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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi there folks. Not too much of a tuning project or anything like that, as I am not a great fan of tuning for the sake of tuning… only improving things that were made not according to my expectations from the factory.

Greetings from Bulgaria. A bit of background.
I always liked MINIs, Never knew why exactly. Cheap made, poorly engineered, some controversial Peugeot technology in them. Years ago I almost bought a Park-Lane, Chrono edition R53. It looked gorgeous. Upon closer inspection it turned out that car is actually a Frankenstein. Started right in Switzerland and ended being welded together after a major accident somewhere in North-West Bulgaria, only to be brought back on the market as "flawless and accident free" vehicle. Well… that didn’t work with me.

I have always been a cars guys. I like cars, understand mechanics, electrics and working on them helps me relax. I also like forums better than the craze for quick-consumption Facebook like posts. They usually don’t tell a story. Just a Q&A. Wrong Qs usually lead to funny As :). I was searching for some info online about the next sub-project with this car and ended here. Like it a lot, well done guys. I know myself how challenging it is to keep a forum tidy.

At the beginning of the Covid period I still had the same idea. Wanted to own an MCS and prep it for occasional track use. I don’t want a racing car, but going on the track every now and then with your own vehicle… is much more fun than renting one. Especially if the vehicle can survive a race.

Almost accidentally met a family that was selling their old MCS R56 2007. Car looked bad, but was well loaded with options and I couldn’t spot any signs of structural or body panel damage. That worked for me. It was clear that the engine will need to live outside of the car for a while. After some (long period) of negotiations, I managed to buy it. Not sure it was a good or bad decision. I guess both :)

So there she is. Dull looking, tired MCS in a color I like, body with no sign of rust or damage anywhere, full dealer history, and a glass roof. (I was later to hate this affection for panorama-roofs of mine with this specific car).

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Started driving it the way it is only to realize oil was leaking everywhere and… don’t know why this engine was still in one piece with so many leaks. Otherwise everything else seemed to be working fine. Nicknamed her "MINka", this is an old ladies name and she's definitely a lady judging by the frequent mood changes. An Italian lady that is on the path to return her glory and get on her wheels again properly soon.

Immediate things to fix:
  • I totally don’t like black rims and even more - rims with central cap that is covering the bolts (there are exceptions, I know), but these rims… totally not mine.
  • I don’t like aftermarket tinted windows either. Chemical tint YES, foil tint: NOT at all. This is factory option. The foil was in the VIN extras. Couldn't care less, this one needed to go.
  • Headlights looked bad, like… very bad. You don’t see the road at night even though these are Xenons.

So… not a good idea to start with the more serious stuff. I needed to drive and "feel" the car for a while first.

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What about the headlights… there is a car shop that is specialized in reconditioning interiors and headlights in Sofia. I have used their services for many years. Immediately took off the headlights and sent them there. A picture is worth a thousand words, I believe you can see why :)

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As for the shades: They cannot be ordered new from the dealer anymore. I found them on eBay in UK and decided that they should be mine immediately. Pic is from the inside. I like this mesh-look.

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Started as a long post and there is much more fun coming… :)

Thanks for having me here folks!
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Didn't realize that posts have 10pic limit and i wanted to close the topic off with the wheels and tyres:

Found a set of JCW R112s in black in Germany: 17x7, ET48, #36116795208. Ordered them immediately, asking price was very reasonable. They came in slightly bended and "square" with some dents on them. I wasn’t expecting too much of a different story. :) They appear to be in great condition on the pic, but this was not the case at all. :) A week later, now straightened and powder-coat painted in silver metallic, they looked A (pic sucks, i know).
I typically have two sets of wheels for my cars. It wasn’t long after when I found another set of JCW R114 winter alloys. What a surprise it was when I realized that these are only 5.5" wide. 17x5.5, ET42, #36116786220. They were flawless though and immediately became my winter set of tyres. I bought the car with some cheap but brand new winter tyres and had to drive with something for a while back and forth to the garage. Managed to squeeze standard size 205/17s on the rims and they also looked cool.
Hint hint… I had some plans and needed JCW wheels.

