JDM Sleeper Mini [Season Premiere]


We’re back! Mighty Car Mods is back! And this episode we’re building a mad sleeper mini. Welcome back to not just another episode but another year of Mighty Car Mods! If you were making babies when our first episode came out, you would have a 9 year old. Which is absolutely frightening, but this year, we’ve got some incredible and epic things planned. We’ve got overseas adventures. We’ve got big power builds; bigger power than you’ve ever seen on Mighty Car Mods before. We’re gonna be working on some absolute nuggets! We’ve got some DIY. And of course we’re doing some mythbusting and some other silly things. But how do you kick off such an extravagant and incredible season of Mighty Car Mods? I’ll tell you how! You build a sleeper Mini! Now why would you want to do that? Why not?! So let’s kick into the first episode of Mighty Car Mods this year. Building a mad sleeper Mini! This is my classic Mini. A version made specifically for the Japanese Domestic Market, which we found in Tokyo. This is, without a doubt, my all-time favourite car. The classic Mini is quite literally a classic and an icon of the 20th century. A little while back, my friend Miles and I decided to supercharge it with a kit that we got from England that was made in Germany. Miles has always had Minis in his life and he’s been working on cars since he was a little kid. His Dad was a master Mini mechanic and taught Miles everything he needed to know on how to work with them. Minis have been important in my family too. My very first car was a Mini and here’s my Mum with hers back in the 1960s. Once we’d finished supercharging my Mini, we tuned it to run on ethanol race fuel, and it has been awesome! But now, like most people with modified cars, I want more! More power. More reliability. And a fifth gear would be nice, too. So I’m heading up to Queensland to meet up with Miles at his workshop and this Mini is about to get some serious and substantial modifications. These J-Spec Minis are awesome and the only thing that’s really letting them down is power. We got around a 50% power increase with the addition of the supercharger and the E85 tune but now we’re taking it further. Much further. Now you may be wondering, what is the plan to make this super Mini super fast? Well, we’re doing a complete engine swap and no, this is not an engine from another Mini. This is an engine from a JDM Honda Civic Type R. This, is a B16B. A 1.6 litre naturally-aspirated performance engine with VTEC, from Japan. It has 185hp and redlines at 9000rpm. Now to put this into perspective, my Mini’s ‘A-series’ engine originally shipped from the factory with 60hp. There are numerous benefits to a Honda engine swap including reliability, performance, a 5-speed ‘box and a power-to-weight ratio that is going to be ridiculous. These Minis only weigh around 700 kilos so with an engine swap like this, it’s going to be off its face! Marty has arrived in his new car with an important piece of the puzzle. This is a B16 engine loom. We didn’t get one with our engine, so this one was sourced by Mechanical Stig and will be an integral part of the build. Our favourite Honda-hater, Turbo Yoda, is set to task stripping down the B16B engine while we strip the car of everything that’s gonna get in the way of installing the new engine. So the time has come to do a VTEC conversion on the Mini and it’s both exciting and painful because there was so much time and effort put into this first iteration of the Mini which is a supercharged Mini that runs on E85 and flex-fuel, the first one in the world. But I just want more power and I want to go faster, it’s as simple as that, really. Now there’s a number of different ways that you can go faster, with carbing Mini builds and there’s a whole world of that stuff going on. But I wanted to do something that involved a bit of the JDM heritage of this particular Japanese MIni and that’s why we’re putting in a B16B Honda Civic engine. Now that’s the first bit. The second bit is, how do we actually get it in there? And hence we have Miles here, Mini expert and engine conversion expert. And just all-round awesome guy. And he’s gonna tell you now how it’s done. Alright. How are we gonna do it? Obviously we’ve gotta pull this all out first, right?
-Yes, yup. Clean out the engine bay…
-Yup. No wiring…
-Nothing. No engine…
-Empty. Empty.
