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Project R53

A German car built in Britain. What could go wrong?

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Having already owned my R50 Mini Cooper in the past, I had some idea of what I was getting myself into. That car although not the supercharged Cooper S, was still a heck of a lot of fun to drive, but was just a little lacking in the grunt department.

Well, this one makes up for that by being proper Cooper S.

A supercharged 170hp 1.6L 4 cylinder backed by a slick short ratio 6 speed gearbox, in a rigid body with the wheels pushed out to all four corners. It’s a winning recipe.

I had been thinking of getting one for a while, but I’ve always been put off by the high prices, and knowing they can be a bit… temperamental.

Having sold the Saab it was time to get something nippy, nimble and fun. The Saab was fast, and a really nice place to spend your time cruising the open road, but wasn’t nimble or “fun”. It was time to scratch the Mini itch again.

The stars almost aligned. There were three local, in the spec I wanted, which was mainly that it was a post-2005 facelift car. One was even a limited edition end of run Checkmate model. Two had factory LSD transmissions.

Unfortunately, I underestimated the demand for these cars, and all of them sold rapidly. The Checkmate I missed out on by a matter of about 12 hours, since it sold the night before I had arranged to view it. I should’ve really put a deposit down and pulled the trigger.

Facelift cars are harder to get hold of than pre-facelift ones. There are a ton of early cars, but the post 2005 cars are the ones to get. Slightly more power, some styling tweaks inside and out, better build quality, but most importantly, they had ironed out a lot of the issues that the early cars had. Plus, they were tuned differently and pop and crackle from the exhaust a lot more than the early cars.

I found a nice looking 2005 Cooper S in Electric Blue on Trademe, the only issue is it was all the way up north, near Hamilton. It looked nice in the photos. Completely original.

I contacted the seller anyway and discussed the car. In a strange twist, it transpires that I actually know the seller from when he used to live and work down here; I used to deal with him a lot through a previous job. Small world.

It turns out someone else had inspected the car and made an offer on it, but went away to “check something out”. This was my time to play the game. I made an offer, put the ball in the sellers court and waited.

The next day the seller contacted me advising that the other buyer couldn’t meet my offer and was messing around, so the car was mine.

Excite! Now I just had to find a way to get the car down to me. That is a story for another post.

With the car in my hands, it was clear there were issues. Nothing I couldn’t fix, but enough that I was still a bit pissed off as it should’ve been communicated to me. Nothing like driving 700 odd KM with a shudder when accelerating, which turned out to be a misfire that got worse the closer to home we got.

It’s a fun little car, but it’s desperate for some TLP TLC.

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