I want to close off on the tyres/wheels topic. The factory wheels found their new owner immediately. A man came in and bought them immediately for his daughter's car. Apparently he was doing the same as me: restoring a car that his girl liked a lot.
What tyres should I put on the summer wheels though…? I thought Michelins at first, but didn’t like the price and I wasn’t too keen on spending right away such numbers for a car that has almost blown engine. After some research decided to go for Kumho Ecsta PS71 205/45/17 88Y XL. I still like them a lot, seem to grip well without a warm up, good in rain, good in dry and also cheap.

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I am trying to tell the story as complete as possible. Plenty of pics on my side for all the work done and i haven't even started laying out the whole thing :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
The parcels started coming in with parts from all over Europe, including deliveries from across the world.

I don’t quite like long gear sticks. Owned R170 SLK back in the day that had a fantastic gear selector: no travel, very precise. All the E36s I had through the years had to undergo a gearstick modification of some kind. Decided this is the right thing to do here as well.

Didn’t quite like whatever was on the market. They all looked "obvious", so I had to create one myself. I knew that the time to take out the engine was coming and had to prepare the entire selector mechanism for the time we are ready to put it all back in place. I wanted to make the cables adjustable and install polyurethane bushes on the ends. I contacted a local shop that agreed to modify the linkage cables and install adjustable screws on the heads, that allowed me to position the knob on both X and Y axis slightly.

Bushes are #FM1Kit1 sold in the USA, also applicable to Fiat 500. Delivery time was long, but it didn't matter. Had way too many things on the agenda anyhow. Purchased a complete selector with cables from the scrapyard and started planning what to do. Decided to cut 2cm from the top and weld it to the bottom, inside the housing. Many ways to do it, but everyone with reasonable welding experience can fabricate it for you.

That immediately concluded that I had to adjust the housing as well, it was too shallow. Asked a friend to 3d print a simple part for me and just had to cut the lid and install the new element with some proper glue and small bolts. The selector box sits above the exhaust… behind a shield, but still probably gets quite warm there. Had to use bolts as well... didn't trust the glue that much (some polyurethane glue I picked from the shelf in the supermarket, that over time proved to be quite a good one) :).
I later bought a 3d printer myself and don’t regret it. Plenty to learn, never gets you bored.

Sadly, not so many pics of the gear linkage, but hopefully you get the idea. I painted the 3d printed element before mounting as once installed, had no intention whatsoever to deal with it anymore, once the shields are back in place.

This first pic is to give an idea what it looks like taken off the vehicle. Also a very good idea to clean up everything if needed and lubricate properly.

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Sometimes there are fantastic things to be found on Aliexpress. Like a decent looking ashtray/storage, rear wiper arm and mist nozzles,. What is funny is that nozzles are from Mondeo and Focus and cost me 2 Eur :)
#1708797. Wiper arm was also quite cheap.

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
And so it began… A year ago, early Dec. 2020. Don’t remember if it was the 2nd or 3rd lockdown here… Had the option to finish work early and work on the car in the evenings.
It was time to take the engine out and see how bad things are.

I had simple plans:
  • Clean or Repair the head (basically same procedure)
  • Change valve seals
  • Change the timing gear (chain, tensioner, etc)
  • Change piston rings and rod bearings
  • Water pump
  • Clutch
  • Anything else that is out there about to get broken or not in a good shape.
  • Clean everything up

Wanted also to reseal every gasket or contact surface and make sure there are no leaks… I don’t like oil leaks :) I don’t like oil consumption either.

Headlights and bumper out, took off the scoop, I buddy of mine wanted to buy it for mods, I already ordered a brand new one from the dealer. The one on the car was somewhat brittle because of the turbo heat. Noticed there is a new part number for the heatshield and it is now metal. Cool... another expense on the excel. :)
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Removed the entire front part with the fans and radiators. At first it seemed like a tough job, but it's not. Fairly simple. You don't need the car to be on the hoist, but it helps :D

Good news: everything seems fine with the entire front part: no leaks from radiators, no plug corrosion on the fans, no signs of collision damage.
Bad news: this thing's been leaking from all over the place. Also some missing bolts on the turbo shields, meaning this car has visited repair shops before... but what were they trying to fix?
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Didn’t matter too much to me, everything around the turbo seemed factory installed. Further down the line, we were unable to figure out why were bolts missing. Complete mystery. Every single part we removed later on had a date-stamp around the production date of the vehicle.

