Modified 1978 Mini Pick-up
Serial Mini owner and classic car connoisseur Paul Moran found this Pick-up decomposing quietly on a farm. He has brought it back to life with MG Metro power and a show-winning specification.
Immaculate multi-trophy-winning Pick-up.
MY OTHER CAR’S A FERRARI
Words: Monty Watkins.
Photos: Andy Starkey.
Once a Mini has had 12 owners, none of whom have taken any real trouble to maintain it, it’s likely that it will be beyond repair. Mini commercial vehicles, Van and Pick-up, were usually owned by companies and written off economically when repair bills exceeded their replacement value, which was very low for a VAT-registered company. Vans sold nearly 10 times better than Pickups in the UK. Over half a million Mini Vans were made but just over 58,000 Pick-ups, making Pick-ups very rare indeed. Both models in the UK were produced from 1961 to 1983 and very few are left but their prices, reflecting high demand, now certainly mean that they are well worth saving and restoring.
Paul Moran is a professional HGV Class 1 driver with a background in quality engineering. He has an eye for a landmark sports car design and his personal fleet includes Minis, a very rare early 1930s MG J2 Roadster and, yes, a Ferrari 328 GT Spyder. The yuppies of the 1980s, driving their mandatory whaletailed 911 Turbo Sports, dreamed of owning the Ferrari 328 GTS but it stayed tantalisingly out of reach for most. Mini Pick-up qualifies as an iconic design and this one caught Paul’s eye back in 2009.
“I purchased it from a farmer in Sheffield, after it was advertised in Autotrader. It was in very poor condition, in need of a full restoration. The original engine was an 850, which I still have in bits somewhere. I have toyed with the idea of one day rebuilding it to high-performance spec. and putting it back in the car.” The rebuild started the same year. Nice to see an 850 engine being saved for posterity; they are rare indeed now.
Barn finds are always out there and some Mini saloons can be found in pretty good structural condition but this is rarely the case for Pick-ups. Many lived out their last days carrying hay bales, animal feed, concrete and worse around muddy farmyards. Paul wasn’t going to take a sabbatical from work to repair this bodyshell so he sent it off to renowned Mini specialists Old Skool Minis of Walsall, West Midlands.
He has the advantage of having his own garage at home. “Old Skool Minis did all the fabrication work. I carried out all the assembly, engine installation and interior. The replacement panels came mostly from M-Machine.” When the pristine shell was complete it was sent off to a paint shop for a special green. “The paint system is complicated. It was painted black first, to gain depth in the finish. This was a solid colour. The green top coat is a water-based paint. The company that painted the car did it to demonstrate what they could achieve with the many talented people they had working for them. Sadly they no longer exist.”
The paint is to a show standard and contrasts very nicely with the custom tonneau cover he has had made for the load bay. “The tonneau cover is mohair. The material is from stock used for Porsche convertible roofs.
The company that made and fitted it is Aldridge Trimming, Wolverhampton. They have carried out several jobs for me, including the seats for my Cooper and a complete interior for my MG J2. They are simply the best. I wouldn’t go anywhere else.”
Apart from the carbs, his worst reassembly problem was down to the replacement external fuel tank. “The fuel tank filler neck wouldn’t fit the hole in the load bed floor. The solution was to remove the neck from the tank and re-weld it in the right position.”
His plan for this Pick-up was to make it into a Gran Turismo version inspired by a retro interpretation of the Sports Pack MPi Minis: 13” alloys, big arches, full walnut dash, deep metallic paint and comfortable, contrasting interior with Cobra bucket seats at its heart. That plan didn’t really include the original 848cc engine but an MPi arrangement would have been a bit modern-looking.
He took the time-saving route and went to Janspeed for a completely refurbished 1983 MG Metro 1275 engine and manual transmission. Normally the MGM installation would feature a single SU HIF44 carburettor but this engine bay was going to be a retro design so he got a pair of Cooper-spec. SU HS2 carbs and the familiar ‘Coopers’ black tin air filter housing from the original Cooper line-up. Adding to the retro look is a conversion to diaphragm clutch with its distinctive horizontal slave cylinder. Normally this 1983 engine would have had a Verto clutch system.
“The breathing system was altered to enable the use of twin 1.” SU carbs which, in my opinion, run just as good as the single HIF 44 system with the added bonus of the better looks adding to the overall concept of the car’s design. If I remember correctly, we had to use an inlet manifold from an MG Midget and alter the accelerator cable location to get it all to work. The breathing system now comes from the flywheel case, timing chain cover and the rocker cover oil refill cap. I have never used dyno or rolling road tuning… just not a great fan of it. I prefer to do it the old-fashioned way: a screwdriver and a good ear then a blast up the road to confirm all is well.”
He has re-used the electronic ignition distributor from the MG Metro but many owners have found that these units do not bear the test of time and need a helping hand. “A good friend, Lee, a commercial fitter, helped with the electronic ignition, using an electronic module from a DAF truck to get it all to work.”
