Mike Guido’s gorgeous Nissan V6-powered, front-engined, rear wheel drive Mini kicks both ass and arse.
Mike Guido is on the mad side of the modified-Mini world, but is in other ways very sane. He thinks that tobacco and drinks company executives are little better than murderers, as they market lethal drugs to children. His logic is inescapable: consider the real purpose of alcopops. In response, he created an anti-drug campaign featuring The World’s Fastest Clown. As the Clown, he raced a factory 240SX for Nissan, in full clown make-up and a fireproof clown suit. He says that gave him a real edge on the track: if he bumped somebody from behind and they looked in their mirror to see a clown grinning at them, the momentary loss of concentration was all Mike needed to get past.
The mad racing clown also put on an effective anti-drug show for schoolchildren. As he’s mad but cool, he got through to them where advice from boring and uncool parents and teachers doesn’t, and he has probably saved quite a few young people from unpleasant but profitable deaths.
Nissan pulled out of racing, and the Clown discovered an innovative American budget race series where you can only spend $2000 on your car. Minissan was originally intended for this budget race series, but instead evolved into a show car that is used to attract attention to the Clown’s let’s-not-kill-children message.
Four years and 4000 hours later, here it is. The shell is from 1962, and is the mortal remains of Mike’s first Mini. He has in the past persuaded A-series engines to kick out remarkable power, but that’s hard work. A scrapyard Nissan V6 with a cam and a Nitrous bottle costs peanuts – about the same as a week’s holiday in Florida. Which Mike doesn’t need as he lives in Florida anyway.
Front wheel drive wasn’t really an option for this car. Serious power means that weight shifts to the back, so you mostly get smoke and noise rather tjhan rapid acceleration. A Nissan 240SX provided the necessary rear axle.
The front end geometry and suspension of Minissan remains basically Mini, but Mike had to learn much steering tech to get the right rack height. He used a standard RHD Mini steering rack, mounted low. Rack height is critical in any car, and getting it wrong results in bump-steer and vicious steering kick. The car was originally left hand drive, but that didn’t work with the new mechanicals. He even got the Ackerman angle right, which is the degree to which the inner front wheel steers more than the outer front wheel when cornering. That angle is not critically important as it mostly means minor tyre scrub when parking, but it’s revealing that he took the trouble to research it and sort it out.
The back end of Minissan took a lot of sorting out. Minissan’s rear end is the independent diff, shafts and subframe from a Nissan 240SX, narrowed by 12”. The half-shafts were each chopped by 6”: they’re so short that the rubber boots are touching. The rear suspension struts are 240SX front strut cartridges modified to work as rear struts, and the front shock absorbers are from a Yamaha R1 bike. The springs are a massive 550lbs all round, so it’s weird that Minissan feels so drivable. When power is applied, the back squats for more grip. Front-to-back weight distribution is a virtually perfect 53% front, 48% back.
With a mid-front mounted V6 and independent rear wheel drive, the original monocoque structure of the Mini was mostly redundant, and its contribution to rigidity was replaced/enhanced by a rollcage/spaceframe chassis that provided mountings for everything, which was constructed in and around the Mini shell. It remains a steel Mini and some of the shell is still structurally useful. The rollcage passes through the body in several places. As much of the original Mini was used as possible – it’s still a Mini rather than a plastic lookalike shell on a rollcage. The remaining inner wings still feature spot-welds from 1962, deliberately left original and imperfect to make the point.
The detailing is obsessive. Each of the welds that passes through the Mini shell was ground, sanded, wet’n’dried, guide-coated, primed, wet-sanded and finally covered in rich red paint.
The fat wheel arches and other body panels are scratch built. That meant mentally creating the shapes, then fabricating them in 3D, then perfecting them, then taking moulds and making the panels.
