As anyone who has built a project car knows, they’re never finished. There’s always something new to do; little things to improve, further modifications to make. But even though they’re never finished, they do eventually reach a point where ‘building’ gives way to ‘using’. For my Mini, after over two years of work, that point has finally been reached, in fits and starts, this year.
The supercharged 1974 Mini’s first real use was covered in the Spring, with a trip to France. But the trip didn’t mark the end of the work; rather, it served to show what areas still needed to be improved. And so, for much of the spring and summer, the car was back off the road, being tweaked. New head gaskets were fitted, and an uprated radiator installed. The supercharger boost was reduced for the sake of reliability, and the exhaust installation tweaked. A new starter motor was installed, as well as a roll cage and sump guard. And one final modification was made; one which isn’t exactly a common addition to a Mini. A roof tent.
Overlanding in unusual cars has been a hobby of mine for years now; in fact it all started in 2006, when I drove from the UK to Mongolia in my first ever Mini, as part of the Mongol Rally. Since then, the tradition has continued with ever more unlikely cars, and ever more far flung destinations. You could say it’s become a way of life. And since I first put together a home-made roof tent for a trans-African trip in a Porsche 944, I’ve been sold on the idea of rooftop camping on overland trips, too.
The Mini’s setup took a few weeks to design and build, and takes the form of a conventional roof rack, onto which a tent, sleeping platform and awning can be added when required, and stored in the boot when underway. Naturally, fitting all this onto such a small car has required more than a little lateral thinking, but I think the final result has proved rather successful so far.
The roof tent’s first use was during a bank holiday camping weekend in south Devon, while a follow-up trip was undertaken to South Wales, a week later – five hundred miles, and eight nights in total so far. The Mini carried out the trips with little in the way of issues, the only real one being a blocked oil filter causing low oil pressure readings on the drive back from Wales; something which was quickly solved with an oil and filter change once back in the workshop. The camping setup was a hit to live with, and thoughts are already turning to how it can be improved, with a compressor fridge being the next thing on the list. Because without cold beer, camping just isn’t the same.
And naturally, now I have a useable and reliable overland Mini in the garage, the question of future road trips comes to mind. Thanks to Covid, it’s been a fair few years since I took a trip which could be considered to be overlanding, and that situation can’t stand. So, there’s sure to be some dusty, far-flung roads in the Mini’s future.
Watch this space…