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I started a thread a few years back of my winter project when I refreshed Watson’s engine and bay. Some folks enjoyed following the progress, so I will be documenting this year’s winter project and it is the biggest to date!!

A little back story for those that haven’t met Watson, he is a 1975 British Leyland Mini 1000. The previous owner brought him across the pond in 2000, and spent most of the next decade sitting in a garage. He joined our family in 2012, we have enjoyed him and making improvements ever sense.

Previous projects have been and refresh of the engine and bay, the front drums brakes were also converted over to discs, and from single to a dual line system. 

46438707512_034306e3d6_z.jpgUntitled by Corey Brown, on Flickr

So what is this Year’s project? Watson is going manual, it is time for the auto to go!!!

32617447878_6f5eba2f36_z.jpgUntitled by Corey Brown, on Flickr

In a classic Mini this requires a whole new engine, as the transmission is the oil pan. The oil gallies are in different locations from auto to manual, so you got to change it all. Also the manual has a narrower subframe, so that’s got to change too.

So what all needs to be done?

- pull engine/trans

- remove automatic shifter and linkage

- drop front auto subframe

- give the bay a good cleaning while everything is out

- swap all the suspension components over to the manual subframe

- install manual subframe

- install engine/trans

- Switch out pedal box (might need a clutch pedal)

- Install clutch master cylinder and plumb to slave cylinder

- mount shifter and connect linkage

- Cross fingers/toes and turn the key

I will try you have weekly updates, so check back often. If you have any questions or want to see something in particular just let me know.

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Short days in the office this week has let me get a jump start the project. Yesterday I planned to drain the fluids and prep the engine to pull. This consisted of:

-          Remove the bonnet, not necessary but after braining yourself on the bonnet latch one or five times you decide it is a good idea.

44673071260_a1a082ea7c_z.jpgAuto to manual by Corey Brown, on Flickr

-          Drain the oil, pretty straight forward remove plug wait for gravity to finish.

-          Drain the coolant: this is your first cursing opportunity, old classics lack a drain plug in the radiator so you have to pull off the lower hose. It’s a bit of tight confines, but a long screwdriver and a convenient access hole in the wheel well makes it do able)

-          Pull the carb, intake manifold, and exhaust header: pretty straight forward and with a special reasoning the header comes out the top ( have a video of this may try to figure out embedding it later)

-          Now the electrical needs to be disconnects this takes a while. Just joking, Disconnect the positive cable to the alternator, the negative earth, and the quick connect to the distributor and temp sensor. THAT’S ALL THE WIRES!!

-          Remove the alternator and oil filter from the front of the engine to give yourself a little extra room on the way out. You will thank yourself later

-          That’s it from up top so down below the finish the day’s check list. Disconnect the shift linkage and pull the axles from the differential. The linkage is just a bolt attaching a cable to the selector lever, so takes more time to get myself under there then to disconnect.

-          Pull the axels is pretty easy too. My preferred method is just pop the tie rod end and upper ball joint. Once the ball joint is out of the upper control arm, you can pull the top of the hub out which will let the axel pull out of the U-joint yoke.

This is where the day was supposed to end, but I had it all complete in about 2 hours. There was plenty of daylight felt, so I decided this puppy is coming out TODAY!! So what was left to make the engine free of the Mini was just 3 mounts held in by a measles 6 bolts. This engine will be out and I will be drinking beer in 30 minutes max, WRONG!!

The Top steady bar that connects the top of the engine to the fire wall was easy enough 1 mount and 2 bolt down moving on. Sense I am done on top I set up the engine hoist and connect to the engine for the lift that is mere moments away. Next the radiator side engine mount, I find that one bolt had broken off. Normally a problem, but today a win one less bolt to undo. The other nut comes off the bolt with no issues. 2/3 of the way to me hoisting this engine like Raffi Ki lifting Simba.