Engine paint was perhaps Leyland/ Rover’s most durable paint finish and the notoriously difficult-to-remove original red hue of the MGM power plant had to be changed for this build. Not an easy task but he is modest about it. “We prepared the engine for paint by sanding the old paint. We then used a heat-resistant primer followed by two-pack black paint, followed by sanding and then several coats of clear high-gloss lacquer. We used the same process for the silver gearbox.”
Once the engine and engine bay are painted to a high gloss, the other parts have to be just as good. Anything less than perfect stands out horribly… patina ain’t in it. It’s just the right time to add some bling in the form of chrome and stainless parts. If you have the old style brass-top radiator then that also rewards the owner for polishing the top tank. “All the chrome parts were done by Howells of Walsall; a quality company that produces some good stuff.”
With some help from his wife, Paul really went to town creating his own Pick-up interior. It’s a very small space to work in, and the cab is actually too small for any driver much over 5’10”, but his trimming and dash work make this a much nicer office space that the original, very sparse, Pick-up interior. Most of the interior parts came from Mini Sport and Huddersfield Spares but he has used plenty of ingenuity too. “The centre console and arm rest I made myself, from a drawing plan I obtained on the internet. The front speakers are original from my 328 GTS; the Focal grilles are from the door speakers that are now in the Ferrari.”
His rebuild project was completed in 2011, pretty fast for such an extensive build, and the Mini is now well known to concours judges. He has collected some major silverware: “several local show awards and two British Mini Club Premier wins in 2012 and 2014.”
We had to ask… which car is better: Mini or Ferrari? “The drive of a classic Mini and a Ferrari 328 GTS can’t be compared… apart from the fact they both go round corners like they are on rails and they both put a cheesy grin on your face. If I had to choose between the two? Well, that one is just for me. You will just need to take a wild guess.”
Paul Moran would like to thank: “Old Skool Minis, Huddersfield Spares and Mini Sport.” MiniWorld would like to thank: New HallWater Mill Preservation Trust and Rubery Owen Holdings Ltd. for the photo location at the restored and functioning New Hall Water Mill, Walmley, Sutton Coldfield (newhallmill.org.uk)
TECHNICAL SPECIFICATION Modified 1978 Austin Mini Pick-up
- Engine: 1275cc 1983 MG Metro A+ refurbished by Janspeed re-finished in black two-pack, high-gloss lacquered braided oil filter hose, capillary pressure gauge hose, fuel hoses twin SUHS2 1.” carbs Cooper S Coopers air filter housing in-line ceramic fuel filter OEmechanical fuel pump Maniflow stainless LCB, stainless twin-silencer system, side-exit polished brass-top radiator, two-core Lucas electronic ignition vacuum distributor Magnecor leads Champion plugs chrome alternator body, fan pulley by ACFHowell, Walsall stainless accessories free-to-air breather system negative earth
- Gearbox: OE A+ MG Metro four-speed, four-synchro manual gearbox final drive 3.44:1 rod-shift converted to diaphragm-type clutch system. Lockheed hydraulic clutchmaster cylinder copper pipe braided hose gearbox, transmission casings painted two-pack silver
- Brakes: Lockheed GMC227 dual-circuit yellow-tag-master cylinder, non-servo bulkhead-mounted PDWA rear brake limiter copper pipes OE hoses S/GT-spec. 7.5” front discs twin-pot calipers rear spacer drums
- Suspension: Mini dry-type rubber cone suspension front subframe refurbished new rear subframe OE telescopic dampers Hi-Los
- Wheels/Tyres: Ultralite modular-look 6x13” alloys Yokohama A539 175/50R13 72V radials
- Interior: Cobra bucket seats, headrests, cream faux leather matching dash rail trim, door cards, gear lever boot, handbrake boot replacement headlining Mini Sport walnut veneer full-width dash Mini Sport John Cooper instruments Moto-Lita burr walnut gearknob walnut door trim closures, centre console detailing centre console made by Paul Moran from online blueprints Moto-Lita wood-rim steering wheel Blaupunkt head unit Ferrari OE speakers (badged Focal) S-type door levers Coverdale green carpets, mats
- Exterior: 1978 BL Mini Pick-up bodyshell, restored replacement rear quarters, load deck, tailgate, front wings, inner wings, fuel tank repaired front grille, doors, cab frame bodyshell fabrication by Old Skool Minis one-off professionally-applied paint colour, waterbased, green metallic on black base Sports Pack arches Lucas halogen headlights, Tex door mirrors mohair tonneau cover by Aldridge Trimming, Wolverhampton.
Sports Pack arches and 6x13 alloys do not overwhelm the longwheelbase bodyshell. Right: Paul Moran
1275cc MG Metro motor. Chromed details include the alternator casing. Twin HS2s replace single HIF44 from MG Metro.
Burr walnut accessories add to the warm green and cream of the interior. It's a very English ambience