Engine left the body.
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With the gearbox out, it was evident that the clutch was garbage, the news I didn’t like was that I had to replace the flywheel as well. Too much travel there. Someone was either racing it, or didn’t know how to drive manual. :) Provided that all the owners of the car before me are ladies, I bet on the 2nd option. :)
Flywheels on these are not cheap. I knew there will be surprises, but i was hoping for cheaper ones. Nevermind... another expense on the excel.
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The main gearbox shaft seal was leaking as well… no surprises. Cheap and not too difficult. Gearbox oil was anyway on the list. I am pleasantly surprised with the gearbox. Getrag GS6-53BG, no LSD and with strange LT-4 oil (according to sticker and totally conflicting the MINI EPC, but nothing i can do. I don't like experimenting with gear oils.
Noticed something strange: JCW has the same gearbox but with totally different part number. Perhaps different gear ratios... Still it doesn't stop me from planning to install the MAF at a later stage and code factory JCW software in the ECU.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Merry Christmas everyone. Hope you are enjoying the holidays with your families and friends.
I found some time between eating and browsing family albums to write this post and continue the story.

Now that the engine was out, I had the chance to inspect the body and the axles. All looked fine, except it was dirty and with some surface rust on the axles from the winter chemicals on the roads. Too cold outside to powerwash the suspension, I decided to take it all apart, inspect the bushes, rods and connecting elements and came up with the bright idea to sandblast, powdercoat and apply spray wax on to conserve them.
In terms of timeline, this activity took place parallel to the powdercoating of the alloys. I planned a visit to my friends that over the years have proven to be the best ones in the sandblast/powdercoat business in Sofia. They do all types of projects: from brake calipers (hint), to home radiators, through garden fences and car elements.

Both axles out, everything loaded in my other car and… to my surprise everything was done in 3 days. I was afraid my order might clash with the holiday break of the shop, leaving me with nothing to work on + messing up other people's agenda as well..
I decided to use some strange dark green/gray color. Kinda fell for it. The cat approved it as well :)

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What's the catch: without the axles on the body, the car was blocking a hoist at the garage and I don’t like blocking other people's business. Plus we loaded it on the hoist close to the garage entry point which is typically used for quick repairs on Clients` cars. Still… it was holiday season, garage agenda was full with work on engines and that wasn’t too much of a problem luckily for me.

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Once painted and waxed, I put it all back on so we could move the car out of the working area, leaving only the engine on the "surgery" table :) Used the opportunity to clean up the engine bay a bit as well... for no particular reason... looked like a good opportunity to do so.

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I also noticed there was some cheap Chinese alarm installed. This one had to go, and immediately led to another mini-project on the list. I like factory stuff (for the most part). Sourced the shield and siren module that goes in the engine bay. Shield was powdercoated in the same color. Ran out of creativity with the color choice, but it turned out this color blends quite well with the body color :)

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Typically I am very good with wiring looms and retrofitting modules is not a problem. The plug was available very cheap from Intercars. Sometimes specific module wiring plugs are extremely cheap at the dealer, sometimes I have to source them elsewhere. It is too much hassle to scavenge scrapyards for electrical elements… too much time wasted.

Prepared the wiring loom, routed it inside the body (goes in the direction of the Footwell module), to the passenger side (driver side in UK).

Other goodies were also powdercoated, more on that in the next posts :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Next on the list: BRAKES.

I always liked how well the JCW big brake kit fitted these cars. There are options for some BMW calipers but was too much of a hassle, requiring extensive fabrication, wheel spacers... too much hassle.

Funny enough the asking price for these 2nd hand was much higher than the price for them brand new. Well ok… you need to search extremely hard in order to be able to grab them at reasonable price.
Left one came from UK, right one from Germany (or the other way around, doesn’t matter).