-Empty. Then an angle-grinder… Yes, angle-grinder. OK. And we’re gonna start… I bet all the Mini-people out there are just, bye… We’re not watching anymore! Angle-grinders?! So what have we gotta cut to actually fit it in there? What I believe, we’ll need to cut both of the inner-wheel-arch trims out. Ummm, on both sides because the engine is physically a lot longer than this We’ve got a gearbox hanging out the side of the new motor whereas with the Mini, it’s nice and compact underneath. So we need to make the motor fit in lengthways which the only way to do that is, yeah, is to remove the steel from inside of here. Yep. Ummm… We then…first of all, obviously, we need to take this motor out and get the original sub-frame out and get rid of it completely and then we’re gonna have a different sub-frame in the car that will house our new Honda motor and once it’s actually physically in there the rest of it is fairly straight-forward. It’s like any conversion of plumbing and wiring and bits and pieces. But the struggle is going to be fitting a very large, square peg in a round hole. Great. Alright! Let’s get to it! Sounds good. Buying engines from overseas is a lengthy process because Australia is a long way away and has strict quarantine laws but it is definitely worth it for something special like this. The real question, though: Now that it’s in the country, how do we get it in the car? It’s one thing to have a Mini and it’s another thing to have a 1.6 litre VTEC Honda engine from Japan but how do you actually combine the two together? Well, obviously it’s not just gonna fit as-is so you need a custom sub-frame which is exactly what I have here. So, this was supplied by Mini Mania and manufactured by MiniTech in the USA, so this here was specifically made for me and this particular project. I rang them up and said ‘Can you do, can you do this, can you make them?’ They said ‘Yep. We make them’. So they put this together. It took a couple of weeks and then they shipped it out to Australia. Now, this takes the guess-work out of it and it also has componentry for the suspension. So, I’ve got over here as part of this we’ve also got coilovers and all the other bits and pieces to actually make this fit inside a Mini and this here is manufactured specifically to fit the B16B engine from Japan. So, engine goes in this. Mini goes over the top of that. Very, very minimal cutting of the car required and externally it should still look exactly the same and we’ll end up with a proper mad sleeper Mini with VTEC unicorns. Now you’re gonna see and hear some things that you’re probably not gonna like very much, Mini bonnet. And to keep you safe, we’re putting you in here. Apparently, this is called a sausage roll, Martin. That, in there, that’s called ‘meat’. Why did it take so long before someone told me that animals taste so delicious? I don’t know. Would you go as far to say the facts it’s got a Honda badge on it upsets you or are we getting passed that slowly? He’s, he’s evolving, see some people stay exactly the same, Al doesn’t. He’s, he’s one of these higher beings, man, he, he gets the information he has and he makes intelligent decisions about it. I was just saying to Miles, ‘Have you got a really long screwdriver?’ and he’s like… Do you know why he has this? So this, this exists to drain the coolant out of a Mini. Do you remember, you and I have done this before Marty, when you’re like, one person in there and one person down there and, have you needed to use this for any other car? Nope.
-No. So we will now call this the Mini screwdriver. Do you reckon in the 60s, ‘cos I know a few people have noticed that you’re using an iPhone torch, do you reckon in the 60s anyone ever thought there would be a device in there that would be more powerful than the spaceship that just went to space a few weeks ago – ‘cos it’s 1969 that you would be shining a torch out the back of it and also playing candy crush and unwinding your radiator thing? And panda pop… Probably not Martin, and those people probably did like crazy things, like, had conversations with their mates, and, sat at dinner and chatted with their girlfriends and didn’t lie in bed just flicking the button on their phone. I’m flicking something else. What? What do you mean? What if…OK… let me put this another way, what if in another 50 years time is someone gonna be unwinding this thing… …what are they gonna be holding? Err, it’ll be me Martin. I’ll be using the iPhone 80 uh, and I’ll be using probably this same screwdriver ‘cos this, this is my forever car, mate, this is never going anywhere. So in 50 years, which will be season, what, 59 of Mighty Car Mods or something, we’ll do that. Deal? In 50 years, we’ll work on this car again?
-Sure. No, I’m actually serious. Make a deal, in 50 years we’ll work on this car? Done.
