you all you need to know; we are sure you’ll agree with us –it’s just lovely!
But it just gets better! The Vendor is lucky to have real period expertise on hand to help with the oily bits! His Father worked for Downton Engineering in the 60s, and has built the engine to what he describes as “fast road spec”! We’d describe it as the absolute business!
It is an original Cooper block enlarged to 1,028cc with a 12g295 cylinder head. It has a fast road camshaft, lightened and balanced. The head has been gently ported and is fed by twin 1 ¼” SU carburettors.
The engine is mated to a close ratio straight cut gearbox with a standard differential. Once completed it was handed to Swiftune (or course!) and dyno tuned to produce 71hp. Stopping power has also been addressed with 7 1/2” Mini Cooper S disc brakes. The experience gained from years of racing Mini preparation shows here; it’s just the right amount of performance without making it undriveable on the road.
The engine bay is a real work of art, nothing looks out of place. Period fabric wrapped wiring loom was used throughout rather than nasty plastic. Have a look at the brake pipes.. have you seen such a tidy bit of pipework before? The Vendor admitted that he took a few bolts at a time into the house and polished them whilst watching TV… (yes we agree, a bit weird!)
It’s not hard to see the appeal of this van. Yes, it’s not a stock restoration and it might not appeal to everyone…but we love it, and would have jumped at the opportunity to take it for a blast around the Surrey lanes. We agreed that the Vendor has built it just right; a cool “Q car”, humdrum appearance disguising chili hot performance!
“Why on earth is he selling it?” we hear you ask. Well, the right Mini pickup came along and that is currently being built to the same standard, so he has decided to let the van go rather than have it sitting around. Someone is going to love it!
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