We talk a lot about the origins of the Sport Compact craze, and the discussion usually ends up with a reference or two to 1990s-era Honda Civics. Then when it comes to high tech JDM super cars, which were also debuting around the same time, it is almost unanimous that that was the starting point for the passion for compact high performance cars. However, at the same time, over in Europe potent Sport Compacts were basically the norm due to crowded streets and high gas prices. The need for a fun and sporty miniature compact car prompted automaker Austin to build the pint-sized Mini, which rewrote history.
The power of this car has been increased by more than 400% over the original 1975 rating.
Owner Lyle Engleson of San Diego is obsessed with these cars and has built one every bit as modified as the highly successful Ireson bi-moto Mini, but with more functionality in mind. Engleson has converted this mini to a rear engine, rear wheel drive car for the improvement in handling. With the use of a Zcars conversion, the engine mounts, integrated roll cage and suspension system are all custom in order to make this happen. The entire cage has been powder coated black and suspension system anodized blue for theme consistency. The radiator and gas tank are located in the front of the car where the original engine was located. The kit was made specifically for Engleson and was shipped out from the UK. Engleson’s MINI is one of only three in North America that uses this kit with a VTEC motor and the only turbo in the world using the Zcars kit.
We did the math afterward and the only things retained from the original Mini are the shell, front windshield, front bearing holders and the throttle pedal. Everything else on the car has been custom fabricated and/or replaced. For that to happen, he needed the right shop and turned to the San Diego division of High End Performance.
When it came to the power generated by the new powerplant, we had to do even more math. The power of this car has been increased by more than 400% over the original 1975 rating. The engine has been powder coated black, and the oil tank, timing cover, alternator, intake manifold and valve cover are fully polished. Yes, the AC and power steering has been removed but hey, it’s a race car. Innovative billet aluminum mounts were used to mount the engine to the frame and roll cage for a positive connection. The remote oil cooler is cooled by fresh air coming from NACA ducts in the windows of the car. The Exhaust was hand-made in full titanium from the manifold all the way to the tip. A custom muffler was designed and then wrapped in a titanium sheet to complete the look. A polished radiator and shroud with the custom fuel cell are found up front because there is absolutely no room in this 2-seater.