Fresh This Week

Fresh this Week we are writing a report for the Events section on the first Fall Escape rally around the Okanagan valley. MiniResto is also recovering from organising the Twilight Navigation, a two-hour evening tour of vantage points around Vancouver, from which the Vancouver Mini Club and some assorted chums admired their home city and reflected how lucky they are to be living in it.



Fresh last week we were recovering from a 1200km trip to the interior – the first Fall Escape organised by the Vancouver Mini Club.

Rolls is not entirely waterproof, so travels with its own garage.

Rolls is not entirely waterproof, so travels with its own garage.

With both Minis hors de combat – Bubble the Canadian-spec 1000 is too rusty and disreputable to drive on Collector plates, and the Mini Marcos is as yet unassembled – a friend with a 1937 Rolls was invited to join the rally instead. It’s about the last in the season, apart from a couple of one-day events, and technically snow tyres or chains are required for driving to and in the interior of BC. The Rolls-Royce’s Thrupp and Maberley old-lady bodywork is elegant but hefty, so 50mph as about as rapid as she gets, although the same speed can be maintained in the same gear going up mountains.

The RR is a 1937 20/25 with a cruising speed of about 50mph - but the Minis politely waited for it to catch up.



Fresh last week was the arrival of the first author copy of the Ultimate Mini Restoration Manual, which is now about to ship. So as is the way of these things, the next edition starts here and now, with Bubble’s bubbles the focus of attention. The first edition of MiniResto featured two massive and expensive shell restorations, so Bubble is going to be a rolling budget repair job instead. It will be properly repaired, but it won’t be restored. It will also be repaired a section at a time, and kept on the road throughout.

This is what happens when somebody resprays a car over filler and then it lives outside for a decade…


Fresh last week was the final PDF image of the entire book, which has now been sent off for printing. I woluldn’tgo so far as to say it’s finished, but at some point the publisher has to draw the line.

Fresh the previous week was the leaving to the last minute of running the Twilight Navigation, resulting in Vancouver Mini Club’s Web Minister being a couple of thousand miles away and unable to update the membership on the event details … so attendance might be thin. Never mind, it’ll work better in the Autumn, when darkness falls at a more convenient time, so it’ll probably run again in a couple of months.

The faint footfall of deadlines tiptoeing past echoes through the corridors of Toad Hall, as the photos and captions for the new book on Triumphs slowly take shape. Onward and upward.

Vitesses used to be my default car during the 1970s. Nice to be writing a book about them.

Vitesses used to be my default car during the 1970s. Nice to be writing a book about them.

Fresh least week was news from Vancouver Mini enthusiast Simon Austin, who has been building a nice Mini with an engine built from a 1275 block imported by Ayrspeed from Alex and Susie at the Properjob Garage in Somerset. The car was recently started up for the first time, and this major event was captured and loaded on to youtube for posterity. The link is in the Video Lounge.


Iain's crumbling Mini

Iain’s crumbling Mini

Fresh this week is the delivery of the finished manual’s manuscript to Veloce Publishing, preparing for publishing and a print run of 2000 in July of 2015. 

Fresh this week is having a crack at Scribus, the open source desktop publishing program. The idea of paying a monthly tax to Adobe is not one that appeals, and on the positive side they will be encouraging alternatives to arrive and thrive. 

Fresh this week – has been about as fresh as Queen Victoria, as the poor old MiniResto website has been left at the back of the garage for several months. However, just like Bubble the Mini, it happily started up again when the key was turned. Part of the delay has been head-down work on completion of the printed manual part of the project, which is now pretty well finished and has been sent to the publisher at Veloce for his comments. The site is next for consideration, and while WordPress is a fine tool, there is going to have to be proper design. Luckily Steve Ives my art director and wingman from my years in the advertising world ( is still the other half of the freelance Porker Squadron so we will be seeing some serious talent applied to my drivelling.   



