A Mini Cooper? Why build a Mini? That’s not a 4×4!

No, it’s not. But here’s another question: Why the hell not?

Several months ago we were contemplating a new project; the usual considerations were there: Hilux, Ranger, Land Cruiser, Jeep… you know the drill.

Bonnet vents add to the Mini’s aggressive new look.

But we’d just finished a Ford Ranger running on 35s, and we’ve built dozens of Jeeps, Cruisers and Arctic Truck Hiluxes. Then, the folks from Hella Automotive walked through the door…

“We wanna build a project car; something that’s never been done before!”

It was a light-bulb moment. We considered Hella’s longstanding rally history, and for some reason the picture of a Mini Cooper kept coming to mind. And so, the drawing board work began.

The rear swing-arm carrier adds a lot of functionality to the Mini, which now has a full-size spare with easy access.

A few days later a stock-standard ‘12 Mini Cooper rolled into the workshop.

The Mini was going to be built as a showpiece and project car, so the work we did on it was predominately after-hours and in-between jobs. Progress was slow and meticulous, and as you can imagine, there are no Ironman, TJM or Old Man Emu suspension kits for a Mini Cooper; the only way we were going to get the new up-size tyres to fit, was to trim the body and reinforce each cut.

To the best of our knowledge, no-one (in SA) has ever built a vehicle like this before, so there were no forums to turn to, or previous examples to go by; each step was planned one angle-grinder disc at a time.

Mini Cooper dakar
Personalised detailing and customer mud flaps.

Once the new tyres were on, the Mini stood about 35 mm taller than a stock-standard Cooper, which resulted in a very respectful ground clearance total of 225 mm up to the side bars.

Of course, the naysayers will roll their eyes and say, “What’s the point?”

But how do you explain the purpose of ‘having fun’. Sometimes, just sometimes, we do things for shits and giggles. We also wanted to push the limits of what we do.

The larger Cooper tyres give the Mini an extra 35 mm ground clearance, better traction, and more puncture resistance.

As the official distributors of Arctic Trucks, the sole concept of an Arctic Truck build is the fitment of larger tyres – without interfering with the vehicle’s suspension and steering geometry. This means, a huge part of the conversion is about modifying the vehicle’s body and chassis so that the bigger tyres can fit, without jacking up the suspension and causing a host of driving problems. The Mini conversion was no different, but in many ways, even harder to do as there’s not a lot of body and chassis to ‘play’ with.

In the end, the Mini turned out just the way we wanted, and Hella got their head-turning, one-of-a-kind show vehicle. But even more than that, the Maxi-Mini actually turned out to be a helluva practical vehicle, thanks to the following:

More ground clearance
More off-road traction
More packing space (roof-rack)
An easy access full-size spare
Better puncture resistance
Better off-road lighting
A place to pack an oversized braai grid
Call (012) 803 1040 to transform your vehicle into a one of a kind ride.

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