The MotoringFile Top 5 Mods for the MCS

It’s time once again to dust off our top five MCS mods list and reevaluate. Only this time I’m going to ask for a bit of help. Ian (of gbmini.net fame) and Lawrence (frequent MF contributor) are adding their thoughts to the mix. The idea is that between all of our lists, there’s got to be at least a few good ideas! This also gives us each a chance to make the list a bit more personal and allows for some differing opinions.

First up, Lawrence Otoole:

5. Intake/Exhaust – Usually the first mods performed, simply because of their ease of installation and immediate change to the car’s character. Nothing beats the whooshing sound of an intake pulling in fresh air and the off-throttle burbling of a cat-back exhaust. Cost can be an issue however, from options (hot air intake, one-ball exhaust, etc.) that don’t cost much, to factory-warranted JCW components that can set you back quite a bit. Whatever your choice, the difference in the seat-of-the-pants will be relatively subtle, as both mods usually deliver single-digit horsepower gains. The car will feel faster, but that’s probably because you’ll be stomping the gas pedal a bit more just to hear that sweet music!

4. Pulley/Engine Management – If you’re looking to make serious power, and get the most bang for the buck, these are the mods to go for. While the pulley is only applicable to S versions, both upgrades provide the most increase in horsepower per dollar than any other. They also come with issues regarding warranty compatibility. They can be somewhat costly, as there is high initial cost or additional labor involved – however, most say cars with these modifications alone feel the way they should have felt from the factory. So if more low-end grunt and increased oomph across the entire powerband is what you’re after, these are the mods to look into.

3. Rear Swaybar – If you’re looking to improve your handling, installing a a larger diameter (and maybe adjustable) rear swaybar is a good choice. Our cars have a tendency to understeer. A larger diameter bar reduces body roll, provides quicker turn-in, increases lateral stiffness and improves the car’s handling as a whole and makes the car a lot more neutral feeling.

2. Wheels/Tires – I agree with Gabe on his previous points about ditching the runflats. But I would also add that while looking for better performing tires, look into pairing them with lighter rims. Most of the stock MINI rims are pretty heavy (the S-Lites alone weigh over 25 pounds each!), and your car has to use some of it’s power to overcome that weight. By replacing the runflats with a combination of lighter wheels and tires, you’ll notice much better response in off the line launching as well as in overall handling. The downside is in the event of a flat – if you have an S, be sure to carry flat fix, a spare or a cellphone. A suggestion would be to keep your current stock wheels/runflats for the winter weather (if you get such stuff where you are) and pick up a separate performance set for the warmer months.

1. Driving Instruction – Far and away the best modification available – tightening up the nut behind the wheel. Works on all models and all years too! Seriously though, power increases and handling improvements mean nothing if you can’t harness and control them. Check out a local autocross or sign up for a track day where instructors will be on hand. Seek advice, get an instructor to go out with you, or better yet, have one drive your car while you observe from the passenger seat. You’ll be amazed the difference a single event makes. You’ll pick up skills that can be directly translated to your everyday street driving. You’ll have fun, become a better driver, and if you’re not careful, you could become addicted!

Next, Ian Cull:

5. I have lots of “little additions” that make GBMINI great for me but are likely irrelevant for most people … I like the factory alarm because it audibly confirms lock & unlock. I love my wiper stalk with RED indicator for low fluid instead of the ugly yellow original color. The “Hot Pocket” storage between the downtubes is much better than even the ’05 storage.

4. The JCW air intake – of course I am still hoping to upgrade that #4 to the full JCW package when MINIUSA releases it for the MCSa!

3. is also Gabe’s #4, the euro parcel shelf.

2. A good aftermarket stereo system – but I know you have a very different perspective on that than Gabe does

1. Non-runflat tires -> GBMINI rides much more comfortably and quieter, and has massively better wet weather traction. The idea of runflat is good, but it seems there is just too much compromise is noise, grip, weight, etc.