This lot was chopped out of Wilson Dos Santos’s immaculate Mini


Fresh this week – August 11, 2014 – is actually stale this week. Miniresto the Webmag has been pushed to the side of the road as general writing and the grunt labour of writing Miniresto the Book have taken over. The deadline is September. I have committed to delivering the finished book to my publisher Veloce on my next UK trip, so getting each chapter fully finished with the photographs all shot and captioned has taken up whatever time is available. We’re on the home stretch now, though – it has to be finished in the next couple of weeks, then once it’s at the printers it’ll be time for the website. Hasta la wisteria, innit.   



Fresh this week is a copy of InDesign and a MacBook hooked up to a monitor, which means that The Magazine will soon look like a magazine. We designed our gourmet dogfood book Dinner with Rover with Veloce Publishing, and we still have the software on the Mac. WordPress is a remarkable tool, but you really need a proper design programme to get magazine pages to look good. 

There are a good few stories stacked up waiting for artworking, so watch this space. 

Haynes has published a new edition of my Mad Minis book in paperback and for half the price of the hardback. Available from Haynes, Amazon, and orderable through all bookshops that have any style and self-respect.

Mad Minis 2 copy


Thought for the week: A Canadian has been arrested in Berlin for giving a joke Nazi salute. I submit that it should indeed be illegal for a German or an Austrian to give a Nazi salute, but that Polish, British, Canadian, South African, Indian, American, French, Australian, New Zealander, Czech,  Russian, Belgian, Greek, Cypriot, Norwegian, Dutch, Yugoslavian and Zimbabwean people are entitled to go to Berlin and give a joke Nazi salute if they feel like it.

Fresh This Week, if the exigencies of loading Word docs onto WordPress can be focussed on and meaningfully related to, is a report from a Minis-and-Scooters meeting at the Ace Cafe in London. This was quite fun, but I didn’t stay too long as my rental car was parked in a side street in Stonebridge Park out of sight, and expecting it to remain intact or even still there for long would be optimistic. As my luggage was in it and my soon-departing return flight to Vancouver required me to show up at Gatwick, ideally still with some luggage, I kept the visit short and sweet, checked in with MiniMag chums, grabbed a few snaps and shot off.

The Ace meetings are rather fun, with a lot of variety – there are new clean Jap bikes, old incontinent Brit bikes, and the automotive entertainment of the evening, which might be Minis or hot rods or VWs or whatever. If you live within reach, check out their schedule at


Thought for the week: reading William Golding’s Lord of the Flies is an excellent contraceptive.


Fresh last week was a report from contributor Alan Margison about Mini Meet West 2013. Quite often Mini Meets West are held in ferociously hot places such as Hood River where the temperature hovered around a hundred degrees – but the Oregon meeting involved a blizzard with driving snow going sideways across a bleak mountaintop car park, so there was more chance of a cracked block than a burst radiator. 


Fresh last week was an Air Transat cattle-class flight to the UK to talk to Veloce, future publishers of The Mini Restoration Manual and therefore the midwives of MiniResto. Also scheduled was a chat with a serious art director about logoes and design. Fortunately the man in question is happy to be paid in gin and sluts. The ProperJob Garage in Somerset is also due for a visit, and there will be discussion about a diary section in MiniResto. Chat is ongoing with a potential ad director, and the plan for a shiny web-magazine double-page flip app rumbles on. 



Fresh last week in Miniresto, in the Magazine section… was Spring Thaw Virgin, a story about Warwick Patterson of Classic Car Adventures and his much-livened-up 850 Mini. Now equipped with a 1275 and an attitude, it was inevitably finished the day before the event and driven to the start at 2AM. Which left an easy 7 hours to check the fluids, tighten the nuts and count the wheels, and even grab a bit of kip.


Thought for the week: The secret of a happy life is continually lowered expectations.  


Also fresh this week is a spot of outrage at the thought of local councils in the UK extorting money from householders by making them apply for “planning permission” to rent out their front gardens to commuters for off-street parking.

The fee for this “planning permission” is several hundred pounds, and the fine for not complying with this protection racket is tens of thousands. This was revealed in a brief, mild newspaper piece, about the government saying councils shouldn’t be doing this.

This extortion should be reported to the police as a crime – it seems pretty straightforwardly over the edge into criminality. Give us money or we’ll send the boys round and your little business will owe us twenty grand.

