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Old 03-11-2018, 10:53 PM   #1
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Smile Another Broken MINI Cooper S PROJECT!

Detailing World, hold on to your butts - we've got another MINI!!!

Being a glutton for punishment, I've kept my eye out on Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree daily for the last few months looking for a MINI with issues. They come up quite often, but are usually priced very close to that of a fully working MINI. I want to try and make a bit of money on one - either by repairing or breaking. It needed to be another Cooper S as they hold more value and don't suffer the problems with the 5 speed Midland gearbox on the Cooper and One.

My original MINI JCW thread here.

Yesterday evening, I checked Facebook Marketplace for the 4th time and spotted an Electric Blue 2003 MINI Cooper S listed 13 minutes ago, 8 miles down the road. A quick glance at the description revealed a suspected head gasket issue and an MOT failure. The price - £500. I sent a message off immediately asking to view the car tomorrow morning. I knew I couldn't hang around on this.

The seller came back straight away (which is always encouraging) and said that he was at work in the morning but would be back by 12:30. So I said I'd be there for 12:30! With this arranged, I began my checks - firstly on the seller; was he a member of any MINI groups (where he could have posted about the car's issues etc), did he have any negative ratings on Marketplace, did the car feature in any other Facebook pictures etc - everything seemed to add up fine. Next I moved onto the car itself - he had posted a picture of the MOT failure list which I backed up with my MOT check app, plus all previous MOTs and mileage records - showing a current 107k. I then looked closely at the photos to get an idea of the condition of the bodywork to work out how saleable the panels would be if it needed to be broken for parts. It looked largely ok from what I could tell, but I assumed a sort of worst case scenario as Electric Blue doesn't fare particularly well (lacquer peel etc) plus it's priced VERY low.

It's a low spec car - save for an electric panoramic roof! It has a cloth interior, no front fogs, no A/C (which would likely be non-operational anyway I guess!) and 16" alloys. If I was to commit to the car, I would need to return with my Dad to tow it home, so I opted to take my MINI over to view it. I went prepared with:

- Battery booster and extension cable - you know any disused car is bound to have a flat battery!
- Kneeling pad
- Code reader which also has the ability to read ABS and airbag codes
- 10mm ratchet spanner - in case of a totally dead battery if a swap was needed
- A packet of Kleenex - I've got a heavy cold and I'm telling everyone about how bad it is.

Having failed its MOT a little over a week ago was advantageous in a way - because it gave a recent and clear picture of where any issues lay. I could therefore be reasonably certain that the exhaust hadn't fallen off and it didn't need umpteen bushes and all the shock absorbers replacing!

There were a few areas I was uncertain about before viewing which would decide whether it was 'the one' - such as the clutch and obviously the engine. When a seller says the head gasket is on the way out - this could mean that the head gasket is on the way out ... or it could mean it's overheated, trashed the head scored the bores and seized the engine or anywhere in between. I also couldn't quite work out the correlation between it going for an MOT, failing and then having a blown headgasket.

Here are some pictures from the listing

I arrived bang on 12:30 and found the car parked on the drive next to a similar coloured R56 Cooper S. The owner was out straight away to greet me - friendly and open for a bit of banter. He let me look over the car and answered my questions without trying some sort of used car salesman script on. He's had the car for a couple of years - put it in for an MOT which it failed and was alerted by the garage that the coolant was badly contaminated which was likely the headgasket. He then bought the R56 I saw in his drive and put this one up for sale.

Having a look around, I could see that the bodywork was pretty good - the main issues being the beginning of some rust bubbles on the tailgate - a less severe version of the rust which my own MINI had when I got it, some hazing in the laquer on the top edge of the driver's door (which I think has been repainted) and some sort of marks on the leading edge of the bonnet (under the lacquer). The wheels look like they would clean up fairly well. The interior is pretty good, apart from a small 'fag burn' type hole in the centre of the base of the driver's seat - the seats (being light grey cloth in the middle) are grubby but not stained and the bolsters are in surprisingly good condition.

