Blimey gets more tail

I’ve been tragically delinquent in posting this year. Been crazy busy. I’m going to post some stuff to catch up. Really.

In the meantime, here’s Blimey’s latest mod – GP Rear Trim, and matching exhaust tips:

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The GP trim is a subtle change, but it really transforms the rear of the car. I like it MUCH better than the rear aero bumper. It installs as three pieces – the rear pieces of the arches which hold the reflectors/sidelights are replaced also. Quick install – a few screws and snaps. Done. Thanks to Joaquin for turning me on to this mod.

Only issue was that once I put it on, the larger exhaust cutout made my blacked-out beer cans look even more anemic. Needed something bigger to fill the void. And wanted to stick with my one-ball exhaust. And wanted to stick with black-out.

The tips are the 1st gen “Sport” OEM accessory tips. I’m not a big fan of those tips when they’re shiny (sorry, Rudy), but with some textured powder coat to match the trim, they rock. Thanks to Tom Davis at Carolina Custom Powder Coat in Cary for doing a fantastic job on them.

Blimey’s Meth Lab

One of the MINI’s biggest challenges is the heat produced by the Eaton M45 supercharger. This is a relatively inefficient supercharger design, that has the double whammy of both heating up air as a natural byproduct of compressing it, and creating additional heat of friction by literally beating the air as it spins.

It’s the job of the intercooler to remove as much of this heat as possible before the air enters the intake manifold, is mixed with fuel, and enters the engine. Unfortunately, space and engineering limitations resulted in a fairly small intercooler perched right on top of the supercharger and intake manifold… where it’s subjected to radiant heat every time the car stops moving and air stops flowing in through the grille and hood scoop. This results in “heat soak” – where the intercooler is effectively saturated with heat and unable to cool the supercharged air flowing through it. Much testing of top-mount MINI intercoolers has been done by others and, while aftermarket ICs are available, the stock IC is a pretty good compromise of cooling efficiency and rapid recovery from heat soak once you start moving again.

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Voltage Scoop and Cool Blue Rings

OK… I’m gonna start catching up on posts… really, I am…

First… what I just finished… well, almost finished… still gotta wetsand and polish after the paint cures a bit more…

Dale at Voltage Products is making a fantastic big bonnet scoop. I like the lines of it much better than the other big scoops on the market – M7 and Uber. It really flows into the lines of the bonnet, no hard transitions like with the other scoops.

Here it is in “raw” primed form.

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I have lots of spray equipment and airbrushes in my sculpture studio – so I decided to use this as an excuse to work on my “professional” auto paint skillz…

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RMW Cam and Header

I have two problems. Most of you haven’t noticed them. But I need to fess up.

1) I like to go FAST.

2) I like to mod my car.

There. I said it. I feel so much better now that you all know my secret shame.

Even though I told my Motoring Advisor, on the day that I picked up my car, that I planned to leave it “pretty much stock”… well, I had no idea what the next couple of years behind the wheel of my MINI were going to do to me… I NEEEEEED more power. NEEEEEEED it. Bad. Always. This is a story of how I got some.

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Blimey’s Dyno Tune

Jan Brueggemann Rocks. There, I said it. Call me a fanboi. I don’t care.

Thanks to Joe for arranging a tuning party at Speedwerks in Thomasville (right around the corner from Grassroots Garage). Several folks from THMMC, along with others from between DC and Charleston and Atlanta and Tennessee, showed up over a Friday and Saturday for their hour or so of magic on the dyno.

Jan uses DimSport tuning software and hardware to modify the MINI’s ECU maps, to optimize performance. This has an impact even on stock cars, but is especially impactful on cars that have aftermarket mods like pulleys, heads, headers, exhausts, intakes, camshafts, injectors……. you get the idea. The dyno applies a load to the front hubs of the car, and measures the torque and RPM generated, as well as analyzing exhaust gasses for air/fuel ratios.

Here’s Blimey on the SpeedWerks Dynapack chassis dyno:

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Note that the front wheels are removed, and the car is hooked up to the Dynapack load units on each side. The big fans are used to provide radiator, engine and intercooler airflow to similar driving conditions on the street. In reality, you can’t move nearly as much air with a decent sized fan as you really get when driving, but every little bit helps. You also spray the intercooler with water between runs to reverse heat soak and create as much consistency across runs as possible.

Here’s Jan at work on his computer, tuning the ECU maps before uploading them to the car.

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The automatic transmission is VERY challenging to dyno and tune. You can’t “bog” the auto… it will automatically downshift, even when in “manual” mode. Likewise, if you floor the accelerator past the “kickdown point”, it will downshift automatically. The dyno pull has to be done in third gear, so you have to set the dyno to start reading at about 3000 RPM, then very carefully modulate the throttle to get the RPMs just below 3000 in 2nd so you can upshift to 3rd, then floor it to (but not past) the kickdown point and hold until the car builds to max RPM and the run is over. It takes a LOT of trial and error to get this technique down.