Croydon Council extorted money from me once in a similar parking scam, and I kicked up a stink, upsetting everybody I talked at, and publicly accusing their chief constable of cowardice. They chickened out and gave the money back. This is what happens when you challenge bullies. The junior penpushers say “It’s not my fault, I just work here.” That’s not good enough. If you work for and represent a bunch of thieves, you’re a thief too. Get the junior thieves’ names, their boss’s name, and his boss’s name, and take the thieving accusations message to the top: make them pay in stress for trying to steal your hard-earned.  I threatened to formally report the Croydon thieves to their own police in the presence of television cameras, and to name the chief thieves in print. With thieves and bullies, you have to make the consequences of continued bad behaviour disproportionately unpleasant in order to teach them civilised behaviour.  

Householders and car drivers are attacked simply because they’re an easy mark. If you don’t turn as nasty as possible and train these thugs not to steal your money, there is no end to it until the only option is revolution or emigration. In which case I recommend Canada.




Fresh last week was progress sideways rather than forwards in the world of Minis, as the Chevy and the 1938 MG took priority. The pre-war MG was restored by amateurs in the 1980s, and has been much buggered about. The engine is from a later car, and that has affected the steering, of which one link hits the bottom of the engine on lock. I’m hoping that replacing the flat, rock-hard, crusty and ancient engine mounts with new rubbery mushroom-shaped ones will lift the engine up enough to clear the steering. 

Pre-war MG Midget is a direct ancestor of the Mini-engined 1960s Midgets

Pre-war MG Midget is a direct ancestor of the Mini-engined 1960s Midgets


It's something of a luxury to be able to climb inside the engine bay to fix things.

It’s something of a luxury to be able to climb inside the engine bay to fix things.

The old Chevy is about as opposite to a Mini as it’s possible to get. It’s a 1958, and is 17.5 feet long and nearly seven feet wide. It weighs 3500lbs and has a 6-litre V8, out of a fast 1980s Camaro, with a four-speed overdrive autobox. However, it’s surprisingly economical if cruised rather than thundering, and as I have no commute as such, it’s going into daily-driver service. Might as well drive something way cool to Safeway as something dull.

Fresh last week was progress on the Mini Marcos. Apart from wanting to get it finished, it was causing a log jam in the garage. There’s a delightful 1938 MG that’s mobile, running nicely and raring to go, just requiring its front springs replaced – but I couldn’t get it into the garage because the placed was stuffed with immobile bits of Mini Marcos.

Also fresh last week was a karma attack: yesterday I mentioned to Gorgeous Wife how incredible it is that I haven’t even looked at the brakes on our daily driver Jeep Cherokee for six years, and yet after 100,000 miles of stopping a ton and a half a couple of hundred times a day, there’s still some brake pad left. Next day, inevitably, scrapescrapescrape from the front. Once you’ve let the metal pad wear out so completely that the metal pad backing touches the brake disc, the disc is toast. Not a problem in this case, as there was a suggestion of some pedal pulsing from the brakes anyway, suggesting that the discs were slightly warped and needed changing anyway. It didn’t affect braking performance, but just the same. Can’t bitch about the price either – new pads and discs cost a hundred quid.

Fresh last week was the event report on the excellent Circuit des Remparts at Angouleme.

Also still fairly fresh is an indication that Bubble the Mini is keen to be repaired and featured in the upcoming MiniResto manual, rather than just used all the time with minimal maintenance. Bubble is so named because of the increasingly alarming bubbles under its champagne-coloured paint, and is due for a 1275 upgrade as well as new floors, wings, valances and so on.

While taking Rambo the similar-coloured Chihuahua cross for a scrape along the beach today, I was musing that it was remarkable that the exhaust system on Bubble was still in one piece, because it was rusty when I bought the car and that was a good few years ago. Lo and behold, on my return to the car some of the tailpipe was hanging off, and the engine note sounds like a works Cooper. (That would be a real Cooper, not a BMW with a Dodge Neon engine) Of course with an elderly 1000, it doesn’t go like a Cooper, but it does keep going – it’s been more reliable than the annual November first-fog M1 pileup.  

