The Phoenix - The GP Roadster Project

Discussion in 'Car Builds, Projects, Idea's Experiments' started by BlimeyCabrio, Jun 24, 2014.

  1. BlimeyCabrio

    BlimeyCabrio Oscar Goldman of MINIs
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    #1 BlimeyCabrio, Jun 24, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2014
    Figured I should start a thread to document this a bit better than the teasers I've posted in my garage.

    When I bought Blimey 7.5 years ago, it met my criteria as (a) a fun car with (b) a convertible top and (c) a backseat that I could occasionally put two young kids into, when needed (7 and 10 at the time). He served me well as my daily driver for over 7 years and nearly 150k miles. In that time, my kids outgrew the back seat. I retired him earlier this year from daily duty, and he became my dedicated "fun" car.

    Also over the past 7.5 years, my love for driving, uh, SPIRITEDLY on twisty roads has intensified. To the point of insanity. I know that Blimey is (relatively) heavy and slow, with his awesome automatic convertible top, lots of extra steel to make that work, and auto tranny. But he's also an absolute blast to drive in the twisties. I decided that, in his retirement, he should be all he could be. And spend a lot more time on the track and on hill climb courses. :Thumbsup:

    Since the MINI Roadster was introduced, I've thought about what's right and wrong (to me) with those cars. It's a nice car, and I have friends who love theirs (and I want them to remain friends), but it's just not for me. I felt like the ultimate MINI roadster would be more like a cross between the 1st gen GP, and the 1st gen Cabrio. Two seater, high performance, cleaner lines than the cabrio with the top down (no go-kart back seat hoops), real roll-over protection, and have the shape of a MINI when the top is up.

    So I decided to turn Blimey into one. Hence, The Transmogrification of Blimey.

    Now, it's not like he was stock or anything when I started this. You can see all the stuff that's in there in my garage: http://www.motoringalliance.com/forums/member-garages/13212-blimey-2006-mini-cooper-s-convertible.html#axzz35b9bosHN

    Here are a few "before" photos:
    0e7773bf3e13fcaa018b1110d4a158f8_zps1509d186.jpg 44fc235ece267998385e4aa290ae6546_zpsfc13fb9e.jpg 95ce9fd246284e8e59b5df3b72d5b688_zps1eada367.jpg

    Step One - becoming a two seater. The rear seat delete on a cabrio is a bit of a pain... there are a lot of bolts in really awkward places. And getting rid of the rear seat also means getting rid of the headrests... and the roll hoops.
    3E209EA6_zps3f60b007.jpg

    Of course, that also means making it a deathtrap with no rollover protection... but that won't be a risk for long. Removing the massive aluminum OEM roll bar assembly also makes the rear of the car considerably less stiff. But I also have a plan for that. And that roll bar assembly is where the boot shelf hangs (that protects the rear window when the top is down). For now, it's hanging by a piece of strategically-placed paracord. But a long-term solution to that is in the plans, also.

    But getting rid of that stuff means a much cleaner shape to the bathtub... er, I mean car.
    C9C80D4A_zps4109b160.jpg
     
  2. BlimeyCabrio

    BlimeyCabrio Oscar Goldman of MINIs
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    #2 BlimeyCabrio, Jun 24, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2014
    Step Two - more appropriate seats.

    I looked long and hard at A LOT of seats. Dozens of brands/styles.
    Requirements:
    • Fit my wide physique
    • Fit in the car
    • Not too tall
    • Harness slots
    • Anti-submarine strap slot
    • Reclinable and comfy for the road, but reasonably aggressive for the track.
    • Black alcantara or microsuede

    I finally settled on the Corbeau LG1, with sub slots, dual-locking sliders, Corbeau MINI-specific brackets and drivers-side heater (hey, gotta be comfy when it's cold out). This was a bit of a risk, as (a) I had never seen these seats, except in pictures, (b) I had never sat in this seat, and I'm fatter than the suggested "max waist size", (c) as far as I know, no one had fitted them in a MINI, and (d) if I ordered them modified with sub slots, they were NON RETURNABLE if they didn't work out. Oh well, YOLO.

