- Ordered the MINI in March of 2003 and it finally arrived at MINI of Nashville a couple months later.
The MINI was kept 100% oem for the first 2 years. The first modification was a 15% pulley that Eric from Helix installed at MOTD 2005. Over the next several years I have experimented with several variations of suspension, engine, and cosmetic modifications.
The car ran like a charm for the first 71,000 miles. I estimate I've ran over 200 round trips on the Dragon's Tail, 4 seasons of autocross, and several open track days- been through over 10 sets of tires and 4 sets of wheels.
During a 7500 mile road trip in 2009, I did some prolonged high speed driving (in 6th gear doing 135+ mph). I suspect that was the cause of what turned out to be a leaking exhaust valve that eventually caused a crankshaft rod bearing to fail due to lack of lubrication.
I didn't want to spend a small fortune rebuilding the engine then have no guarantee on that being reliable. After comparing the options, I decided to completely replace the engine with a newer 2005 MINI Cooper S engine that had only 48,000 miles.
With the help from a close friend who is an ASE certified mechanic and a handful of extremely kind MINI owners- after many late nights, a torn off fingernail, and about 10 cases of beer later- we completely replaced and rebuilt the engine/drivetrain.
The new setup is running better than ever. The engine feels faster revving and gets slightly better gas mileage than my 2003. The setup now has over 30,000 miles and is still running fantastically.
The odometer reached the big 100,000 mi. milestone in June of 2011 and I had the front bumper replaced and all stone chips repaired in honor of the event. The Mini looks and drives like new again (minus a few interior squeaks and rattles) and is prepared for another amazing 100,000 miles of blissful driving.
When time allows, I try to hang out with a few cool silverbacks and weedhoppers in the Mid-Ohio Motoring Club. I went to the first club meeting in 2005 and I had one of the newest MINIs in the club. 7 years later, I'm one of the few R53 drivers left in the club. It's hard to believe that I've owned the car for almost 9 years.