Under the bonnet - the coolant reservoir (exactly as he said) had some horrible diarrhoea in it, although the oil filler cap and dip stick are totally fine. He started the car up for me (ok, so the engine isn't seized! And the battery wasn't dead!) which sounded absolutely normal and smooth - it revved up fine and wasn't smoking/steaming out of the exhaust. I turned the engine off and continued poking around. The power steering fluid was fairly clean and at the correct level, the brake fluid was at the max mark but a horrible dark brown colour (probably to do with the brake pipe it failed on?). I found that the massive intercooler was, indeed a proper Forge item. It has an MSD coil pack (a percieved uprade largely because it's red), Magnecor plug leads and a GTT Hybrid intake. All eBay-able items to recoup some cash.

Underneath it all looked fairly normal - evidence of some serious oil leakage from the engine (MOT failure item) but nothing else obvious. I moved to the back to look at the exhaust and found the serial plate on the backbox stamped MILLTEK - again, worth some money. It has some smoked LED tail lights which I'm no fan of (at least not on this colour of car) which I believe are relatively saleable.

The seller was happy for me to take it for a brief spin down the road and back so I could get a feel for the clutch, brakes and suspension etc. I turned the key and it wouldn't turn the starter - see I was right to take the battery booster with me!! With that plugged in, it fired into life and I took it half way down the street and back. It rocketed off as it should - supercharger sounded good, clutch felt strong and it braked well. No creaks from the suspension. I quickly took it back and switched it off again.

The seller had stated £500 was a fixed price in the advert. I cheekily bid him £450 and he quite fairly said he'd rather hold out for £500. So I agreed and said I'd be back in an hour to collect. He took it off sale and didn't want a deposit as he could see it was serious. An hour later I was back there with my Dad, his Defender and £500 cash. I signed the V5, attached the fixed towing line, chatted to his Dad who was admiring my Dad's Defender, patted the dog and we were away. The journey back was simple - apart from my Dad driving down a road which has recently been made a dead-end!! We had to detach the car and 3 point turn it by hand (as the battery was still flat) and reconnect it.

Once we were home, I took my own MINI down to my Grandma's as the number of cars on my drive was getting slightly out of hand! After this, the light was fading so I took a few pictures, pressed a few buttons and then removed the battery to charge it in the garage.

The seller included a few parts with it - a new, boxed Cravenspeed 17% reduction pulley (Not cheap!!), replacement brake pad wear sensor (still in sealed packet) and a new rocket cover gasket with spark plug tube seals also still sealed.

In the next week or so, I will look more deeply at the car and work out where to take it - whether to sort the head gasket issue or break for parts. I'm not sure I can bring myself to kill it - so I hope I can fix it, sell the aftermarket bits (intercooler, radiator etc) and return it to standard then sell it and turn some sort of a profit. I don't have any strict timescale on this. I just want to enjoy doing it.

I hope you have enjoyed reading. There will be more to come in due course ... much more!

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Old 03-11-2018, 11:04 PM   #2
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Looks a good thread starting up?

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Old 03-11-2018, 11:12 PM   #3
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Looks like an easy one compared to your other one, again as said before looking forward to another good read.
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Old 03-11-2018, 11:13 PM   #4
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Those seats are

How do folks let them get that bad and just not give them a clean?
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Old 03-11-2018, 11:15 PM   #5
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Subscribed. Love threads like these...
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Old 03-11-2018, 11:16 PM   #6
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That's money well spent imo, don't see why you can't return a small profit on that, if diying what needs doing for the ticket.
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Old 03-11-2018, 11:26 PM   #7
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What a guy! It’s another MINI adventure! Subscribed
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Old 03-11-2018, 11:43 PM   #8
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Wahoo ooooh another thread by yourself

Looking forward to this!
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Old 03-11-2018, 11:57 PM   #9
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Old 04-11-2018, 08:57 AM   #10
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Looks like you've got a cracking motor there on the face of it, looks tidy and yes, I would agree, if you could save it, def worth it

Now, going to be seriously impressed if you can get those seats looking something like clean
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