Talking to clients about their cars and how they enjoy them is one of the pleasures of being a specialist classic car insurance broker. We are lucky to hear so many stories of family treasures, full nut and bolt restorations, and radical custom projects, and now it’s time to share some of these awesome classic car adventures with you.
Ben’s stunning dark blue 1978 Mini, as featured in our Drive It Day 2021 gallery, is one such family treasure. Purchased from his Uncle Martin in 2018, the car had been owned by Martin since the early 90’s and Ben fondly recalls being driven round in it as a child. Ben’s cousin learned to drive in the Mini, and Martin’s father had a hand in restoring the car in 2000, but after that, the Mini sat in storage until it arrived at its new home in 2018.
Ben has always been into classic and retro cars, particularly Mini’s. His first car aged 17 was a 1986 Mini 998 and since then has owned another Clubman, a Hillman Minx, Humber Sceptre, Mercedes w123, various MK2 Golfs, and now has settled on this Mini. Given the family connection to this ’78 Mini, it is great to hear that this is continuing with Ben’s wife and son, Wilfred, both loving this car. “This makes it easier for me to keep and spend money on it. Wilfred is three years old and has grown up with it, he’s obsessed by them and especially our one, hopefully it’ll be his one day”, says Ben.
The Mini was in a quite good shape when Ben purchased it, thanks to the earlier restoration work before being laid up. Ben tells us, “It needed recommissioning, so I went through it mechanically. I fitted new brakes all-round as they were seized, full service on the engine, new clutch slave cylinder, new clutch, replaced all four tyres and rear wheel bearings. All this only took a couple of weeks”.
As with all old cars, things often need repairing or replacing and after driving it for a year, it became evident to Ben that the engine had developed an oil consumption issue, so the engine was replaced with a reconditioned unit. The original engine would have been an 1100, which was later swapped out to a 998A+ many years ago. “That engine was great and took us all over the place including the Isle of Wight, until it decided to consume more oil than a cruise ship. It’s now had a re-con 998A+ engine with electronic ignition that has done 1,500 miles already and will be put to the test on the Scottish roads this summer”, Ben says.
An engine swap is not without its headaches either and the last thing that is needed is the mechanical fuel pump falling to bits inside the engine. “The pumps are a pain to get too, and I had to make sure I fished all the bits out the engine and gearbox otherwise it could destroy it. After that it’s had an electrical fuel pump fitted as I promised I’d never fit a mechanical pump again”, Ben recalls.
As for modifications, the alloy minilite wheels were upgraded, which are on a standard suspension, with a bog-standard gearbox. Ben’s Uncle had fitted a sunroof to the Mini back in the day which will hopefully be resprayed this winter, keeping the original dark blue colour.
Inside, the Mini had a later model interior, but a more standard look was desired. Ben sourced some older seats without headrests, and had new covers, door cards, and carpet made to match what would have been in the car originally from new.
The car is now in great working order, so the family can get out and make the most of driving and exploring. Summers are filled with days out and road trips, often doing over 100-mile round trips. “For us the journey is just as enjoyable as the destination. It’s a real fun car to drive, bouncing down the road and all being so close together inside – although there’s a surprising amount of room! The furthest we have driven so far is on a weekend on the Isle of Wight, the weather was amazing and the ferry over was rammed with Mini’s.
“It’s my wife’s 40th this July so we are driving up to Scotland and around the coast for a couple of weeks so that will definitely be the most challenging. It’s funny to see people’s reactions when we tell them how far we are going in as they say a ‘tiny car’. Recently the car went round the clock, so we pulled over and took a photo, the value has shot right up as it now appears to be a low mileage example… well the clocks do anyway!”, Ben tells us.
The family also has a 1952 grey Fergie to look after which sounds a lot of fun! So, with the tractor and the 1978 Mini Clubman, there are a lot of new memories to be made and adventures to be had. Fingers crossed little Wilfred too will be able to enjoy driving the Mini when he learns to drive in years to come.
Thanks Ben for chatting with us, enjoy the Scottish road trip!