“Finger Tight Malcolm” is the generic previous owner of your Mini who has bodged everything on your latest purchase, leaving ball joints and hub nuts done up ‘finger tight’ ready to kill you…
My first mini Bernard was subject to the ravages of Finger Tight Malcolm. But
as a Mini newbie I was unaware that FTM was the cause. Bernard cost £250 in
1993, he was an average 1976 ’998, in average condition. He was however also
constructed by Satan on a bad day.
Half way home an epic journey of about 4 miles the exhaust manifold clamp
fell off so I cruised home the rest of the way at about 10mph sounding like a
The next problem spotted was that the o/s rear shock was in fact a helper
spring from a hydro model.
Not exactly the same as the Monroe shock on the other side!!! On removal
of the spring, the radius arm dropped and the knuckle joint fell out as the
trumpet was cracked .
Whilst visiting a friend on a very rainy night (you know ,the type when the
floods come over the doorsills) I started to experience steering problems.
Cause:- no spilines on the bottom of the steering column.
A 10 mile trip completed at 10mph at midnight with a variable 5 to 10
turns lock to lock. Quite exciting
when the wipers can’t keep up with the rain.
Stop friends following too close:- Bernard was running real good with a new
stage 1 kit fitted, he was
quicker than Poddington (Ben’s green Clubby) and we were ‘racing’ that
local lanes. When we stopped at a petrol station Ben says ‘Jesus your car must
stick to the road like something or other, because I had to brake quite hard to
make some corners that you didn’t slow down for’.
It turned out that he would only use his brakes if I did.
Unfortunately we discovered that Bernard had a loose wire to the brake
lights. Hence Poddington was nearly upsidedowned by a couple of tight bends!!
Driving over the Meadway bridge at about 50, er no I mean 30, when the radio
stops. And the accelerator stops
working. And the indicators stop working. And there is a funny smell. And OH
BLOODY HELL there is loads of smoke. Screech
to a halt and put on the hazards – which don’t work. Doh. Open boot. Oh
good, more smoke. Disconnect
battery and allow to cool for 15mins. No grommet on positive cable through boot
floor. Oh well, rap in super insulating rags, restart and drive home.
Bernie – a great name if you car catches fire.
2 Days later working with the rear of the car jacked up.
Wheels and drums off to ‘ do the brakes’ when I realised that I can
smell petrol, so I took a look under the car to see a small trickle petrol
falling onto the mud heading down hill slowly towards a pile of garden waste 20
feet away. Unfortunately the pile
was a lighted bonfire. Upon opening the boot I discovered the spare wheel well
is full of petrol and decide that it may be time to act quite fast.
Quickest solution was to dig a trench ½ way to the fire to divert the
fuel down the hill then run away quite fast to find a hose pipe.
Got the bonfire out then washed all the petrol out of the boot &
replaced the fuel pipe. Lucky the
pipe didn’t split when the battery cable caught fire.
Took the boot lid off to respray, sprayed ok. Refitted ok. Car runs fine
until a week later when it won’t go after dark so get the nice AA man to take
me 50 miles home cause he can’t find the fault.
Next day I realise the wires to the number plate light are reversed
earthing the lights when you turn them on.
Fix it start out for work, driving along a dual carriageway when the car
decides to turn left sharply into a signpost because the track rod end has come
apart. So get another nice AA man
to take me home. As a result of the signpost heading through the front wing
and stopping just short of the front bulkhead - I have to get another mini.
But I will have Bernard for spares.
£150 gets me Mini #2 a 1970 850 which is quite reliable. For a week until
the clutch goes.
Bernard’s engine has been removed after cutting the scrap (front panels) away. During my first engine strip down I get struck by the MOWOG nut on the flywheel so give up on spilling the block & box. On reverse of disassembly everything is going quite dandy until the camshaft. I got the shaft in turning it to locate with the oil pump and hear a metallic tinkle. Pull the cam back out to find the pump drive pin missing from the end. It took 20 mins of rolling the engine around in the garden to shake the pin out through the gearbox. Put some thread lock on the ends of the pin and tried again only to hear a metallic tinkle. Of course I was getting used to it this time. Third time I used a centre punch to spread the ends of the pin so the bugger wouldn’t budge, that showed it.
Due to a dodgy brake master cylinder Mini #2 didn’t make a corner and bent a wing. So I cut the front off the car at the A panels removed the inner wings fixed the dent and made a flip front. The 850 came out dead easy using 2 trolley jacks & a plank and the 998 went in no trouble (for once).
Mini #3 Bob Cardigan, a 1985 Black Mayfair was my first mini with carpets and NO MAJOR FTMS, but was written off on the grounds of cost after boot lid and rear panel was dented while I was stopped at a roundabout. So I got a pile of insurance money & salvage of the car and fixed it in an afternoon. Then sold it to my brother for £400 and brought it back 1 year later for £250.
Mini #4 Doris. 1275GT. Didn’t mean to buy it but saw it in the paper for £300 and thought well could just have a look (and take some cash just in case). £250 down. 1 Mini up. Bloody heck. I should have gone 1275 before they are dead quick.
½ way from Kent to Manchester (280ish miles each way, third time Doris has
done this trip), start loosing power, burnt valve?… Stuffed rings?…
AA bloke fixes by replacing coil for £5.
Due to smoky running I whip the head off. Hmmm if the bores are any less
round I could fit Honda oval pistons. Hire a hoist remove and strip engine and off to Bill Richards
Racing. Rebore & pistons & bits to 1380cc please mister.
Here is a large pile of cash. Rebuilt and refitted myself OK. Then
realised I had forgotten to fill the oil pump with lard or summat.
Remove oil pipe to filter stick in bit if hosepipe and suck like buggery.
Can’t get any oil through. So try again while cranking the engine. VROOOM –
AAAHHH – GURGLE. I should have
disconnected the ignition. Cos when the engine is running the oil come out of
the hose quicker than you can drink it!
Oil pressure OK so run the cam in, engine getting warm & burning off the
spilt oil etc 10 mins later quite a lot of white smoke followed by quite a lot
of yellow flames. Followed by a
quick sprint for the hosepipe. Phew to close!
The pipe to the oil pressure gauge had split squirting oil onto the
Fitting braided pipes. Found that two flexible fittings were seized so had to remove with angle grinder then make 2 sections of pipe & find the flaring tool & remember how to work it! All day for a 1 hour job.
When fixing the radius arm bearing on Doris the 2 captive bolts in the sub frame sheared and had to have nuts welded back in place.
On another one of those long trips to Manchester I noticed a bit of a wobble over 60mph. Stopped car. Checked wheel bearings – OK. Wheels all felt tight so carried on with no problems. The next day in Manchester I spotted that the cause of the wobble. I had left the socket on the locking wheel nut on the front wheel. Tenacious little blighter to stay on for 280 miles at 70mph!
Still I wouldn’t swap them for anything. Except maybe more mini’s.
From here, dear reader, the plot thickens and is mostly chronicled in the diary on www.v8mini.co.uk, where Doris undergoes a 3.5l V8 transplant...