And finally, my turn:

(Disclaimer: I was going to put the Ian Cull Auto Up circuit in the list at no. 5 however since it’s no longer available here’s the revised list)

5. On the hardtop MCS Ditch the OEM S-lites and go with either a lighter OEM wheel (the R99 for example) or look for a lightweight 17″ after-market wheel. If money is no object go with one of the 18″ JCW wheels. If you have the 16″ x-spokes and like the look, stick with ’em. The MCS convertible actually comes with the lightest 17″ OEM wheels standard on the sports pack so there’s less of a non-aesthetic need to switch them out. A word of warning, aftermarket rims can sometimes be more malleable than OEM wheels and thus don’t stand up quite as well over time. This is one of the reason’s they’re often lighter.

4. Euro Parcel Shelf or the Glove Box organizer – your choice. Both give you more storage in a nice , neat OEM approved way and both are available from the dealer.

3. Cold Air Intake and Free-flow exhaust. If money is no object go for the JCW intake and the Supersprint exhaust. If it is, take a look at the Promini, Dinan or Alta intakes and the Miltek Exhaust. The new power and improved sound will be addicting!

2. Rear Sway Bar (check out the H&R or Alta). This is the single best way to make your MINI handle better at the limit. Most likely due to laibility laws, MINI isn’t able to offer this set-up from the factory. So it’s up to you to liberate your car!

1. 15% Pulley. There probably isn’t a bigger bang for your buck in the entire MINI aftermarket world. However if you’re really worried about warranty, spend the money on an afternoon at the Phil Wicks Driving School instead.

Now it’s your turn… give us your MCS top 5…

  • dgszweda

    I like the lists, but there is a little cheating going on! #3 is a cold air intake and exhaust. That seems like two items not one.

    Now that Mini is expanding it might be interesting to see one done for each of the various models. I would think that there may be some interest in some of the convertible items, and the Cooper guys don’t care for the 15% pulley very much.

    I would like to see your catalogue come out again for Christmas. Will that be coming out?

  • PeB

    I think you really forget something important. The brakes !

    I changed the pads for Ferrodo FS2500 and it brakes much better now, for not so much money. I think the stock brakes are not enough strong. Change them before changing the pulley/intake/exhaust.

  • http://motoringfile.com Gabe

    Now that Mini is expanding it might be interesting to see one done for each of the various models

    We’ve actually already done the top five for the Cooper (it was the first one done actually):

    Top 5 Performance Mods fot the Cooper

    I would like to see your catalogue come out again for Christmas. Will that be coming out?

    Yes! Starting work on it now actually.

    I think you really forget something important. The brakes !

    My #6 would have been the JCW Brake Kit and the cheaper option would have been upgraded fluid and pads.

  • http://vinreddy.blogspot.com vin.
    1. Storage issues: Euroshelf/Glove box organizer/OEM E brake Storage Tray and Console Kit (for pre ’05 cars)

    2. Ian’s auto up window mod.

    3. Clear bra (pick your brand) to protect against stone chips/road rash– a must if you have an MCS and do a lot of long distance driving.

    4. iPod adaptor or Aux port (I have the aux port for now, but if there is ever a consensus for a specific iPod adaptor, I’ll switch.)

    5. Pulley mod (MCS only, obviously.) I don’t have this yet, but as soon as I’m out of warranty, I’m heading to Euro Styles East!

    vin. ’04 dks/dks MCS

  • http://vinreddy.blogspot.com vin.

    Oops…. the order should be reversed, sorry!

    vin.

  • Peter

    1.5 – Helix short-shift kit

  • DCJeff

    For glove box organizers, don’t forget the Glove Box Tidy from MF reader GoMiniGo.

  • greg

    I’m a fan of the extra gauges. They look so cool at night! I don’t know anyone who has them but me.

  • O(=^=)O Capn

    What, Ian’s auto up window mod is no longer available? blasphemy!

  • Tony T

    Your list of ‘mods’ seems to me too firmly stuck with perfomance enhancing options. The most popular mods ar those which express the owners indeviduality.