The same day, the brakes went a bit squishy, and somebody pointed out that the paint bubbles are so big now that it’s not really fit to have collector number plates any more, and any insurance claim would result in a major squabble. It’s probably time to retire Bubble until it’s time to rip it apart and fit the major collection of new panels already bought. 

Bentl;ley engine needs six cylinder sleevbes and six ferociously expensive new pistons, so that can wait as the Marcos takes centre stage for a while.
Bentley engine needs six cylinder sleeves and six ferociously expensive new pistons, so that can wait as the Marcos takes centre stage for a while.

The Mini Marcos is getting back in first position in the queue of cars to be finished. I’ve been invited to bring it to the Spring Thaw event (classic car which is a tour of the magnificent scenery of BC’s interior, with roads chosen for their amusement value for period sports cars. The Mini Marcos is one of the best handling British sports cars ever made, so getting it ready is worth a serious effort. 



Fresh last week in Mini Builds was a Riley/Honda Elf story which never appeared in MiniMag because the car’s owner sent it to Mini World as well, unaware that competing magazines won’t feature cars that have appeared in the enemy’s publication. In this case it was mistake, but  the story was still unusable – until now, at any rate. Miniresto is a bookwebzine, videomagblogwebmanual or whatever it is, but whatever it is, it’s not in competition with anything so we don’t have anybody to “scoop”. It doesn’t matter if we visit a car that’s been seen before, because the story will be bigger and deeper and will have more pics, the angle will be new, and even the language will be different: I can’t say something is bollocks in MiniMag, but I certainly can here.  


We also have infinite room in cyberspace, so some fascinating build pics of Brian Smart’s Honda Elf can be shown – we’re not limited to four pages, and can use as many as it takes. The Vtec Riley is now on a computer screen near you. 


Fresh last week was an attempt to get a grip on the scheduling of the work involved in the writing and photography of the Miniresto Manual. The book is being written by me based on work done by both me and Martin, and it has to be done as a part of other work. Martin now works rotations of 12-hour days repairing airport machines such as tugs and loading ramps, and I write for half a dozen mlagazines – so we’ll be committing a minimum of one day a week to the book. It’s a slow process because everything has to be photographed as it happens, so an eight-hour engine assembly takes two days.  

On the other hand, this way it still remains an interesting project rather than just work, and there’s a lot to be said for that.      

Fresh in the Stuff section is a useful tech story on using compression testers to examine engine condition from the inside.

Ridiculous fun the other day. A super smooth ferry ride across a millpond-flat Pacific to Vancouver Island to play with an injected 1380 Moke belonging to Victoria enthusiast Alan Margison. As I wrote in the MiniMag story, it felt like being sat on a racehorse that had been fed a bucket of Red Bull and then kicked in the plums. Full story in MiniMag soon.

Stonking 100+bhp and serious torque make this Moke as unruly as it’s rapid. Who’d have thought a Moke could be even more fun than a Moke?


My own Mini is possibly getting a name change. Gorgeous Wife noticed a fresh new bubble creeping along under the paintwork, and the original bubbles are claiming ever more sub-paint territory. The whole car is beginning to look like a teenage babysitter with serious acne unsuccessfully covered by pancake slap. The new panels hide in wait in the spare bedroom as Bubble slumbers in the garden, with no idea of the surgery looming in the cause of literature.  We’re approaching a name change from Bubble to Bubbles to reflect this.


Look at all the pretty bubbles under the champagne-coloured paint.







If anybody knows what manufacturer made these steel wheels, I’m curious. They came with the car and I rather like them.








Currently working on a story about a Honda-powered Elf that ran into political problems. I shot it during a Mini Meet in the Eastern USA, but it appeared in the enemy magazine before it appeared in the magazine I was writing for: Brian the owner didn’t know that with competing magazines, neither wants the other’s leftovers. However, the story wasn’t as well covered as it might have been, and it can now appear in its full glory in Miniresto with asdditional build photos that I’ve got from the owner.

Brian Smart’s Honda Elf has more grilles than Burger King: the Honda rad is on the right of the engine bay.