I move to the torque convertor side, and I notice the two nuts are a bit rusty this should have been my foreshadowing of the impending plot shift.  I go after the first and with a little force it starts turning, I remove the socket to see the nut has not backed off instead the bolt is spinning, NOOOO!!!

About now is when I remembered why I had a day scheduled for 3 mounts, and my cockiness had upset the car gods. For those of you that don’t know the car god’s they make god in the Old Testament seem like a candy striper. They can only be appeased through aggravation and blood.

The following hours of frustration, can also be blamed on British engineering. The heads of the bolts are nearly inaccessible, with the only path being a quarter inch gap between the bell housing and the subframe slanted back under the engine and about 5 inches down.  This could all have been avoided by adding a tab next to the hole on the mount that would make the bolt captive, but no instead there has been nearly 60 years of pain and suffering reaching these two bolts. 

After about an hour I was able to get an open ended wrench on the bolt head by using a blind reverse backhanded grip. I have some advance car yoga poses, I have added over the years. Once I had accessed the bolt heads the nuts can right off, and it was time for Victory!!!!

45766562254_964bab7f80_z.jpgAuto to manual by Corey Brown, on Flickr

The engine pretty much comes straight up and out, just a few inches forward to let the differential clear the firewall. Hence removing the oil filter and alternator from the front earlier.  The engine cleared and it was free.

46489924701_0917f36b1e_z.jpgAuto to manual by Corey Brown, on Flickr

The engine mount ordeal took another 2 hours, so 4 hours total to get the engine out is not too bad.  Next will be dropping the subframe from the body. I will try to have more pictures next time.

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The Car god’s looked fondly on me today, and everything went as planned. Today task was to drop the front subframe. I plan to leave everything attached to the subframe and remove as one piece, just keeps everything in one place until we start switching components over to the new subframe.

46504710681_59522c01eb_z.jpgUntitled by Corey Brown, on Flickr

So the process of disconnecting the subframe from the body is pretty straight forward. First I needed to move the jack stands from their normal jack points on the subframe. Luckily I keep some all-purpose 6ft 2”x6” boards in the corner on the garage. I placed one under the Mini on the floor plan directly behind the rear mounting points of the subframe with the 3ton floor jack in the middle. Yes, I am aware 3 tons is a bit over kill but if you got it use it. Once I jacked up, I placed a jack stand at each end and the Mini was secure.

Now the fun stuff I disconnected the shocks from their upper mounts as those are on the inner wheel wells. Next the Battery cable bringing power from the battery in the boot has to be disconnected from the power block and three anchor points along the bottom of the subframe. Last feed the shifter cable back though its anchor point on the subframe, and that does it for things still attached to the body.

32631796718_d7b1a2cc1d_z.jpgUntitled by Corey Brown, on Flickr

All that remains is the subframe bolts, but before undoing those and dropping the subframe on my foot lets support it to control it coming out. To do this I grab my trusty 3ft 4”x4” I use the spread the load and lift the rear. If it’s good enough for the rear should work on the front. The 4x4 perfectly fits the gap between to the two jack points, so I take the smaller 1.5 ton low profile jack and bring to board up flush with the bottom of the subframe. The subframe is held in with 10 bolts: 2 each side at the rear at the base of the firewall, 2 in each tower, and 1 each side in the front under the bumper in line with the headlight. All bolts came out freely, with the only bump in the road being I had to recruit one of the girls to hold a box wrench on the head of the rear bolts in the floor boards while I undid them from below.  The Jack took the load, and easily lowered it to the ground.

32631796308_52859e15f4_z.jpgUntitled by Corey Brown, on Flickr

I did not want to leave the front so high in the air, and wanted to have the Mini sit a bit more level, bring in a pair of harbor freight furniture dollies. They are rated 500lbs, and in its current condition the Mini is nowhere near that.  I do think the new front wheels may hurt cornering a bit, but they make the 10s on the rear look huge.