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I just couldn’t resist the opportunity to install brand new calipers rather than refurbishing old ones. I paid approx. 400 Euro for both.
No brakes upgrade happens without Goodridge TUV-approved brake lines. I couldn’t care less about TUV, but thought that it may be needed if this car finds its new owner somewhere in Germany one day. Ordered and arrived.

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Needed front discs. This one is funny. I initially planned to install something vented and/or grooved like Mtec out of UK. The only downside to those fancy looking discs is that they tend to be noisy. The car is noisy anyhow so I couldn't be bothered. Browsing the local suppliers, I found a set of front Brembos extremely cheap: 60 Euro for both. Bought them right away. Turned out they were purchased by someone for normal MCS MINI brakes, realized they are bigger and returned them. With broken packaging local supplier couldn’t return them to warehouse, and after some time they discounted them. Worked well for me :)

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These discs, JCW calipers and brake lines were piled in the parcels' corner in my garage, waiting for the right time to put them on. I wanted to refurbish/powdercoat the dust shields on the front discs and rear calipers. Provided the price of the shields new is outrageous, I decided to spend some pocket money to make them looking good again :) Later on realized that the JCW brakes have bigger shields, but it didn’t matter. Result is shiny awesome. Same color as the wheels that were repainted earlier.

Rear calipers turned out quite nice as well. Not identical color to the front ones upon detailed inspection, but close enough.

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I couldn’t comprehend why MINI/BMW would produce a car without rear disc shields. Not only the rear brakes are hilariously small compared to the front ones on the MCS, but without shields… this car's appearance was embarrassing. Something like a 1.4 Golf IV on 18s. That had to be fixed. I searched and searched and finally realized that only some models for some markets tend to have the rear shields.
Decision taken immediately. As you can imagine, I have already restored my relationship with the dealer even though it's been years since I last had a BMW. They enjoyed my enthusiasm and gradually started giving me better discounts. (plus we knew each other for years :) ). I purchased the rear shields brand new only to realize installing them is not as simple as I thought. There were no mounting holes on the rear axle. I had to either source rear axle with mounting holes (nope) or improvise. A bit of welding, grinding, drilling and thread making was necessary. Big thanks to my friends that enjoy crazy enthusiasm… I managed to install both of them. Judging by the pics, you can possibly figure out that installing the rear shields took place way later than the front ones (summer tyres on). For the sake of the story, I decided to keep the brakes topic in one post.

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With the front ones installed, had to bleed the entire system and install some racing brake fluid… because #sportscar. Joke aside, I know this is not a sports car, but the fluid wasn’t that expensive and seemed to be a reasonable choice. I hate changing brake fluid too often as it is corrosive and accidental drip on paint pisses me off :) RBF 600 seems to be one of the better DOT4 fluids on the market.

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Yep, I know, it is visible that engine is back in the car on the last pics. More or less everything happened in parallel until now.

What happened with the engine -> in the next post.
 

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Wow, the anount of work being put into that R56 is mind blowing. Keep the updates coming (y)
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
ENGINE

Happy New Year everyone. May it be a good one for all. Wishing you and your families and friends health and peace.

On the engine topic. Now that it was out of the car, we stripped it all completely. It was evident that more or less everything that we touched was worn out and needed replacement.

Excel sheet started building up.
Usual stuff was there anyway.
Entire chain mechanism and accessories around it, thermostat, water pump. The crappy plastic coolant pipe on the back of the engine (no clue why it's made of plastic, too risky). Regret I wasn’t aware there is an aftermarket metal replacement, but… next time.

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Engine head was immediately taken to an inspection/calibration service. Good news came in 2 days later. No issues with the head. It came back cleaned, new valve stem seals, inspected and it was ready for assembly. I initially thought that camshafts were slightly worn out (due to the ridiculous recommended oil change intervals), but I was assured that they are perfectly fine. Can't argue and why would I? :)

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The situation around the engine itself was not that simple. Camshaft was great, bearings were of course going to be changed. Engine was in working order but we noticed that pistons themselves were a little worn out. When the oil and compression rings start getting worn out (and they were worn out), the pistons tend to tilt themselves, rather than going just up and down, which may have impact on the cylinders.