Off to a barbie with the luminaries of the Vancouver Mini Club to say cheerio to Diddy Dave who is driving a Minivan the wrong way round the world. He’s doing it in chunks to avoid turning it into an endurance test, and is off back home to Scotland to restock his energy level and his credit cards.

Making a fuel tank for the Mini Marcos sounded like an excellent idea at the time. Weld up a nice ally tank, bigger for North American distances, fitting exactly the tank space under the back of the car and using up all of it.  All I had to do was learn Tig welding, and after forty feet of welding I’d have got a grip on it.

Tig-welding turned out to be like drumming. As an ex-guitar player, I assumed that drumming had to be pretty easy because even drummers could do it. When you actually try it, you find out that it’s actually extraordinarily difficult, and immediately gain a little respect for drummers. Not much, mind you: they’re still basically musicians’ assistants, and many of them have a drooling problem.

Tig welding is rather like drumming. You have to do complicated stuff with three of your four available limbs. One leg has to give the power a bootful to start off, then back off to cruise, then back right off when you come to an edge where the’re no more metal to absorb the heat. Concomitantly, one hand has to hold the tungsten tip at the perfect and constant height above the weld, and has to move it along at exactly the right speed to melt the aluminium. In parallel, other hand has to feed in the filler rod, again at the right speed and in the right place. All this has to happen at the same time: anybody who has a mind incapable of concentrating on any single subject for more than a few seconds should probably stick to Mig welding and the three chords required for blues and rock.


 is finally up. The techies called Nigel and Wayne from Calcutta did their best, but in the end a mate whose specialisation in life is food photography managed to explain in English what to beep and click, and away we go. He won a major battle against the machine to get his own delicious-looking website sorted out. As long as you’re not hungry, check out If you’re hungry it’ll just make you feel worse.

Still fighting the mysteries of GoDaddy and WordPress to get Miniresto’s sister site working. I’m successfully controlling the frustration and slowing down to computer speed, though. This means learning some Geek, in which English words don’t always mean what they used to. It’s tall grande bollocks. If I tell somebody on a yacht to haul in the jib sheet a couple of clicks to shut the leech up, an experienced sailor will do so. However, if I’m going out with somebody who has no sailing experience, I would tell them to pull on that rope over there to tighten up the sail and stop it flapping. It’s rude and unhelpful to talk in secret jargon, particularly when there’s no dictionary for modern Geek. I know that these people were bullied at school and want payback, but it wasn’t me who bullied them. The nightmare rumbles on.

On the subject of welding aluminium, the horror-show  below turned up while stripping my Bentley engine: some neanderthal mechanic had given this cast ally timing chest such a battering that it split in two when I unbolted it. He managed to deform a half-inch-thick casting, he hit it so much and so hard. It’s not a big problem to TIG-weld it back together once it’s bolted to the engine to make sure it retains its shape, but it’s a puzzle as to how somebody that dumb was allowed to get their hands on a Bentley engine in the first place.

The fuel tank for the Mini Marcos is being created from scratch. The car was designed to use a Minivan tank – but although that works well enough, it doesn’t use all of the available space, it’s made of thin steel, and that would have been too easy anyway.

Making a tank from scratch is an interesting project, to be described in full in MiniMag when it’s finished.

It could have been made by folding the flat aluminium sheet, but again that would have been too easy, so it was cut from the sheet and will be TIG-welded together. I’m expecting to be better at welding after 30 feet of it than I am now.

This week, the task was to cut the panels out without wobbly lines, and it was surprisingly straightforward. Something with a flat edge has to be clamped to the sheet as a guide, and then a straightforward circular saw is used for the cutting, using the flat edge as a guide. The blade was waxed with cutting wax, and although you get blasted with a fountain of tiny hot aluminium fragments, the job was quickly sorted.





Bashing on, the next task was to make a hole in the top of the tank for the main pipe. This has a flexible section between the tank and the fuel cap, but it still needs to point in the right direction as the 2″ fuel hose isn’t very flexible.

Cuttting the hole was achieved crudely and simply, by drilling holes in an oval shape to reflect the angle of the pipe, and then using hacksaw blades and files to tidy up the resultant serrated edge. The pipe has to go through the tank top and be welded on both sides.