2nd Gen R55 Clubman Minidomore Hitch Install Report: 2011 Clubman S

Discussion in '2nd Generation: 2007+ R55 through R61' started by thirdraildesignlab, Nov 10, 2010.

  1. thirdraildesignlab

    thirdraildesignlab New Member

    Sep 21, 2010
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    Yesterday, a week to the day of receipt of Longboy, my MINI Cooper S Clubman, we installed the Minidomore concealed hitch. We had put one in the last MINI, my 06 MCS, and wondered whether it would be easier or harder this time around, with a new car, different layout, etc etc. I'm happy to report it went well. VERY well.

    The Minidomore is one of a few competing products serving a similar function: they add a receiver hitch to the MINI, not currently offered from the factory, the other most well known one being the Minifini Sportlink system. I prefer this one, because the Sportlink system is visible once installed, in the form of two quick release plugs in the surface of the bumper, whereas the Minidomore design is concealed from view when not in use. Both involve taking apart the bumper and drilling into your precious ride. The first hitch I used back in the day hid the receiver behind the fog/ bake light hole in the bumper, normally otherwise concealed by a black plastic plug. In the case of the Clubman, there is no such location, so the hitch hides directly behind the rear license plate. As Minidomore hadn't yet gotten their hands on a 2011 model, they only officially offered this through 2010. I volunteered to be the test-fit. Worst case scenario, it wouldn't fit due to some of the cosmetic changes in the body kit, and I'd have to pull it and return to stock empty-handed. Best-case: new hitch!

    It was a dark and stormy day, but I have a large carport. Miraculously though, the clouds parted, and the weather was actually delightful the afternoon of the install. Fresh french press of Peet's, wifebot(tm)s pumpkin chocolate bars by the binful, tools arranged, and we were ready to go.

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    We started by attempting to get the car up on jack stands, like last time. This was a thorough fail, largely because we couldn't identify enough accessible jack points. I'm sure they're there, but other than the location occupied by the MINI stock hand jack, there wasn't anywhere we thought was reasonable for locating the stands themselves. As a result, we decided to go it without. As it happens, we really didn't need them. One could make the swipe that the Clubman's '4x4 ride height' in the wheel gap allowed this, but whatever. One false alarm, while Lung here was actually part way under (yes, unwise with a hand jack, but he was being cautious) was when my toddler, wee Z, started firing the door locks with my wifebot(tm)s keys she had stolen, upstairs. I've seen Lung move quickly, but usually because of the involvement of spides or cheeseburger meat. In this case, mortal terror.

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    The process is fairly simple, but can be daunting the first time. We enjoyed the benefit of having done this once before, and new the basics about how the car's plastic body panels fit together, how the tabs and screws tend to operate, their propensity for stretch, deformation and shear, and where and when to give it a little muscle, and when NOT to do same.

    Armed with three screwdrivers, a 13mm socket, and a hole cutter, we got to it. The screws under the bumper and in the wheel wells came out easily enough (one is a two part fastener you have to watch for) and the worst was probably above: a concealed screw buried under the rear wheel arches, in such a way that the arch can suffer tab stretch while you're trying to get up in there with a shorty screwdriver. We used a stubby ratchet driver to get shorter, and were careful enough to avoid damage. The hardest aspect was working out how the tabs on the arch and bumper worked. Minidomore offers instructions with photos in color, but it's hard to effectively document what you can't see.

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    Next, the bumper cover was removed. You have to pull the lamps and wiring for the license plate, and give the whole thing some muscle, which is scary, but it comes off clean. So far, tab breakage: 0.

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    Here Lung is test-fitting the Minidmore hitch assembly. It is essentially a bent tube of steel with flattened anchor points at either end, and welded to a receiver hitch in the center. The assembly is quite a bit different than the last one, as it needs to reach farther out, away from the anchor points, and to so without trussing. The wiring harness is attached to the bumper itself with a series of annoying plastic 'xmas tree' clips, which take some work with a screwdriver to get free. You definitely need two people: one to hold the bumper once you loosen the connections to the substructure, and one to work the wiring free. There's also a wire to the far left, I think for the reverse lamp, and then you're free. The hitch assembly, as you can see here, bolts between the bumper and the substructure, on the same anchor points: a pair of nuts and a pair of bolts, each side, 8 in total.

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    In some of my bike projects, I admit to being a little loosey-goosey, so to speak, with torque settings. Not here. We torqued to spec, like good boys. Also had some coffee.

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    Next, the fun, and I suppose daunting part: drilling the bumper cover to create the access hole. You work a certain distance down from the center of the rear license plate mount, and bore a hole through that and the bumper cover itself. We used a 2" hole cutter.

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    There ain't no goin' back!

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    Quick-snap, and the deed was done, It's always a little bit unnerving when you're making physical modifications. The eff-it-up factor is present. We measured twice. No, thrice.

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    Here, Lung demonstrates the hole we cut. Note we cleverly, though entirely accidentally, captured the '3' in the address applique. That's science, friends, but also destiny. I won't deny it.

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    As you can see, the hitch is visible behind the hole. It's a fine solution to the problem of access.