The cylinders seemed about right. They are getting worn out slightly - turning into ellipses, but still manageable.
What does it mean? I had to make a choice:
a) put it all back together with the same pistons.
b) Change the pistons to bigger size (+0.25mm or +0.5mm)
c) Go for upgraded pistons: Wiseco, Mahle, etc. etc. +0.5mm, as there are no +0.25mm pistons from the serious ones and manufacture the block.

I thought a bit about that and decided to go with the same pistons. It was evident plenty of money was to be spent. Still engine was going to work fine with the standard pistons and I needed to see for myself whether I am going to fall in love with this car at all or not… So far I was in middle ground.

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You may wonder how is it so clean… I like the industrial "dishwasher" in the shop. No matter what you put in it, gets out clean after an hour or so. Awesome :D

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Nothing interesting with the gearbox, flywheel or clutch. Only that it is a good idea to change the clutch fork. It is cheap (even from the dealer) and it gets worn out over time. Definitely worth it.

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Turbo had wear. There was noticeable lateral and axial movement. Decided to stay stock still and went for Melett core assembly. Why? Because it was somewhat cheap. If I had to spend bigger, I was seriously going to consider some upgraded turbo, but not yet.

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Also noticed that the turbo housing has some minor cracks on the flange with the catalyst. Spent some time reading all over the place and it appears to be a common story. Not touching it yet.
There were similar cracks on the exhaust manifold. I planned to put on the "square" late revision of the JCW exhaust manifold, only don't feel like spending another 400 Euro on this. Also according to many sources online, seems to be a common thing and not too much of an issue.
All mounted together, new heatshield in the back and moved on to the head cover with the PCV.

I found the fake versions of the engine cover online extremely cheap. Mine was leaking all over the place and… well, had to be changed. This one still seems to be holding up a year later without leaks and noticeable problems. Bottom line… even the cheap ones work well. Plenty of YouTube videos and posts on the internet about the differences between the genuine and fake ones.

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I don’t want to get everyone bored with spark plugs, coils and injectors… these are common. When it comes to injectors, I could have stayed with the ones already on the car. I have heard stories that gasoline direct injectors tend to be problematic after a while. In my case this "a while" translated to 120k miles + 12-13 years. New injectors Bosch, new NGK plugs and coils. You can see the difference between the old and new plugs.

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Engine was ready to get back in the car. In the background is the B-class of a friend :)
There are more small and funny (sometimes even sad or annoying) little things around the engine, bushes, oil pipes, etc… I may combine them in the next post… need to think about it.

Cheers!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Got busy on my end and this post comes a bit delayed… I also realized so much effort was invested in this car, I am probably around 20% of the whole story.

The topic for today is polyurethane.

It's been many years since I first encountered Powerflex. I remember seeing their products on DemonTweeks catalog around 1999, 2000. They have come a long way and I never experienced any issues with their products. This is not about product placement/endorsement. I just tend to like their stuff. There are some other companies out there, with cheaper products that worked quite well for my BMWs back in the day, but… I decided to go for the least hassle, after all the country dealer of Powerflex became a friend over the years.

Usually it's quite worth it to replace the front arm bushes, but mine were flawless and decided to stick with what I had, thinking it will be minimal effort to replace them later on. What a fool I was. Everything is easy when the car is completely disassembled. With the suspension installed, I realized that changing them is not as straightforward as with BMW E36/E46, despite the similar design.

So I went with sway bar bushes both front and rear. This is a must have upgrade. Standard rubber bushes tend to fail prematurely on stiff suspension setups, especially when combined with bad roads.

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Next: exhaust suspension.
I had a 323ti - fantastic car, that I had great respect for. Always had to be extremely careful with it. I installed rear exhaust bushes from Mini R53 on the backbox and they were great. Red in color and looked like polyurethane, or at least not the standard rubber ones we often see on other cars.
Unfortunately they are completely different in design to the ones on R56 MCS, so I had to look elsewhere.