    In no particular order, I would suggest:

    Graphics – Vipers stripes etc, roof graphics etc

    Changing anything from standard – Bling mirror covers, Carbon Fibre scoop, etc

    Colour Coding

    Interior mods – crome bezels, CF parts, colour coding, custom leather etc etc

    Ice upgrades – i don’t mean stupid power multi speaker/amp installs – I mean proper upgrades to the rather dull head unit installs

    Its all about indeviduality. Even if someone copies what you’ve done!!!

  • http://motoringfile.com Gabe

    Tony – we’ve done a top 5 cosmetic mods in the past… this was meant to encompass everything. And since apparently all three of us like to go fast, performance mods dominated this time. That said everyone’s top 5 will be very different. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with a top five that consists solely of cosmetic changes.

  • http://miniblog.guapacha.com Paul

    For what its worth (i.e. nothing), here’s my top 5 mods…..

    1. Stripes, most MINIs just look naked without them

    2. Any internal storage organiser like the glove box organiser or parcel shelf.

    3. XM Direct, hides away in the boot, lots of great music and no ugly looking boxes stuck to your dashboard

    4. Pulley, I haven’t done this yet but its definitely the first performance mod I’ll do.

    5. Window-up circuit, not sure I should put this here as its not available any more but its invaluable every day when I have to show my ID at work at the same time making sure I get past the SUV driver to my right who I know is going to pull into my lane without looking.

  • Siddhartha

    I think one’s priorities will be dictated by whether one wants to go fast or look pretty, or some combination of the two.

    I like my pretty white S-lites and runflats for everyday driving.

    To better utilize the LSD, JCW kit, JCW suspension and JCW brakes on my ’05, I change into track shoes at least once a month and go play on Laguna Seca, Sears Point or Thunderhill. My Kosei wheel is 10 pounds lighter than my S-lite, and the Yokohama 048s are way sticky.

    So I would put wheels and tires at the top of any modification list, followed closely by Drivng Instruction. I am very happy with the job JCW has done with their mods. And when I burned a set of pads and rotors on the track last year, my MINI dealer changed them all out under warranty. Hard to beat that.

    Jerry SF Region SCCA Jim Russell graduate T.E.A.M. Racing instructor (Thunderhill)

  • Ron 05 HBMCS

    My top 5 mods are:

    1. Complete Aero Kit- can’t wait to get this done!

    2. Intake/Exhaust- my choice is the JCW air intake and the Borla cat back exhaust. I wish the JCW exhaust was available by itself. Does anyone know if it might be available this way in the future?

    3. Tires- one of my runflats experienced a blow out with less then 1300 miles on it. When I recovered from the $300 plus quote from my MINI dealer I opted to instead install Toyo Proxes 4 performance tires to go with the 17″ factory web spoke wheels. Much improved ride and handling. I carry a bottle of insta flat repair and portable inflater just in case.

    4. Factory security system- the ease of installing on the 03 and later models is a must have.

    5. Clear bra paint protection and Zaino Show Car Polish system. The last thing you want to do is have your MINI paint damaged. The Zaino polish makes it much easier to clean and we all know how much time we spend cleaning our MINIs!

    This is just one man’s opinion.

  • Eric

    Ron, the JCW exhaust used to be available by itself last year (’05). Don’t know what happened to it. Poor sales?

    So, does the JCW intake provide better gains than the Alta???!

  • http://motoringfile.com Gabe

    Ron, the JCW exhaust used to be available by itself last year (’05). Don’t know what happened to it. Poor sales?

    That depends on who you talk to. Technically the JCW exhaust was never available as a stand-alone auction. However some of the more creative parts departments always got around that.

  • greg

    I too am loaded all the way around on JCW stuff plus a 22″ sway bar and a UNICHIP. The pully intrigues me. What size goes with the ’05 JCW? I know there is already a smaller pully than a standard S.

  • tanya
    I too am loaded all the way around on JCW stuff plus a 22″ sway bar and a UNICHIP. The pully intrigues me. What size goes with the ’05 JCW? I know there is already a smaller pully than a standard S.