-We’re gonna look so old by then. We’re gonna be gross man.
-We’re gonna be in 3D and in VR and all this crazy stuff. I’m gonna need a bra by then. Around my balls, I mean. Here it goes. Do that, the bucket is catching, like, nothing. Oh wow. That’s not working very well. Maybe I should have given you the big one. We have a thing for that, I probably should have given you that. Now Turbo Yoda, I openly admit that I know very little about Honda engines. Have you worked on a Honda engine before? A couple. I’m not gonna ask you Honda-specific stuff because I don’t know the answer and, frankly, I don’t really care but what I am interested in is this, look at this. So, on the back it’s got the gearbox and then it’s got a driveshaft that’s like permanently attached. What’s going on here? Erm, that’s just to make the driveshafts even. So you don’t have unequal length driveshafts ‘cos torque-steer’s a problem on a front-wheel-drive car. So that is, that is done by Honda to prevent torque-steer? Umm, well yeah, to minimise it, yeah. It’s, umm, it’s just to make the driveshafts so the CV joints are in the same point on either side of the car. ‘Cos if you have one driveshaft that’s this long it’ll wind up more…
-Yep. And that doesn’t help with handling and that sort of thing. Umm, Volkswagen used to have one short shaft that was that round and a long shaft that was this round…
-Yep. …to try and make them wind up the same amount…
-Yep. But, yeah this is very common, it’s pretty much the way to do it on an engine like this. Something else I noticed about this engine, now this is, like the design is fairly modern, obviously to rev as hard as it revs and do what it does like it makes power and it’s a popular engine… Why do you think they put a distributor on it and not coil packs? To upset me, perhaps, but I’m not real sure. Do you reckon that’s cost-saving or do you reckon they just went, ‘It works’? Yeah, Honda does things their own way. The engineering is sound but they they do tend to do things the way that works for them and…
-Yep. If that’s on there, it’s obviously fine. Honda was ahead of their time with head design and that sort of thing so…
-Yep. But yeah, the electronic control side of things on Hondas is, well, it used to be sort of a bit behind… Yep. …some of the others because they probably didn’t need it because the engine efficiency was so high Right. …that they didn’t need to use fancy electronics to try and get the emission control and the power out of them. Exactly, yeah, exactly ‘cos so often this was all about emissions, right? Like, ‘cos it was like, OK it makes the target power and it doesn’t make too much pollution, sell it. Yep, that’s it. Do you like it? Scale of 1 to 10. I like it better than an SR20. Well said. A lot better. (mouths) What the f**k?! I’ll be able to re-use my aftermarket ECU once the new engine is installed. Harry’s dropped in to see Turbo Yoda and he’s all the way from the UK. I am, yeah. And we were here, too. And now we’re filming him and it’s super-awkward. This is pretty awkward, yeah. How does it feel, man, you get visitors from the other side of the world? Most of ’em are. From the other side of the world? How does it feel? It’s alright… I’ve got mixed feelings removing the supercharged engine. There was so much work in it but the thought of what will be replacing it is just way too exciting to ignore. My little finger is the only finger that fits in between the side of the engine and this sharp bit of the supercharger here. This finger, look at this… No. No. No. Yep. So there has been some talk of turbocharging this Honda engine but the fact is that I just don’t think we’re gonna need to. Now, when this car was delivered in its original form it had around what, 50 kilowatts? Yeah, 50 kilowatts at the engine.
-At the engine. and the B16b engine that we’re putting in is listed at what? 140.