I looked in the Powerflex catalog again and found a model that seemed like it could work. EXH032. Ordered 4 of them immediately.
On a side note, there is nothing wrong with the factory ones, they cannot fail, due to the fabric layer surrounding the stock bushes. But… I wanted to lift the entire exhaust system up and limit the travel/flex. That theoretically was going to prevent the exhaust from melting my engine shield. And… it worked amazing.

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But… that's not all. I noticed there is also the option to install a gearbox mount insert.
What's the story. If I install a polyurethane engine mount, I will have too much vibration in the car. This engine is not smooth (4cyl French crap after all). On the other end, I wanted shift precision with the short shifter already in place.
Therefore the idea of a gearbox mount insert seemed like a good one.
Here comes the nonsense. My MINI had a gearbox mount from the factory that is completely different. Even though In quite a good shape, I had to order a new one. I still fail to comprehend why on Earth would they install a design (that seems to work well for ~200k km and 15 years at least) and then change it completely.
Nevermind… this is just one of the many secrets that this MINI kept away from me and required additional planning, duplicate effort and more pain and bruises on the hands.

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Eventually I managed to install it and "wow, it was worth it"! Every time I drive someone else's MINI I can tell the difference.

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I promised to provide a pic of the polyurethane bushes of the gearshift mechanism. Here they are.

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And since I have 2 more pics allowed in the post, let's cover some ad-hoc spending efforts :)

I didn't like the fact that door mechanisms on my car don’t seem to hold the doors in position when open. I am not used to this. That was pathetic. Did some googling and digging in catalogues and realized there are a number of design revisions for the door brake. Didn’t like spending more money on unplanned items, but I was already starting to realize that budget and this car in one sentence don’t go well together.

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My MCs didn’t have the hidden compartment in the dash. Quick visit to the scrapyard resolved this. Well, as with everything else around this car, it took a bit more effort than writing this sentence. :)

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Cheers and till next time.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thanks mate. This is the first car that I work on with such diligence and structured approach. I still often criticize myself for not buying a 911 (996, 997) instead. At least It was going to hold its value. :D
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I mentioned some posts back that the body is flawless, no rust, no accidents…
The paint however was in poor condition.
There is a somewhat popular misconception that a car needs to be repaired after any minor dent, otherwise the Insurance company may decline the claim in Bulgaria.

And yes, the part about the claims is right, however the damage to the car does more harm than good, especially for minor dents.

I bought a rear bumper with factory PDC cheaper than the PDC trim and decided to paint it together with the front bumper and the hood due to stone chips and some minor parking damage dents.

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I took them to a friend of mine and repainted them, matching the colour to the trunk handle and rear right panel.
Installed them and realized that colour was matching parts above, but totally different from every other panel on the car.
Borrowed a paint meter from a friend and concluded the obvious. Every other panel was repainted over time.

Not a big fan of such repairs. Too many things to go wrong, potential issues with clips and other plastic parts while dismantling. Paint can go on the rims and rubber trims, but I got convinced easily that after so much work on the car already, leaving it like VW Polo Harlequin (exaggerating, I know) was just not acceptable.

So took it back to the paint shop and asked them to paint it all (apart from the bumpers obviously and the roof). Repainted mirror caps, they had minor dents as well.

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What's unique: I thought about changing the color slightly, but this sparkling silver metallic is beautiful. So I decided to paint only certain elements like the hood scoop, fuel cap surround, rear handle bar and the side mirrors into a strange and random color.
We took some of the car paint, mixed it with some black to make it darker and then used matte lacquer. Idea came from the S-Line bumpers on my Audi that are dark gray matte from the factory.
I quite like it. Depending on the angle, the color is either gray-ish or very much the same. It is extremely effective during the night. Appears like the hood scoop is massive as it doesn’t reflect light as much as the hood.

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This typically is a rather expensive activity, but it took place during summertime: no heating expenses, paint was drying easily and… I didn't end up spending a fortune.

There was a significant downside though.
Hood and trunk chrome trims didn't make it and had to order new ones.
The hood one was already damaged (probably during previous paint jobs).
The one on the trunk was simply not possible to be taken off without damaging it.
I decided to order the entire chrome trim around the car. Another visit to the dealer and... voila.

...below picture is without the rear panel trim installed :)

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