    Wow. Guess you subscribe to the “Pay first, ask questions later” school of automotive ownership. :)

    1 Mod imho: Rear sway bar

  • tanya

    Oops!

  • http://motoringfile.com Gabe

    Ah you gotta love markdown…

  • http://motoringfile.com Gabe

    Wow. Guess you subscribe to the “Pay first, ask questions later” school of automotive ownership. :)

    If I had the kiz-ash lying around I’d do the same. If I was stuck in frugal mode (which I am) I’d piece it all together with a nice combination of aftermarket and OEM. To each their own.

  • RB

    JCW with JCW brakes would be it for the power up-grades, bigger sway bar and some Cobra style stripes works for me.

    I love the S Lites and run flats. I don’t do any track stuff.

    For all you who missed out on the Auto-Up…….wow……sorry, it may be one of the best things I have bought for my MCS.

    What, may I ask, is KIZ-ASH????????

  • http://Mini2.com MetalMiniMayhem

    I’ve always heard this as a good mantra for how to get started.. Stop, Steer, Go!..

    1st: do your brakes you want to be able to come to a proper stop before you start upgrading power etc)

    2nd: controlling your beast should be next on the list, sway bars, supsension, tires, etc..

    3rd: now that you can control the wehicle, dump some power into it!

    (of course, I’m not one to follow this, but I thought, in theory it’s a good mode of thinking… )

  • http://bravo5.org/blog blalor

    “kiz-ash”? Hittin’ the sauce a little early this afternoon, Gabe? 😉

    To paraphrase M. Doughty:

    Tall red-headed Irish guys with ghetto words, you know what I’m sayin? Love that (stuff).

    Ok, I’ve been hitting the sauce. But it’s Irish sauce!

  • http://motoringfile.com Gabe

    “kiz-ash”? Hittin’ the sauce a little early this afternoon, Gabe? 😉

    To paraphrase M. Doughty:

    Tall red-headed Irish guys with ghetto words, you know what I’m sayin? Love that (stuff).

    Ok, I’ve been hitting the sauce. But it’s Irish sauce!

    Just to clarify… I’m not Irish… but I like their sauce :-)

  • Jimbo

    There really isnt an order, so here goes:

    -15% reduction pulley -Rear sway bar(I have the 25mm Hsport comp) -HelixShortShifter -Lightweight wheels/sticky tires (16″ w/azenis 615) -Ian’s auto-up circuit -Aux input

  • DaCrema

    I have a MC not a MCS. Best first. Except for the frist one, not too costly and still can run in SCCA HS.

    1. lighter wheels. This item has made a huge difference in pickup, breaking, turn in, and even gas milage in town.

    2. Light in sight. Good for a car length at a stop light.

    3. Parcel shelf. (not in my car, but on the todo list, should have been done by now)

    4. Shelving for the glove box and area between the down tubs.

    5. Camelback that hangs from headreast behind drivers seat. I love having cold water on long trips.

    John

  • http://goofytruax.blogspot.com/ GoofyTruax

    Multivev mirrors (kills the convertible blind spot)

    Glove Box Tidy (Things no longer fall out)

    Ice link plus (Hey I have ID3 tags on Sat/Nav)

    Those I can pay for JCW when I convence the wife to let me spend more on the new car I just got.

  • RB

    Everybody is Irish.

  • tsukiji

    1 – tires 2 – rear swaybar 3 – brake pads 4 – intake/pulley/exhaust/ECU 5 – driving school/instructional track day

  • O(=^=)O Capn

    “kiz-ash”?

    cash

    Learn to talk to your kids

  • http://www.gominigo.com GoMiniGo

    My two cents for the MCS:

    1. Pulley – 15% – just like it was supposed to be.

    2. Intake – more noise, slightly better response

    3. Exhaust – just for more noise. If there is power there, you cannot feel it. which one? this is very subjective and could have a whole whiteroof podcast all to itself.

    4. software – but I am chicken. Warranty is now up, so this might be in the cards if I can convince myself it is worth it.

    5. tires – Finally wore out the run flats after 50,000 miles. BFGoodrich KDW’s go on Friday.

