This car was never going to stay standard for long. Even before I bought the Mini I had an idea of what I wanted to do to it. To be clear, I'm not looking to replicate a car from Need for Speed or a Fast and Furious film here, I just want to give my Mini a unique character and make it mine. I also enjoy tinkering, so I get as much enjoyment from cracking the toolkit out and fitting the parts as I do from enjoying the extra performance.
AEM air intake system
The first change I made was the addition of a cold air induction system by AEM, which uses the bonnet scoop (that hole above the front badge) to feed air into the engine more aggressively than normal, helping the car to breathe better and produce more power.
It was a fairly simple procedure. I ordered the kit from Lohen, a Mini specialist, and it took me a couple of hours to get it all installed. Removing old parts was easy enough and the included instructions (plus a YouTube tutorial published by AEM) made fitting the new parts simple. The kit included an air filter cone (the red thing in the photo), a box for it to sit in, the large pipe running down the right side, an AEM branded heat shield to fit over the car's turbocharger, and a funnel which directs air through the bonnet scoop and into the air box.
AEM claim the kit can give an extra 20 horsepower to the 170 the car came with. I'm not sure the increase is quite as dramatic as that, but it certainly makes a difference. Acceleration is stronger from lower revs, making the car feel sharper and more eager to get going. The larger air intake also produces a sucking noise as you accelerate and a hiss when you lift off. It's a long way from The Fast and The Furious, thankfully, but gives the car a subtle but interesting new soundtrack.
I paid £340 for the intake kit, but at the time of writing Lohen's sale had taken the price down to £289. Just make sure you check if your car has a MAF sensor or not. Mine doesn't, which meant I had to add an extra housing to the kit, bumping the price up by £20.
A blast of walnut shells
Next up was a trip to TWG Automotive, a Mini and BMW specialist in Camerley, for what's known as a decoking. The N14 and N18 engines of the second-generation R56 Mini has a habit of building up carbon deposits inside. On higher mileage cars - mine has 85,000 on the clock - this results in decreased performance and a sluggish reaction when you accelerate. Decoking sees the engine's innards blasted with walnet shell dust, cleaning it all out and giving back the car's original performance.
The difference was immediately obvious, giving the Cooper S sharper and more positive acceleration with less hesitation than before. There's also the peace of mind knowing eight years of carbon deposits have been blasted away. TWG charges £180 for its decoking service, which takes around four hours. As my car was due a brake fluid change, this was done at the same time for an extra £40.
John Cooper Works
As my car has the optional John Cooper Works bumpers and door sills, I wanted to get a pair of front and rear JCW badges to complete the look. Purists will argue this is wrong, because the car isn't a true JCW, as could be bought new with several other changes, not just the body. But sod that, I like the badges so I bought a £20 pair off eBay for the front grille and boot, and stuck them on.
While most people spent New Year's Eve buying last minute champagne, I was heading up the M1 to collect an exhaust I'd bought on eBay from Durham. I hadn't planned to buy a John Cooper Works exhaust, because they are rare and expensive, but then this backbox came up for £160 I couldn't resist. It was bought a year ago for £445 and has done 10,000 miles, but looks pretty much as new.
For now it's taking up my boot and back seats, but once it's fitted - a £20 job, once I can get it booked into the local garage - it'll give my car a nice new soundtrack and more aggressive look from the rear. There will be more popping and burbling, and it'll sound lovely.
Last of all, here's a quick video I took with a GoPro driving down from Holm Moss and into Huddersfield. Unfortunately, the suction mount failed so I'll need to buy a new (better) one soon.