-140kw. So, we’re adding 90 kilowatts. Which is crazy. And, was, pretty much, triple… We’re tripling the power. Not quite 1000%. But we’re tripling it. Do you think that’ll actually make your car over-powered? ‘Cos I mean, I’m asking the question, other people are asking the question, they’re thinking it. No-one’s thinking that. What we can do, with our Haltech, is we can actually have a number of different driving modes in there. So, we can have our 140 kilowatts, loads of power, spinning wheels, all sorts of crazy stuff set it up with different VTEC modes and stuff But you could also just make a valet mode where we can wind the car back so it’s got its kind of 35 or 40 kilowatts at the wheels and essentially, should just feel like a Mini again which means you could lend it to someone and just go ‘Cool, it’s on Mini-mode, this mode, that mode, that mode…’ You could have lots and lots of different modes. And that’s it, the supercharger is coming off, and the guys said they had a special place to store it for me. GIMME BACK MY SUPERCHARGER!!! Next we’re removing all of the ‘A-series’ engine wiring and the radiator fans. So this is it, everything that needs to be disconnected we think has been disconnected so it’s ready to raise the car up and the engine should stay exactly where it is and the rest of it should just elevate and we say goodbye to ‘A-series’ and hello to ‘B-series’. We’re placing a jack underneath the engine and then with the engine mounts undone we’ll be able to use the hoist to raise the rest of the car up. Hey, what do Mini owners and Honda owners have in common? Ah, yeh, Mini owners do it this way Honda owners do it that way, right? And that’s it, the engine is out. This is a quality example of the ‘A-series’ engine so it will live on, possibly for another project in the future. But for now, it’s all about the Honda and the real question: Will it fit my Mini? Because this B16 is second-hand, we thought now is probably the best time to open it up and have a look before it gets installed in the car. Dude, this motor is clean!
-Yeh, I know. It looks like it’s actually been serviced, and/or hasn’t gone very far. It looks like it’s new. It looks like it’s what?
-New. New?! Initial investigations suggest that somehow, this engine may actually be brand new. That’s what you want, man, when you buy a second-hand engine, that’s what you want it to look like. It’s gonna hit VTEC. Look it just hit VTEC. Oh, look, it’s doing VTECcy thing. The mystery of why the internals of this engine look brand new will have to wait because now we have another job to do. Cutting up the Mini. If you’re a die-hard classic Mini lover, you should probably close your eyes now for the next 15 seconds. With most of the bulky cutting done, now we can get the subframe and see if it actually fits inside the engine bay. This is gonna be a lot easier to do now, than when it has the weight of the engine in it as well. So this lets us see if everything lines up and what else may need to be cut off so that it fits properly. So we’ve just done a test fit of the subframe and what we’ve realised is there are a few things in the way. Some of them are big bits of metal that are attached to the body of the car, that we’re gonna have to cut off Other things are like the fuel lines over here, so when this, erm, when this new subframe goes up, it actually doesn’t clear all of these fuel lines, so, they’ve gotta get CHOPPED from underneath the car so we’re gonna raise that up and then we’re gonna have to re-locate all of those Other than that, with these fenders, like, the inner fenders gone, there’s actually a lot of room in here, it’s deceptive, actually, how much room there really is, so we’re gonna cut the fuel lines, we’ve gotta give a little CHOP down here, and then we’ll be one step closer to our mad VTEC Mini. Madness. The trick now is to keep cutting away any small parts of metal that are getting in the way of the new subframe. Now it’s just a matter of trial-and-eror and lifting up the subframe until everything lines up perfectly Our test fit is starting to look pretty good. Our next job: drain the fuel tank. Meanwhile, back at the engine, there’s still deep mystery surrounding how this engine could be brand new. What would you expect to see on a used motor that we’re not seeing now? Signs of combustion. Which it doesn’t have. So before we actually go to the effort of making sure that the engine fits inside this, I’m just gonna double-check that the mounts fit onto the engine ‘cos if they fit then we know we’re actually in business. Come on. It’s not ideal. Remember that time when we did the Honda ‘B-series’ engine and then the mount that’s for a Honda ‘B-series’ engine didn’t fit the Honda ‘B-series’ engine, d’ya remember that time? It does not fit… …the Honda. It literally doesn’t fit the Honda. Not wanting the build to grind to a halt, Marty and Turbo Yoda have headed off in search of Honda engine mounts at the local wrecker. And after searching every single Honda there, we’re sad to say that we’ve realised, there are a lot of different mounts out there and none of them are going to work for us. Even though we’re not yet in a position to permanently attach the engine to the subframe we’re going to give it a trial fit to make sure everything else lines up. So it turns out there’s actually a whole plethora