    6. Rear sway bar – yeah, but which one?

    7. Short shifter to drop the Whalen down a little. Soon on this one. Lot of work for little benfit.

    8. Brake pads and rotors – it is time. Both are worn and need replacing. Going Mintex Reds and Drilled/slotted rotors. Have the pads and need to buy the rotors. I will also paint the calipers during the change.

    9. Oil changes every 5k – I don’t care what MINI says. No way I am leaving oil in for 15000 miles.

    10. wheels – this decision is worse than picking a color! so many choices makes my brain hurt.

    None performance parts because everyone else has listed them:

    1. my Glovebox Tidy. Rid yourself of the PEZ curse.

    2. driver’s parcel self – like it was supposed to be.

    3. Mini Compressor and can of Fix-A-Flat for when you loose the stock tires. Fits nicely in the back panel if you do not have the HK stereo.

    4. Whalen shift knob – feels SOOO much better than the stock one.

    5. AUX in for XM radio or MP3 player

    gee, what else have I spent money on???

    GMG

  • whokilledkaji
    1. iPod adaptor or Denison ICE Link… Gotta have at least 3 days of music in your MINI at all times!!!

    2. Rear sway bar and Strut brace Does this count as two items? Oops…

    3. ALTA Cold Air Intake… A breath of fresh air and a whole lotta supercharger whine!!!

    4. ALTA 15% Pulley… Like it was meant to be from the start…

    5. New rotors and brake pads… It’s a must to reduce the dust!!!

  • Larry Clemens
    1. 15% reduction pulley
    2. CAI
    3. Lighter wheels and sticky tires
    4. Rear sway bar
    5. Whalen shift knob — a must
  • JiminVirginia

    I’ve done the intake/exhaust thing, but based on the marginal improvement to performance, I’d replace this option with a JCW brake kit.

    Alternatively, add engine management to the intake/exhaust mod so it reads intake/exhaust/engine management and then makes sense. (Yes this will strike some people as three separate mods but I think they only make sense together.)

  • http://bravo5.org/blog blalor

    tires – Finally wore out the run flats after 50,000 miles. BFGoodrich KDW’s go on Friday.

    50k?! Daaaaamn. Were the cords showing? :-)

    tire wear at 7,200 miles

    Those are my tires at 7,200 miles. I rotated them last night. They’re Goodyear all-season run-flats. The left is a rear tire (that looks nearly new) and the right is a front tire that looks about half gone.

  • http://motoringfile.com Gabe

    I’ve done the intake/exhaust thing, but based on the marginal improvement to performance, I’d replace this option with a JCW brake kit.

    I think it depends on what you’re putting on. I’ve seen (and felt) noticable improvement with a Supersprint exhaust and an Alta Intake. But beyond that, when you install an exhaust and CAI your not necessarily doing it because it gives you the greatest power gain. The CAI/Exhaust combo gives you huge improvement in sound (not all exhaust area created equal here though), a moderate power gain, and a slight improvement in MPG. If you just want more power out of your MCS, try going with a 15% pulley.

    All that said… a JCW brake kit surely isn’t a bad idea.

  • http://www.gominigo.com GoMiniGo
    50k?! Daaaaamn. Were the cords showing? :-)

    :) no, but there was not much goodness left. The rainy season is here and it is now called adventure driving!!

    Seriously, rotate your tires every 5k! BMW is VERY wrong on this one. Also gives you a chance to clean the inside of the rim.

    GMG

  • http://motoringfile.com Gabe

    Seriously, rotate your tires every 5k! BMW is VERY wrong on this one. Also gives you a chance to clean the inside of the rim.

    Yeah I would agree. However don’t rotate them after 10k… unless you want some interesting handling characteristics.

  • Iain

    Question about tire weight:

    I see multiple comments about replacing the ‘heavy’ runflats with lighter, stickier tires. Looking at the specs for my Pirelli Eurfori runflats, the weight per tire is 22 pounds.

