I must confess to not being an avid follower of the BMC Mini Cooper during the golden years. In the very early 70s I became aware of a local ‘Mini Ace’ by the name of Paul Gaymer. He had been the Mini Seven ‘King’ of 1969. One day, I asked him for his thoughts on the Mini Coopers, as I was thinking of seeking one to purchase. His response was emphatic: “The best Mini Cooper ever made was the Mk2 998.” He did state, as we would all agree, that the 998 should have had S brakes and, nearly as significant, would have had 4.5” reverse rims as standard.
Although both of my Minis’ engines have been balanced, my friend Jeff Leyden always said, as he drove my S to shows and had had his own Ss, that he felt the 1275 resembled a tractor and, car for car, the 998 was like a Mini Rolls Royce. The Mk2 Cooper front seat cushions were like a coachbuilt car’s compared to the Mk1. (My Morris Mini Cooper 1275 S Mk2 was in MiniWorld’s March 2015 issue).
To be honest I am not sure, with the passage of the years, how it all came together but I was working at a Leyland dealer near Haslemere, in West Surrey, at the time. One day there appeared a superb-looking 1969 Mk2 998 Cooper in standard format, even with the 850 wheel embellishers. Best of all was the colour: the highly favoured Island Blue and Snowberry White. I fell in love with it straight away, and approached the member of staff who owned it, but it was not for sale. It was a couple of years before it became mine in May 1977.
In those days the S was insurance group six rated and the 998 at group four. We all know it doesn’t have the oomph of the 1275, or the stopping power, but it did cut the 850’s 0-60mph time effectively in half and, as most will be aware, the S did not quite cut this in half again.
ROU 11G has been very well known in the Mini Cooper world from the early days of the Mini Cooper Club and then in 1986 The Mini Cooper Register, of which I was a founder member.
The car was fortunate to receive a number of concours awards from August 1981 onwards, often outscoring Cooper Ss and, ultimately, was the featured many restorations and re-sprays out there but the vast majority achieve nowhere near the correct shade.
The original intention had been for the body shop to receive the shell in the summer, to take advantage of super-dry conditions. The shell was sent off after it had been completely stripped to a rolling shell, for painting on 20 December and this spanned Christmas 2016 but as the business had an oven, the issues of 1979/80 were nailed, hopefully. Back then the final top-coat was a lacquer but this time it had to be solid colour. Thus preparation was thorough: they had to remove all the micro-blisters. The shell was epoxy-coated, then cellulose primer and top coats of Island Blue applied.
After the shell was returned from the spray shop, the front subframe was removed for complete overhaul and 998 Mk2 in John Parnell’s book: Original Mini Cooper and Cooper S from 1993. ROU 11G also won the first ‘Masters Class’ at Beaulieu on 9 June 1985.
Several years ago the wheels had been re-sprayed in BMC Dark Silver. The idea here was effectively a ‘colour-up’, in other words to give the appearance of ‘asoriginal’. Certainly not a ‘shine and show’ finish. Then, around 1986/87, an Italian named Joe at the Thames Valley group, said to me: “Your car has micro blisters.”
Micro blisters can be created by dampness in cellulose primer and, in many cases, this can be caused by a spray shop. Whilst on the subject of cellulose paint: it is not banned. The point is the vehicle must have originally been cellulose and the body-shop concerned must possess a ‘solvent licence’. There are so cleaning. All of the suspension items and subframes were either re-sprayed or brush-painted black. The driveshaft boot clips were cleaned up and polished with Peak. During reassembly the subframe was refitted on its own and then built up with all the arms, etc. All the threads had a fine smear of grease to avoid problems in the future with dismantling. If a torque wrench setting was quoted, it was adhered to but many bolts and nuts were ‘set to square’ i.e. all flats faced the same plane. Thus I would set the torque slightly lower than the optimum then turn the next flat to square. The Hydrolastic rubber pipes are all sleeved with a section of split rubber hose, to ensure they cannot chafe or wear if not set to 100% perfect alignment.
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