DON’T MAKE ME ANGRY MINI KAD 16V TURBO #Austin #Austin-Mini
Or, how to make a utility car do a quarter mile in a shade over 11 seconds. What’s green, mega-powerful and doesn’t fit in its clothes? No, not The Hulk – Carl Austin’s 235bhp #Mini
, that’s what. Words James Winstanley. Photography Matt Woods.
Adjective – a describing word. That’s what we were taught, right? Over the years for special, rare and modified cars, many of these words have been nabbed from the public psyche, many have been reinterpreted with an automotive slant, and many have been invented. Stanced, for example, if any youngsters are reading. And of all those cars over the years, nothing has ever been such a font of overly augmented describing words than this – Carl Austin’s Mini. That really is his name by the way.
Aggressive? Check. Inspirational? Double-check. Purposeful? A quivering check – it’ll punch me if I don’t. However, what about cute? Strangely yes, check. Nothing has been tuned, accessorised and restored quite as much as the Mini, which makes it even more impressive that after all these years, something can still come along and blow your trumpet socks off, yet still retain that underlying Mini charm.
‘THERE IS NO REAR SUBFRAME AND THE FRONT IS MADE FROM TITANIUM’
Carl, as you might expect, has been into Minis for as long as he could hold a steering wheel, and this particular chapter of his back catalogue comes in two volumes. The first was when he originally sourced the permanently Almond Green coloured donor back in 1993. Bought as a bare shell with just the subframes and front discs included, Carl had an aim from the outset and the plan to build a very specific hillclimb car. That he did in double quick time, initially starting with the typical body rectifications. ‘It needed the usual rust repairs, sills, wings, front lower quarter panels, nothing too serious,’ says Carl in the way that only those au-fait with rotten Minis can do to make a lot of welding seem like a ten minute job.
Within six months though it was all restored and complete with the mods required for competition, built to run in the sub-1400cc touring car hillclimb class of the era. This was a glorious motorsport series, where entrants were required to keep the trim and interior so the cars appeared and largely remained standard on top, but they came clad with slicks and arches underneath. Minis, as you might expect at the time, were a dominant force to be reckoned with and Carl’s had all the usual Mini mods you would expect, centring around a period tuned A-Series.
After two or three seasons of competition with success and plenty of wins to its name in Carl’s hands, the Mini was confined to the workshop corner. Other cars came and went and metallic tick of the clock was soon ringing up its numbers in years rather than minutes.
In 2008 though, the Mini’s chapter re-started. By this point Carl was heading up a company called Force Racing in Leeds, specialising in the supply of what they describe as ‘the most exotic parts available for the classic Mini.’ And that company strapline is not exaggerating.
Carl had already started on the engine build before the car was to see light of day again, and it’s about as extreme as they come from a powerplant that by this point was celebrating its 57th birthday. Needless to say still an A-Series underneath, but apart from the block, it’s a long, long way detached. The 1293cc bottom end is rebuilt with Mini Spares forged pistons, and the lightweight rods and lightened and balanced crank are Carl’s own work, refined over decades of A-Series developments.
The big news is up top though, where he’s fitted a KAD small valve, long case 16V head with a set of L14 (280˚ duration) cams. The notion of a twin cam Mini has been around for a little while, with both the KAD units and BMW bike-derived donor heads being used with great success, and the fact they’re just as popular now only goes to show the strength of the classic aftermarket Mini world.
Carl built the engine himself, which is why when he decided it needed more power than a regular 16V upgrade could offer, courtesy of forced induction, he didn’t mess around with a paltry off the shelf kit. Starting with a GT25 turbocharger, Carl put a new setup together to feed the mutant A-Series. He fitted a custom stainless turbo manifold to suit, along with a new homemade stainless exhaust system. At the other end his design of inlet manifold is used to great effect, both thermodynamically, and of course aesthetically. ‘It didn’t fit as you can see, but that didn’t matter, nor did the turbo.’
Carl found that a Mk3 Golf GTi throttle body was the right size for his needs, and matched this up with a set of injectors from a Rover Tomcat coupé on the fuelling side. The intercooler and radiator you can see hammering home the chiselled jaw of the Mini are also made in-house, in fact just about the only thing that isn’t Carl’s own handiwork was the final mapping of the #Emerald-ECU
, done by his mate Tom with help from PPC’s very own Dave Walker. The transmission, as you might expect, had to be as raw and fitting as the rest of the package, so a Jack Knight straight cut dog box was used with a limited slip diff, brought into use with an aggressive paddle clutch.
We can throw whatever expletives we like at the powerplant, with its aftermarket multivalve cylinder head, one-off turbo kit and home-brew money saving, but the real adjectives of honour must be saved for the rest of the car. The suspension and running gear to be exact, which as well as providing this car with the parts needed to make it a rolling test-bed and showcase, also spawned the whole business of Force Racing, selling to other keen owners.