    When I unboxed one, unwrapped it, and sat my fat butt in it... it was a moment of great joy. I fit in the seat, and it was comfy. When I sat the seat in place in the car, and it fit between the door and the tunnel... more joy. When I finally got them installed fully (with a bit of modification to shift the seats 1/2" inboard)... HUGE joy.

    1C4B8AE8_zpsac7b12ee.jpg

    I cut the airbag plugs off my old seats and soldered in 4 ohm resistors... no more airbag lights. Instead of transferring the seat occupancy sensor (at least for now), I've taped over the passenger occupancy light on my chrono pack gauge face. I currently have these working fine with the OEM seat belts and pre-tenstioners... but plan to change that in the near future.

    I still need to wire the seat heater, or get it to work with the OEM wiring. Or replace the heater with the one out of my old driver's seat. Decisions, decisions.

    Now having driven a bit in these seats, I REALLY LOVE THEM. Really comfy, really supportive, much lighter than the OEM seats. Only negative is that they don't have infinite recline adjustment like some of the high end Sparcos and Recaros. But I can live with that.
     
  3. MCS02

    MCS02 Moderator
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    It's looking great! It's going to be even funner than before. But who's the ugly dud standing next to it. :D
     
  4. BlimeyCabrio

    BlimeyCabrio Oscar Goldman of MINIs
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    #4 BlimeyCabrio, Jun 24, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2014
    Transmogrification Step 3 - the point of no return.

    I've been really limited in my track time in this car, because of the lack of "real" rollover protection. VIR requires a real roll bar in all convertibles, except for a very few with proven factory rollover protection. So do time trial and hill climb sanctioning bodies (NASA, SCCA). So I needed to fix that.

    But, AFAIK, no one makes a "production" aftermarket roll bar for this car. I spoke with the Hard Dog folks about it several years ago. They were interested at the time, but I think that interest has waned, as they didn't return messages recently.

    So I took the car to my friends at Performance Chassis in Cary, NC. Mark Cooper (the owner) spends almost all his time prepping track cars. Mark is also the tech/safety director of the Tar Heel Sports Car Club, and inspects cars for VIR and other tracks. So he knows what it takes to pass tech.

    Mark had done work on MINIs before, but had never done a roll bar in a MINI convertible. AFAIK, NO ONE has. So we had to figure out a design. He had a Scion in the shop when I visited with a full cage he was finishing up. I said that I basically wanted the back half of that cage, with double diagonal bracing, and with the top of the main hoop diagonal moved as far left as practical to open up rear view in the mirror.

    I had to strip the rear interior so Mark could do his work. I also needed to get the driver's seat in first, so he could build around the seat position and shoulder height. Only took him two days once I dropped the car off. He did a great job.

    C811E97C_zps2a87f596.jpg
    BF6EDAAE_zps1e9dee09.jpg

    Great junction of four 1.75x0.095 steel pipes behind my head.
    6B5B039B_zps351c95c4.jpg

    Industrial-strength front reinforcement plates, tied to the thick steel of the seat belt mounts.
    268FF27C_zpsc1865ac2.jpg

    Rear plates welded to the structural box between the boot and the back seat area, where the back seat attached.
    3CD5AB70_zps00dbd630.jpg

    With reclining (really any non-homologated) seats, I would need a seat-back brace for time trials. Mark could have welded in a fixed position one, but I opted for a nice aluminum Brey-Krause brace with weld-on brackets. Mark positioned it perfectly.
    C342AEF6_zpsb3610084.jpg

    Step 4. Just needs paint. VHT Roll Cage & Chassis paint, satin black.
    20675040_zpsd9b6dfa6.jpg
     
  5. BlimeyCabrio

    BlimeyCabrio Oscar Goldman of MINIs
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    That's Mark Cooper. He'll kick your azz. :devil:
     
  6. BlimeyCabrio

    BlimeyCabrio Oscar Goldman of MINIs
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    #6 BlimeyCabrio, Jun 24, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2014
    Step 5: Lightweight battery.

    I've had an Optima Red Top for the past 5 years or so. Great battery, but heavy. Since this isn't a car that's going to sit outside a lot in the winter, travel a lot, need to run the stereo or accessories for hours... a lightweight battery would be a good way to save 20-25lbs.