Even when you’re done, the auto is harder for Jan to tune. The torque converter prevents clean transmission of power from the engine to the axles. So there’s a weird dip in the middle of the torque curve until the torque converter “locks” then torque jumps up suddenly.

Even with all these challenges, big gains are possible with work. Here’s my melted dyno sheet (the ink got wet on the way home… and Jan didn’t save the files so I couldn’t have a reprint done)…

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You can’t assume much from the left end of the charts… but on the right end, note the blue line is higher than the red line… those are significant torque gains… that you can immediately feel on the street. Jan tuned the car a tad rich to allow for my cam install later, or gains would have been even greater.

I didn’t even know what a camber plate WAS two years ago….

… and now I have a pair!

Yesterday I tore down Blimey and installed a pair of Koni FSD struts and Ireland Engineering fixed camber plates. I’ve been eyeing the Koni’s for a while, hoping to get a deal. A used set recently came up for sale on NAM and I grabbed them. I figured, while I had the front struts out, it was the right time to add camber plates if I was ever going to do it. So I ordered a new pair of Ireland Engineering plates as well. All this stuff sat in my garage for a couple of weeks before I could get time to install them.

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Improved Foot / Car Interface

In specifying and modifying my MINI, I’ve paid a lot of attention to the man/machine interfaces:

  • Spec’ed leather seats – because I like the way they feel.
  • Ditched the rubber mats for coco mats – partially because of the feel of the rubber mats
  • Replaced my OEM tach/speedo domes with Optium to reduce glare.
  • Wrapped my steering wheel with a wheelskin for improved fattness and feel.
  • Replaced the OEM Armrest with the Euro Armrest to match my elbow position.
  • Modified my fire extinguisher mount to be exactly the right extension and height.
  • Carefully positioned my GPS, phone, radar detector controls, G-Timer, ScanGauge, driving light switch, etc. for optimal usage.
  • Replaced the OEM shift knob and e-brake handles with skull knob and aluminum UJ handles – for both feel and appearance.
  • Wrapped the Chrono Pack face with black satin vinyl to reduce glare and improve eye-appeal of the gauge cluster.
  • Added the Euro Parcel Shelf for easy-to-reach storage.
  • Added the MCAW window circuit to make it easier and quicker to control my windows.

But there was still one major interface I hadn’t done anything about – the foot/pedal interface…

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All Aboard the Blimey Train!

While some of the early MINIs had “anemic” horns, the horn in my 2006 just sounds… average.

Average in every way. Volume, tone, resonance… it sounds pretty much like every “normal” car horn out there.

I guess I shouldn’t complain. Some owners of early MINIs have complained that nobody can hear their little toy-car-sounding “beep beep”. Other people can certainly hear my horn. They just don’t care very much. When I sound the horn, their response is:

1) Think, “Hmmm. Somebody in some kind of car is honking their horn.”

2) Think, “Hmmm. I wonder why they’re honking it.”

3) Think, “Hmmm. I wonder if they’re honking at ME?”

4) Turn to look and see where it’s coming from and whether it might have something to do with THEM.

And, of course, by this time I have already used my cat-like reflexes and the MINI’s legendary agility to evade whatever idiotic thing they were doing that made me honk in the first place.

If they’re, say, pedestrians crossing against the light, they look up and say “Oh, it’s just one of those clown cars” and keep right on doing what they’re doing.

See? Worthless.

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More Blimey Leather!

I’m still loving my Redline Goods custom shift and brake boots. They really helped bring the Union Jack color scheme inside the car.

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I recently replaced my OEM armrest with the MINI aftermarket armrest – it sits higher and is a better anatomical fit for me, and works better, and I think looks better, and liberates the rear cupholder. But it came with a cheap black vinyl pad on top, that didn’t match my seats or anything else in my car. I just HAD to do something about that…

So I contacted Maciek at Redline Goods – but they had never seen one of these armrests before. He agreed to make me a cover for it – but I had to send the pad from my armrest TO POLAND to have it fitted… so I did. A few weeks later, I had this:

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Much better than the black pad! This is an easy swap – there are six screws that hold the pad on the lid, and the cover just wraps around and sticks to the pad backer with double sided tape. Redline Goods has a template for this now – so you can just order the cover for the MINI Euro Armrest – no shipping to Poland necessary!

Of course, I couldn’t stop there… so I also had him make me some covers for the door armrests. Blimey’s Union Jackification is nearly complete!

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Looks GREAT to me… really livens up the interior, and makes everything look like a package. Ties the stripes, grille and external Union Jacks to the interior. And the door armrests make the entry to the car look like it should, IMHO.

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It’s taken almost a year and a half – but Blimey’s UJ theme is finally just about “there”… now time to do more with the engine bay…