The centre-lock 7.5x10in FN wheels might be the exclamation mark on the end of this Mini’s style statement, but behind them lies all manner of extremities. Upfront, Carl has developed, tested and now sold not only a full titanium replacement subframe for the Mini, but also a set of top and bottom arms, compression struts, uprights, anti-roll bars, drive flanges and drive shaft axle bars from the same exotic metal. This Mini has the lot fitted, and with titanium being the wonder material that it is, this means ultra lightweight chassis components without any sacrifice in strength or stiffness. The front subframe for example weighs just 6.5kg, nigh-on 1/3 of the weight of the standard part, yet is stiffer thanks to extra mounting points to the body and internal bracing.
At the rear, there’s no subframe at all, instead using a pair of Force alloy trailing arms (complete with alloy rear hubs) designed to seriously reduce unsprung mass. Along with a set of titanium brackets, these then mount directly to the heelboard of the Mini’s shell. At both ends there are Spax coilovers replacing the more traditional Mini spring medium that would look hilariously out of place on a car built to this level.
Carl’s primary aim was always to reduce weight in his car as well as creating the best chassis components available, and although the Mini isn’t used for hillclimbing these days in its new form (a new regulation compliant project is underway), it’s still well used as more than a showpiece.
The same can’t normally be said of a Mini shell but in Carl’s case, much of the original steelwork has also been made redundant in pursuit of the ultimate Mini. The front end, complete with its various puncture wounds for bulging engine parts, is a complete one-piece lift-off fibreglass moulding, and the same composite is use for the doors, bootlid and bonnet, plus the diffuser under the rear end. The windows are of course polycarbonate, and inside there are more holes in the gearlever tower than there are actual components in the cabin itself. Just a Motordrive bucket seat and steering wheel can be classed as trim, the remainder being a lightened pedalbox, hydraulic handbrake, lightweight battery plus wiring and gauges. Anything not significant or required was trimmed to within an inch of its life.
Words though, no matter how descriptive, can only go so far. You need the figures. That’ll be 235bhp at 7750rpm, nearly nine times the power output of an A-Series in its most basic form, and 200lb-ft at 6000rpm, more than four times the same. The quarter mile is passed on the dragstrip in 11.1secs, and that’s because Carl’s car weighs a frankly astounding 456kg, having lost 25% of the mass from the world’s most famous tiny car. That’s some achievement. The fact it has been done whilst drastically improving the woeful rust resistance of a Mini’s normal underpinnings thanks to using trick materials? Well that needs a new adjective.
TECH SPEC FORCE RACING MINI #Mini-Tuning
Engine: 1293cc A-Series, MiniSpares forged pistons, Force Racing lightweight rods and lightened and balanced crank, KAD small valve, long case 16V head, L14 cams, #Garrett #Garrett-GT25
turbocharger, custom stainless turbo manifold and exhaust, Mk3 Golf GTi throttle body, #Rover-Tomcat
injectors, Force Racing intercooler and radiator, Emerald ECU.
ransmission: Jack Knight straight cut dog box, limited slip diff, paddle clutch, titanium driveshafts, centre-lock 7.5x10in Force Racing FN wheels.
Chassis: Titanium Force Racing front subframe, titanium top and bottom arms, compression struts, uprights, anti-roll bars and drive flanges, rear Force Racing alloy trailing arms and alloy rear hubs on titanium brackets, Spax coilovers all round, 250lb/in and 120lb/in springs, front and rear disc brakes.
Body and Interior: One-piece glassfibre front end, glassfibre doors, bootlid, bonnet, rear diffuser, polycarbonate windows, Motordrive bucket lightened pedalbox, hydraulic handbrake, lightweight battery, Almond Green paintwork.
Power: 235bhp at 7750rpm
Torque: 200lb-ft at 6000rpm
You’d be brave to pick a fight with this in your rearview mirror. Intercooler, radiator and alloy tanks made by Carl to suit.
Carl’s home made inlet manifold uses a Golf GTi throttle body.
‘Elf and safety at its laser cut finest.
‘IT HAS MORE THAN FOUR TIMES THE TORQUE OF THE ORIGINAL’
Gear lever tower shows the extremities of Carl’s weight saving. An A-Series engine on it’s way to a near- 10 second drag run.
‘ IT WEIGHS A FRANKLY ASTOUNDING 425 KG AND COVERS THE QUARTER MILE IN 11.1 SECS’
Almond Green shell used to compete in hillclimbs, but interior is far sparser in its second life.
KAD assembly is one of two 16V head transplants for the A-Series.
GT25 turbo wouldn’t fit under the bonnet. Carl didn’t care.