-Plethora… …of engine mounts for Hondas and over the years, this motor’s been in lots and lots of different Hondas Well, not this particular motor, but B16s have been in lots of Hondas and they all have slightly different methods of mounting up. Some that look like this, some that look like big cradle things, some that look like this but have a slightly different offset, all things that we are learning. That’s right, so this kit here came with what looks like it’s a DC5 engine mount here Ah, which has got a 3-prong setup, but the actual engine mount bracket on the side of the engine is 2-prong so you’ve got an option of either changing the engine mount or changing the bracket and I do believe, Martin, last night you went and met up with some Mighty Mods action. We put a post up on the Mighty Mods Facebook page and said ‘Does anybody have this?’ So we did a call-out and I drove about an hour south and this legend drove an hour north to meet me and we got this engine mount which should be better. It might still take some fiddling, we might have to mix and match our engine mounts and prongs and 3-prong, 2-prong, I don’t know, it’s Honda man, it’s Honda stuff. It turns out that the mount that Marty picked up from a Mighty Car Mods fan doesn’t fit either, so we’re just gonna put one bolt throught the supplied mount, so that we can continue working on the car. The engine will need to come out again, but now we’ve got the opportunity of putting the engine into the subframe, and then lowering the Mini frame over the top of it to see if it’s actually going to fit. So we’re doing a test fit of the engine, we don’t have all of the engine mounts and bracketry and stuff sorted out yet, but it is in position, so we’re just seeing if it’s… …if it’s gonna work. It needs to come forward a little bit on this side again, Miles. Yep. See if you can pull it forward against that… Looks like it’s almost fitting. Except this heat shield here on the exhaust is getting stuck on the front here. So, we’re gonna remove that and then try again. So what you are seeing here Ladies and Gentlemen is a B16B going into a Mini. This is happening. This is real. This is automotive perfection right here. Hold on, not quite. I’m frothing from multiple orifices at the same time. If you are wondering, does it fit my Mini? The answer is yes. The Honda engine fits. So now we can remove the engine and then finish off the rest of the installation of the subframe. As well as the engine upgrade, we’re also upgrading the suspension with a quality set of coilovers. So when you’re doing a big engine conversion on your mad little Mini it’s one thing to go, but it’s another thing to stop so here we’ve got a a big brake kit from Mini Sport in South Australia and, umm, this is going to give us the mad stopping power that we need when we’re VTECing like bosses at the race track. And in here we have some moisturiser which is the first thing anybody needs when they’re doing a big brake kit ‘cos it’s just gonna look so good. Already assembled. You’ve got your big brake kit. Which is going to look a little bit, like that. Slotted and vented. These are 4-pot. They’re big. And they’re ready to go. Mad. This Mini is going to be faster than anyone could have ever imagined, so a big brake kit is a must. And yes, as far as Minis go, this brake kit is huge. These are slotted, vented and made in England and we’ll pair them up with custom braided brake lines. So the brakes are on, the wheels are on, the subframe is in and all of that stuff is actually looking pretty good but the next step is actually getting out some, umm, I dunno, hacksaws and other cutting blades and other things that are gonna hurt many people’s feelings. And we’re gonna peel back the carpet, take out the dash, because the next big component of this install is moving the steering rack. Now on left-hand-drive Minis you don’t need to do it, but on right-hand-drive Minis, the whole steering rack has to move back further into the car and I say into the car ‘cos there’s nowhere for it to go except into the car because the gearbox of the B16 is getting up against it. Now how do you move a steering rack back when there’s metal in the way? You remove the metal. You cut it out. So we’re going to be cutting something probably about this size in the firewall. Moving the