Cooling required attention. The boot is the worst place on a car to put a radiator, but it was the only space available. The bootlid has more holes in it than global warming theories, the radiator is vast and the electric cooling fan is 17” in diameter. It’s very effective, taking ten seconds to clear most of the heat out of the radiator at full blast.
The car all worked straight out of the box, a testament to the five ‘P’s. (Proper Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance.) There’s some room for tuning with suspension and geometry settings, but only in detail.
Even though he’d just spent 4000 hours perfecting Minissan, Guido threw me the keys. The clutch is an on-off switch, but apart from that the car is a pussycat. The steering is light and sensitive, the throttle is progressive, and the handling for such a short and powerful car is sublime. I punched it halfway round a corner to see what would happen, really invited it to bite me – but it just scrabbled very briefly, grabbed its grip again and spat me out of the corner pointing the right way, no bother.
The engine has since been tuned, and the punch is even more explosive now, with a nice mix of torquey V6 3-litre grunt and some useful bhp when the engine starts roaring. Power is something like 225bhp, with another 150bhp nitrous injection system available in case of boredom. The cam is mildly rude, as is the exhaust note, but the car remains genuinely streetable. The engine is secondhand from a junkyard, and imagination rather than dosh was applied. The intake was modified from a late 1980s injected Nissan pickup, with a Holley spacer plate welded to it.
Mike’s wife Rhonnie has been behind him all the way, including making the carpets, hand-polishing several hundred little stainless steel screws, and putting up with her kitchen and house being crammed full of Minissan bits for several years: so she absolutely deserves the shorty Mini she’s been promised.
Engine: Nissan 300ZX VG30 2998cc V6, steel block, alloy OHC heads. Lightened harmonic balancer, Schneider cams with 0.427” lift, 270 duration, advanced 3 degrees. MSD Digital 6 distributor with magnetic pickup, NGK plugs, Accel leads, Holley 500CFM 2-barrel carb with K&N filter on modified injection inlet manifold from 1980s Nissan truck. Standard exhaust manifolds, single 12” silencer, 150bhp nitrous oxide system, Mocal 18-row oil cooler, 19” x 27” x 3” radiator with 18” electric fan. Carter 7psi race fuel pump, 100-amp mini alternator, aluminium flywheel, ACT 6-puck race clutch.
Gearbox: 1990s 300ZX 5-speed manual.
Transmission: narrowed independent Nissan 240SX diff, driveshafts and subframe with viscous LSD, 4:1 final drive ratio.
Suspension: Front, Mini subframe with 1.5” removed from towers. Standard upper arms, 1.5 degree negative camber lower arms, HD adjustable tie rods. Yamaha R1 monoshocks with 550lb springs. 0.75” adjustable anti-roll bar. Rear, ex-240Z front Koni strut cartridges, modified, with 550lb springs. 0.75” adjustable anti-roll bar.
Brakes: Mini pedal box, Geo Metro (Chevrolet) master cylinder and servo. Adjustable front/rear bias. Handbrake from 1967 Austin-Healey Sprite, cables from 240SX. Front, Outlaw 4-pot aluminium callipers with 9” vented discs, Performance Friction pads. Rear, 240SX non-vented discs.
Wheels/tyres: all Diamond steel. Road wheels, front; 7J x 13 with Sumitomo HTR200 175/50 x13. Rear, 7J x15 with Sumitomo HTR50Z 205/50 x 15. Race wheels, front; 8J x13 with Hoosier 225/40 x 13. Rear, 8J x15 with Hoosier 225/45 x 15.
Interior: Aluminium race seat, 5-point Safe Quip racing harness, custom cage, Smiths oil pressure, water temp, fuel pressure in custom pod. Auto Meter tacho, water temp warning, MSD shift light. Hurst gear lever. Brake bias handle. Detachable steering wheel. Detachable nitrous bottle and frame alternate with Rhonnie’s passenger seat and harness.
Exterior: Fibreglass doors and flip front, home-made flares/air dam/side scoops/bootlid/bonnet scoop.