45781116224_4da2a80085_z.jpgUntitled by Corey Brown, on Flickr

Last task for the evening was to drop the shifter, just undo four nuts and push it out the bottom. Found a bit of Watson’s original red were the washer were under the bolts.

46504711181_c44ca2f783_z.jpgUntitled by Corey Brown, on Flickr

Tomorrow we are headed down south, and will be bringing the remaining parts needed back with us. So next update should be early next week.

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42 minutes ago, Gearhead60 said:

Nice write up Corey. Any plans to modify the mounts to make removal easier the next time?

I thinking of either tack weld the bolts to the mounts or a tab that makes them captive. 

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Today task list was to finish up removal/breakdown of the things that needed to come off, this consisted of removing the brake pedal only pedal box and stripped all the suspension components off of the old automatic subframe.

I decided to start with the pedal box, as this requires a bit of standing on your head in cramped spaces best to start there while you still enthusiastic. The first step which is the worst by far is removing the cotter pin (I previously replaced with the nut and bolt) that connects the top of the brake pedal to the plunger from the brake master cylinder. As you can see in the photo it is set back in the firewall a bit, so there is a very limited space to access it.

The problem is the brake master cylinder will begin to wear over time and the seals allow some brake fluid to run down the plunger and the cotter pin rusts in place, making breaking it loose and getting it out a really pain. Luckily I had this battle when I replaced the old single line master cylinder with a dual line setup a few years back. This is why I have a bolt in place of the pin, mine was rusted welded in place, and I just cut the head of the pin and punched it out. So today it came out very easy.

32688791538_258c1ce37b_z.jpgUntitled by Corey Brown, on Flickr

Next was detaching the the bolts holding the pedal box in place. First I had to undo the steering column bracket that is held by to bolts tucked under the dash pad at the circles.

44744684330_cc717a079b_z.jpgUntitled by Corey Brown, on Flickr

Bonus points for anyone that can tell me what these weird bolt heads are for?

32688802728_d0507dbcb5_z.jpgUntitled by Corey Brown, on Flickr

The pedal box is held in from the top by four nuts on studs the run up thought the firewall and also are used to hold the brake and clutch master cylinders. Last there are two bolt under the dash attaching the box to the firewall.

45647930955_b71f9e550c_z.jpgUntitled by Corey Brown, on Flickr

Once all the bolts were free, all that was left was to disconnect the wiring harness clip from the side of the box, and remove the defroster hose that is routed through the box. Once this was done it took a little wiggling, twisting, and it was out.

45838421804_8327172454_z.jpgUntitled by Corey Brown, on Flickr

Now it was time to strip down the old automatic subframe, so that parts can be cleaned and prepped for the new subframe

First was to remove the spindles and axles, I will be leaving the calipers attached to the spindles also. As the top ball joint had already separated to pull the axels from the engine, I still needed to use the ball joint separator on the lower. With both separated the last piece to disconnect the flex brake line from the hard line where it passed through the subframe. Last was to unseat the ball joints from the upper and lower control arms and slide the whole assembly out.

45647974325_edf7f79d25_z.jpgUntitled by Corey Brown, on Flickr

Next I removed the lower control a which consists first removing bolt my socket is on in the phot. Then encouraging the pin out with some swings from a rubber mallet (the persuader), if still stuck then the 2lb sledge (the BFH) until the “D” head from the subframe as shown in the second photo. Once the pin is out the lower arm just drops out.

32688330258_49df7e7b79_n.jpgUntitled by Corey Brown, on Flickr 31620997997_ca9870cb9e_n.jpgUntitled by Corey Brown, on Flickr

Next is the upper control arm, which is very much like the lower arm. First undo the bolt on both sides of the pin, and then remove the two smaller bolts to release the retaining plate. Once the plate is removed, use the same persuasive swings to release the pin from the subframe. Once out pull down releasing the arm from the bottom of the trumpet and pullfree of the tower.