steering rack back into the car and then covering that back up. And, umm… It’s pretty epic, actually, with a car that is, like, this beautiful and of this quality but it’s what’s required if you want mad, VTEC, unicorn power. You need to…there’s gotta be some sacrifices. And in this case, it’s a large portion of the firewall. We’re fitting a very big engine in a very small space so it was expected that it was gonna be time-consuming and lots of trial-fitting and removing and re-fitting and the big thing with, anything you do, whether you buy a kit or whether you make it yourself, it doesn’t always just go in first time, you have to, sometimes, make your own arrangements, which, in this case, we’re having to do. And I mean it’s going to be a superb car when it’s finished, I mean the car looks really nice and it and it drives nice and this is just gonna be the final piece of the puzzle. It’ll now go as well as what it deserves to go. The next step is removing the dashboard and any components that are going to get in the way when we’re modifying the firewall. So as part of the process to relocate the steering rack, we actually need to get rid of the dash, get rid of the evaporator and also the heater matrix here, because, these are in the way of where we’re gonna need to cut and then weld. Now, when I first got this Mini, it was leaking a little bit of water down here undearneath so there’s also a little rust spot that we’re going to fix. But, I actually replaced this heater matrix here with Marty, which was a real pain-in-the-arse job to do. When we opened it up and had a look, it was absolutely chokkablock full of stop-leak so somebody had actually had a leak at some stage in the radiator, tipped it in, that system pipes through here, using this lever, it opens and closes, the hot water going through which gives you your hot air. It was a total pain-in-the-arse job to fix. These are really, really hard to get. And so we’ve gotta be careful that we don’t break it. The last time, we had to get one from overseas, they’re really, really difficult and really rare. So this has to come out, this has to come out, then we gotta pull the carpet back, and then the car will be ready for CHOPPING… to get the steering rack back out of the way because it’s a right-hand Mini, which is required so we can fit in the subframe kit and it might rub on the gearbox of the Honda. These things just… What seems like a simple thing, and this is not really a simple thing but you find when you’re doing these projects, one thing leads to the next and leads to the next and ends up being this game of wacky car mod chess where every move is reliant on other things that are happening. And in this case, the move is getting an angle-grinder and chopping the firewall out. With all of these components removed, this is as far as we can go until more parts arrive from overseas. So now, we have to wait. It sucks because these kind of parts, also with a car like this, you can’t just walk down to your local parts shop and get, you know, Oh I need a specialised, extended tie-rod end or I need a specialised, VTEC mini kit… Yeh… A lot of these parts are coming from overseas and that means if you don’t have the exact right bit and you say ‘Hey, I need a bit’, you’re waiting weeks. Yeh, so we’ve gotta get some parts in from America, possibly some parts from England, one or two bits from Japan, and a couple of parts which we think we might be able to get from Australia. So, it is a multi-cultural build. It’s the United Nations of Mini builds. And it’s as far as we can go, right now. Yeh, which is…I wanna do more! I wanna, I wanna do a VTEC skid. That’s it. For this part of Mighty Car Mods, Martin. We will not be beat. We will be VTECd. We will be delayed, but we will not be beat. We’re just like a human turbo-charger, Martin.
-Yeh. We’re just like, whizzing it up before we blow it out. Spooling up before it comes on boost and VTECs all over yourself.
-Yep. See you later, guys. It’s gonna be good, man. It’s gonna be so good. Just, just think of the first time, when you get the revs come up to like 5 thousand, all the way.
-I know. None of the boost.
-I know. It’s gonna be amazing. I love the lag and no boost. And when it changes on that different cam and makes a crazy noise and it’s coming out the back of this thing! Amazing. There he is! What a boss!
-Hmm, boss. I’d be in here going, ‘Ohh this thing doesn’t come out!’ and he was like ‘You’ve gotta squeeze it twice, twist it like 2 bits and then pull it out, just like you had to on the old Minis.’ Yeh. He’s a boss. Oh and thanks to Al as well, old Turbo Yoda. He got involved.
-He did. We’re done. That’s it. We’ll be back. We will be back. With a VTEC Mini. And we’ll take you with us.

About the Author: Michael Flood

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