    A Braille 15lb battery should be plenty reliable for my use (the car lives on a Battery Tender all the time now). But those batteries are kinda expensive. Several folks said that the Braille 15lb battery was just a Deka ETX20L 15lb battery with stickers on it. So I bought the Deka for $90 and added the same terminals the Braille uses for $10.

    Packed around it in the OEM battery box using custom-cut chunks of yoga block foam. These things are great. Easy to carve with a hacksaw, just the right amount of "give", and available in any color.

    66a600b8-c235-4aaf-8fbc-1223bd41c2fa_zps87c172b8.jpg

    The small black cable connected to ground and hot is the Battery Tender pigtail. I just plug the car in when I park it. The multi-colored cable is my trailer wiring.

    Starts the car with no drama. I even ran the top up and down on the battery several times, and then started it. No drama. All good.
     
  7. BlimeyCabrio

    BlimeyCabrio Oscar Goldman of MINIs
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    #7 BlimeyCabrio, Jun 24, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2014
    Step 6 - interior refitted
    08A6EB99_zps9c6f1434.jpg

    Still have some tricks up my sleeve to improve this part.

    The GP Roadster is starting to take form. Still some work to do. More updates forthcoming.

    70D417E4_zps2f18b68a.jpg

    Oh yeah, forgot to mention some of the other stuff I've done since MOTD:
    • Had my broken header flex joint replaced (again).
    • Replaced worn-out JCW exhaust with Milltek (noticeably more Tq)
    • Replaced leaky coolant reservoir with RMW aluminum tank
    • Replaced worn-out tires with Dunlop Direzza II, 225/50R16, with front 5mm spacers and longer wheel bolts.
    • Replaced Evap system carbon filter (it was due).
     
  8. DryMartini

    DryMartini New Member

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    Looking Great! And, looking forward to your future updates and pics.
     
  9. eMINIparts

    eMINIparts Well-Known Member
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    WOW!! :eek6: What a change....Very Cool.........:cool:
     
  10. UKCoopeR

    UKCoopeR Active Member

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    Cool stuff, subscribed! :Thumbsup: Despite being in VA I have only been to VIR in other people's cars (I am much closer to Summit Point). I hope to bring my mini down next year provided it is up and running again, as it is a fun track. Seats/harness/rollbar are next up for me. Good luck on your project!
     
  11. ScottinBend

    ScottinBend Space Cowboy
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    Love builds like this.....great job.
     
  12. Mr. Jim

    Mr. Jim Mudshark
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    Great job!
     
  13. TheModFather

    TheModFather Well-Known Member

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    Yeah buddy!

    You need somebody who does good fiberglass work... ;)
     
  14. BlimeyCabrio

    BlimeyCabrio Oscar Goldman of MINIs
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    Definitely an idea I had too... but fiberglass is heavy. :)
    I think I'm going to go simple and light on the RSD, ala k-huevo. Gives me a good place to tie down my spare. Carpet arriving today for that.

    And I have one more piece of metal fab work and some canvas work planned...
     
  15. TheModFather

    TheModFather Well-Known Member

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    Thats a name I haven't heard in a long time... I actually thought Keith dropped off the MINI radar.

    A stretched canvas rear cover for the bathtub will look pretty good though.
     
  16. GokartPilot

    GokartPilot Well-Known Member

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    Haha, never thought of it as a bathtub, uummm :idea:

    Subscribed! Great project :Thumbsup:
     
  17. BlimeyCabrio

    BlimeyCabrio Oscar Goldman of MINIs
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    Yeah, when you pull all the seats out of the cabrio, it is REALLY like a bathtub. Kinda funny.
     
  18. BlimeyCabrio

    BlimeyCabrio Oscar Goldman of MINIs
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    I think you see my vision. :Thumbsup:
     
  19. GokartPilot

    GokartPilot Well-Known Member

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    #19 GokartPilot, Jun 25, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2014
    That would be pretty cool. I have always liked the old tonneau covers that could also cover the co-pilot's spot.

    Maybe resem"bling" a Union Jack???? :ihih:
     
  20. TheModFather

    TheModFather Well-Known Member

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    Not sure how its going to look with the current blue paint, but I bet we are thinking along the same lines.

    My vision involves removing all the mechanisms for the soft top too, but that is about as practical as a 3 wheeled Morgan. :)
     

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