As the new series of Wheeler Dealers hits our screens, we take a closer look at the first restoration and it’s one of Mike Brewer’s favourite classics!
Wheeler Dealers is back, and having returned to the UK and with a brilliant new mechanic – Marc ‘Elvis’ Priestley – the new series got off to a cracking start with one of Mike Brewer’s dream cars. Yes, it’s the Mk 1 Mini.
Owned by the same family since 1965, seller Andy explained that the iconic classic was called ‘Ethel’ after his grandmother, and while it was in great condition inside and out it hadn’t been used since 2006. The lack of clutch components was obvious, but with a new battery and spark plugs and fresh fuel Mike at least managed to get the Mini’s engine running. Bought for £10,000, it was time to head back to the workshop and get this great little car back to its best.
Elvis was just as excited about their first project, and set to work replacing the clutch master and slave cylinders – an easy job for the talented mechanic. But a road test revealed drum brakes that were in need of urgent attention, so it was time to swap them for more efficient discs and replace the CV joints.
In the meantime, Mike was tackling the exterior’s chrome trim and he had a clever plan. Instead of the traditional re-chroming process it was off to a specialist who could ‘spray’ a chrome finish onto the parts, and in no time the grille, bumpers, mirrors and hubcaps were looking brilliant.
The boys knew that the engine needed to be removed, but when Elvis discovered an article about two Australians who’d got their Mini 850 to reach 95mph a plan was hatched to make a few improvements. Which is why he headed off to friend and racing Mini legend Nick Swift’s tuning business Swiftune to make use of some specialist tools.
It was the cylinder head that was about to get all the attention, beginning with the fitting of hardened valve seats so the engine could run on leaded fuel. It would be fitted with uprated valve-gear, too, but before that Elvis set to work on polishing the head’s combustion chambers and then it was on to the age-old tuning method of ‘porting’.
Carefully enlarging the inlet and exhaust ports would improve the flow of gases and produce more power, and that would be helped by skimming the head to increase the compression ratio. And with a new camshaft, carburettor and exhaust manifold fitted the engine work was done and it was soon back in the tiny engine bay.
Elvis said: “Joining the Wheeler Dealers team was both daunting and exciting. Something I’m very proud but to get the first show under my belt is an enormous relief. Having the first show be a Mini added to the pressure knowing that it’s Mike‘s favourite car. But I feel like having the two of us work together we both did the Mini and the show proud. And now those first show nerves are over I just can’t wait for more. Bring it on!”
After a few other small jobs, and a bit of fresh paint to tidy-up items such as the wheels the sympathetic restoration of Mike’s dream classic was complete. His smile on the test drive said it all, but there was one last thing to do – see exactly how fast their Mini would go…
So it was off to a test track to be greeted by other Mini owners. The first run managed 80mph, but more was to come as Elvis set off solo and eventually coaxed the car up to 90mph. A brilliant result!
Mike said: “I remember the moment when Elvis crossed over the finishing line after reaching the dizzy speed of 90 miles an hour. His face full of joy said it all that with achieve something that we think is a British record. The frustration being that there was nobody there to adjudicate it officially. For me, the delight to see Elvis’ hard work on his first ever Wheeler Dealers was fantastic I know that we got an amazing future ahead.
As a confirmed Mini fan, Mike would love to have kept the car for himself, but it had to find a new owner and that was Richard. Paying the £14,000 asking price, he’d bagged himself one of the world’s best-loved classics at the end of a great start to the new series. We can’t wait to what the boys have got in store next…
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