44744198360_72185e36d6_n.jpgUntitled by Corey Brown, on Flickr 31620996177_99b5af2576_n.jpgUntitled by Corey Brown, on Flickr

Coming to the end I have to next free the rubber cone and trumpet from the subframe tower. There is no good way to do this, it’s just a combination of pry bar, mallet, and elbow grease till it is free. The second photo shows how the cone and trumpet setup works. The classic Mini used a rubber cone in place of a spring in the suspension.

32688338748_d21061f51a_n.jpgUntitled by Corey Brown, on Flickr 46509938472_e15561fbb1_n.jpgUntitled by Corey Brown, on Flickr

Also I brought back the new subframe and pedal box from storage down south. I was also pleasantly surprised when I pull the subframe out to find that I had already clean, stripped, and repainted it a few years back. Winning!!!

31621004437_178aae24ab_z.jpgUntitled by Corey Brown, on Flickr

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It has been a bit since my last update, I have been keeping busy with the boring stuff like cleaning and prepping parts and waiting on ordered parts to arrive.

So first came A LOT of elbow grease to get 40 plus years of road grime, grease, and rust off the upper and lower control arms as they will be reused in the manual subframe. So after several hours of degreaser, wire brushes, and a few other tricks we got back to bare metal. Here is an untouched upper control arm next to a cleaned one.


One down only three more pieces to go, but a few more hours and we got there


Now that all the parts are clean it was time to mask off surfaces and get a coat of gloss black chassis paint on them, pretty happy with the way they came out.


I hit the clutch/brake pedal box with a new coat of paint, and decided I was tired of braking things down and was ready to put something back. The space is a bit tight, but with a little spatial reasoning I was able to work the pedals around the steering column and into place. That’s right, Watson is officially living the three pedal life.


I also ran into my first unexpected problem in the project. I needed to separate the trumpets from the rubber cones. The trumpet has a lip that sits inside the rubber cone, this creates a lot of surface area for the two to rust weld together over the years. Think or the hub centric wheels you have battle with getting off and that was only a few years. So then you have a cone on one side and a half sphere on the other, not my top two picks for shapes to get a grip on. This was not the unexpected problem, I knew this was coming. The surprise came as I was looking at one of the trumpets and saw a hair line crack, I gave it a frim wack with the rubber mallet and SURPRISE it broke right off.


I had been debating upgrading to adjustable hi/low trumpets, but had decided to hold off. Watson’s had a different plan so upgrade it is.


So I still had to get the one broken trumpet and the one still good trumpet out of the cones. So it was time to come up with a Rube Goldberg machine. I decide that a combination of a large bearing separator, three clawed puller, crowbar, rubber mallet, and some PB blast should get the job done. So here was the plan use the bearing separator to create a gap, this worked well tightening the separator created about a 1/8” gap. I loosened the separator and use the new gap to get PB blast into the collar. I let is do its magic for about an hour, then tightened the separator in past the edge of the trumpet so I could use it to pull. I attached the puller to the edges of the separator and began to add pressure. You could hear it making all those fun creaking noises, and I would give it a few taps with the mallet.  A few turns on the puller, and back an fourth. Sorry no photos of the process as I was more focused on not snapping the trumpet and sending metal flying in all directions. Finally they let go and there was no bodily harm. Here are the tools used and the final result.

39786040573_9c073876f0_n.jpgUntitled 31809761197_f573eee157_n.jpgUntitled

So at this point I was at the mercy of the shipping guy waiting on parts (this was a whole another debacle) so I spend my snow day straightening the garage and tidying up some little things while running to the garage door every time a heard a truck hoping it would be the delivery guy. No Luck


Final this Thursday the parts box arrived with Hi/low trumpets, new tie rods (the old one made Elton John look straight), and a bunch of new bushings and seals for the suspension components. Hey @Gearhead60 check out those engine mounts with built in nutserts!!


So the goal over the long weekend is to get the subframe back together and into Watson. We are moving in the right direction now.

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