Like it was meant to go there...
The UK can claim to have one of the most diverse and varied modified car scenes anywhere in the world, and nowhere is this more apparent than when discussing the Mini. Whether it's the Alec Issigonis-penned original or any one of the three generations of 'modern Mini,' UK-based fans have made it their mission to cram all manner of engines (not always from cars, we might add), running gear and pretty much anything else you care to name into the iconic hatchback. In short, if you can think of an engine and gearbox (no matter how outwardly ill-suited to the task at hand they might appear), it's highly likely that some enterprising individual has attempted to cram them into a Mini!
The Mini's central place within the tuned car world means that there's no shortage of lairy, at times utterly un-hinged examples to choose from, but we reckon that the car being built by EDM Racing in conjunction with the guys at Powerflex bushes might just be one of the wildest yet. Based around an innocuous looking R56 generation 'new' Mini, the project has seen the firm effectively re-engineer the car in an attempt to equip it with a BMW S6540 V8 7-speed Getrag DCT gearbox, both of which were 'liberated' from an E92 M3. The engine is good for a handy 415bhp and the team plan for every last shred of that power to reach the rear wheels!
Even for a car as steeped in mad project history as the Mini, this is a massive undertaking. Doing so has seen the Mini itself hacked into pieces and treated to a custom frame and cage, which in itself is ample reason for entrusting the project to EDM Racing, an outfit known for its Mini-based motorsport endeavors. Why has the project taken shape like this? Well, for that we'd best speak to the man at the helm of the project, Eliot Dunmore of EDM Racing.
Eliot Dumore's EDM outfit has prepped many amazing cars over the years, but this one's mad, even for them!
“It all began when David Power of Powerflex came to me at the tail end of 2016 with an idea for a project. He told me that he'd grown bored with his Porsche 968 and wanted something a bit more entertaining so I let him drive both our supercharged and turbocharged race cars, both of which he enjoyed immensely.”
This prompted a fairly intense discussion as to the relative merits of the Mini as a track car and the basis for a truly exciting project, with Eliot pointing out the relative limits of both the standard Mini engine and front-wheel drive.
“David tended to agree and floated the idea of something a little more ambitious, a rear-wheel drive converted Mini with a different engine,” recalls Eliot. “David asked me whether we could build it for him, I said that we could, and within months he'd dropped us off an R53 body-shell to work on.”
We can't stress how well Eliot and his team know the Mini and how well versed they are in competition car preparation, yet none of this made the project any less daunting. Eliot was at pains to avoid chopping away too much of the bodyshell's innate strength, hence why he began by designing a roll-cage and welding it into place, all while the shell was safely bolted to a rollover jig.
With the shell on the jig, Eliot to get a better idea of just how much space he had to work with, which in turn convinced him of the need to utilise Subaru Impreza subframes front and rear. These were chosen for a number of reasons, not least their availability and compact size, plus the fact that the front frames mount up horizontally with both the steering rack and ARB contained within them, saving valuable space. They also left all four wheels sitting correctly in their respective arches, an already significant factor lent further importance by David's desire to keep the Mini looking relatively stock, certainly in terms of track.
The use of Subaru hardware has also enabled Eliot and his team to give the Mini a laterally linked rear suspension layout with excellent caster geometry and suspension travel, both essential for a car of this nature, one built with the sole purpose of entertaining.
It's worth noting that at this point in the project, back in the Spring of last year, neither Eliot or David had decided on which engine and gearbox assembly would ultimately power the car. A number of different motor and 'box assemblies were mocked up and trial fitted, including the Subaru's EJ20 'boxer' and the inline six from an early M3. Both were eventually rejected thanks to their positioning, marooned at the very front of the engine bay, partially ahead of the front wheels in a manner not unlike an early Audi Quattro, and far from ideal in terms of weight distribution and handling.
“That piece of the puzzle only fell into place when David visited Iain Litchfield and sampled an E92 shape M3, and he returned convinced that this was the engine for us. Iain even lent us an engine to mock up and trial fit, and it went in surprisingly easily and sat in roughly the correct place.”
The transmission side of the equation stands to be a far trickier prospect, not least as David is at pains to utilise the E92's standard, Getrag 7-speed gearbox. The good news here is that said engine and transmission assembly were designed to work together, meaning that any concerns as to the ability of the latter to withstand the power generated by the former can be laid to rest. The bad news is that integrating the gearbox, a technological tour-de-force complete with miles of CANBUS wiring and 'flappy paddles,' will likely be one of the most demanding aspects of the entire project, albeit one that Eliot is confident he can achieve.
“Making it all work in an OEM fashion will be a challenge for sure, but no more so than the most galling part of the project so far, chopping out a transmission tunnel wide enough to accept the Getrag,” explains Eliot. “I was aware of the dangers associated with cutting too much away and removing integral strength from the shell in the process, hence why we tackled the job in set stages and with the cage in situ.”
Eliot and the rest of the EDM Racing team worked feverishly throughout last year and the body shell is now largely done, fully braced and with all required mounting points in place. The engine, gearbox, custom prop-shaft and 'diff have been trial-fitted and approved, while a stunning custom carbon fibre dash nestles inside. It means that much of the truly heart-stopping bodywork has already been completed, with the brain-fryingly complex CANBUS wiring still to be tackled. We'll be sure to bring you further details as the year (and the project) unfolds.