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    I LOVE the fact that this system is concealed when not in use. I haul bikes quite a bit, but more often, I'm riding them. I want the bike rack (or cargo tray) off and in the garage when not being used. With this system, you unscrew the license plate and mount it below or to the side when sing the hitch, and can replace it and hide the receiver when not hauling something.

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    Here's the stunner. From start to finish, this project took us...ONE HOUR. The first time, I think it was 3 or 4. We definitely benefited from the previous experience, both in knowledge and confidence level. The product fit well, the instructions are clear, and it's a solid design. The changes in 2011, if at all, were minimal enough to allow for easy completion of the project with only a few deviations from what we planned as we started. And just like that, it was done.

    Thanks to Minidomore for the hitch, and to my man Lung who came out from the city to help me with another mod!

    Anyone has any questions on the install process, feel free to PM me...
     
  2. Nathan

    Nathan Founder

    Mar 30, 2009
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    Thanks for sharing this quite detailed report on the install.
     
  3. Motoring Magic

    Motoring Magic New Member
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    Dec 13, 2009
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    nice job

    I'm wondering how you got a hitch there a week after you bought your car? I am a dealer for MDM and love the product. but every time I order a hitch its 3-4 weeks before it gets to socal. Do you have the license braket relocate kit? could you show it on the car in another photo as I haven't done a clubbie yet.
     
  4. CHKMINI

    CHKMINI Club Coordinator
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    Library time for this one?
     
  5. thirdraildesignlab

    thirdraildesignlab New Member

    Sep 21, 2010
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    Hahahaha library time.
    I publish process logs on my site (well sites) usually bike related. I enjoy it!

    MM can't speak to lead times as I'm not affiliated with mdm. I contacted them about 6 weeks before I got the car. I had the hitch here mocking me, and mdm anxiously awaiting confirmation that it fit the 2011s, so the wait for the car to finish production and get over here on the west coast was brutal. Being my second install it went so much faster than the 06.

    I don't have the plate mount. Can't help you there!
     
  6. Motoring Magic

    Motoring Magic New Member
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    sooooo

    "I don't have the plate mount. Can't help you there!"

    where does you plate go when your bike rack is in the hitch? hang it from one of the bikes? Not having worked with one yet, that's the part I am wondering about

    the fact you had that much lead time on the car explains how you had the hitch first, sounds about the same.
     
  7. thirdraildesignlab

    thirdraildesignlab New Member

    Sep 21, 2010
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    MM
    Certainly the plate mount system seems like a great feature. In my case, I don't leave anything on the hitch for long. Bike rack on, off to the ride, and then off again when I get back. You can move the plate down and solve that issue. I just chose not to get the mount.

    Yeah I ordered the car from the factory and had some time to plot and scheme. It was what I consider a mandatory mod for me, having done it on the last MINi so I was looking into it right out of the gate. I wasn't sure how the system would work on a clubman without the rear light hole on the coupe bumper, so it was hard for me to imagine the solution, until I saw that you drilled through the rear license plate mount. It's a great system. Completely invisible!
     
  8. Tata Steva

    Tata Steva MINI of the Month - September 2010

    May 30, 2010
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    I was always wondering how do you lock the hitch once you slide it in? Is there a pin inside? How do you access it? Under the bumper?
    I am also looking doing this on my Club in the spring...
     
  9. CHKMINI

    CHKMINI Club Coordinator
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    I was referring to placing this how-to in the MA Library. That way we will have it as a reference going forward. Thanks for the information. :Thumbsup:
     
  10. thirdraildesignlab

    thirdraildesignlab New Member

    Sep 21, 2010
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    Thanks for reading it, allayall
    Throw this in the library, yes. Good idea!

    Tata, it takes all traditional hitch-mount tongues, from the familiar ball hitch to the bike racks, trailers, cargo platforms, etc. As long as you don't exceed towing capacity you're in good shape. It's 1 1/4 not 2": I sold my old rack to get a bigger one when I had the Element this past year, so now I have to sell THAT one and go back to the smaller size. Cotter pin through the tongue, yes. Accessed from underneath. That's always been the most inconvenient part, but it's a necessary evil if it's going to be concealed. My advice, from years using this design on s model MINI: let the heat shield and pipes cool down before you hop under there!
     
  11. Tata Steva

    Tata Steva MINI of the Month - September 2010

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    Thanks for confirming details!

    Hitch mount arrived few weeks ago, swinging plate hardware as well. Now, I need this f-in' snow and cold to go away so I can work outside.

    Can you check one more thing: what is the distance between 1 1/4 receiver edge and inside wall of the bumper (at the hole opening)?
    Just want to calculate the measures of how close my bike rack will sit in proximity to the rear of the car...
     
  12. Black Thirteen

    Black Thirteen New Member

    Aug 18, 2013
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    Thanks for the write-up and cool GIF pics. This gave me the courage to tackle the install myself. It wasn't nearly as difficult as I had planned. Instead of drilling a circular hole, I used a sharp knife, and cut out an exact 1-1/4" square from the plastic bumper cover and license plate plastic. I was worried about not getting the hole correctly centered, so this way I could slowly ensure exact placement.
     

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