    Yet a performance summer tire from Yokohama (ES100 for example) is 21 pounds. Other OEMs have performance tires around the 20 – 21 pound range.

    How can a 1 pound weight saving make such a huge difference?

    I understand the benefits of a softer sidewall on ride quality, etc. But most comments point to the weight savings of non-runflats. Where are the weight savings??????

    By the way, I have a 04 MCS JCW.

  • http://motoringfile.com Gabe

    I see multiple comments about replacing the ‘heavy’ runflats with lighter, stickier tires. Looking at the specs for my Pirelli Eurfori runflats, the weight per tire is 22 pounds.

    I think the heavy tire comments are meant more for the All-season Goodyear runflats which are almost 30 pounds a piece.

  • http://bravo5.org/blog blalor

    I see multiple comments about replacing the ‘heavy’ runflats with lighter, stickier tires. Looking at the specs for my Pirelli Eurfori runflats, the weight per tire is 22 pounds.

    I think the heavy tire comments are meant more for the All-season Goodyear runflats which are almost 30 pounds a piece.

    Ah, so they’re heavy, in addition to gripping like they’re on snot-slicked wet ice. Lovely. Why didn’t someone mention this to me when I placed my order?! :-)

  • http://motoringfile.com Gabe

    Ah, so they’re heavy, in addition to gripping like they’re on snot-slicked wet ice. Lovely. Why didn’t someone mention this to me when I placed my order?! :-)

    Hmm…. sounds like a goood “Ask MotoringFile” feature.

  • EricR

    Call me a contrarion, but I was quite happy with my Goodyear RSAs while fording the $#^$%& Kansas snow storm on the way from VA to CA. Total weight diff from X to S lites (w/Dunlop, Goodyears respectively) was only 6lbs. (but the latter were worn)

    Top additions: Auto-up/GDO circuit Aux input (CD changer – I think not!) Rear fogs (full rack is a must!) Nav british voice hack (lovely!) strangely I haven’t played with performance stuff yet…

  • Mr.Pedro

    Hey guyz, im driving a MCS 05 with JCW tuning kit and would like to know whether i can change the pully, a lighter flywheel and performance clutch. Would it really make a drastic change?

    Could anyone please suggest the most reliable products and value for money at the same time?…

    Cheers.

  • Dan

    Newby question here. I’ve noticed much consternation over window controls. Yet alarm systems like this one:

    http://www.clifford.com/g5/access/default.asp

    …can include window controllers (Smartwindows in this case) that offer full control (up, down and sideways), inside with the switch and outside with the remote. I’ve had one in my 10 year old car since it was new. With all deference to Ian, is it just a question of cost?

    Dan

  • Dan

    Lets try that link again:

    Clifford Alarms

  • mightydread

    1:softwear(mth) 2:lowering springs(HR) 3:15%pully Alta 4:Andy’s HAI 5tires/wheels (OZ’s street and track) 6:exhaust (boral sport) 7: full role cage 8 Ian C power -ups with track mod and fog lights ( saved the best for last hehe)

    just my 2 cents

  • Jet Panther

    I have the stock 17 wheel fitted with the Goodyear 205/45 RS-A (all-season)runflats.The intent is to replace the tires in the future with a summer version only. For a winter set, I want to buy a set of 16/7 steel ASA JSI rims (painted steel) w/ Dunlop M3 195/55-16 from Tire Rack. They seem to have the best deal. That tire is available in both a conventional or runflat version. I’m thinking NON-runflat. Does anyone have thought as to why I should not do this deal? Mount, balance, shipping; $917.96 for everything. I’d really appreciate input; thanks. 2004 MCS

  • http://www.DavidRose.us DuctTape

    5) ditch the runflats 4) ditch the runflats 3) rag top 2) 15% pulley 1) 15% pulley

    I’m on my 3rd MINI. I’ve found the above to be pretty much all I’ve needed. Not all I’ve done, mind you, but all I’ve needed…

  • http://www.gbmini.net/ Ian

    Beware of advice from DuctTape – he drives his MINIs differently to the rest of us 😉 😉

    [no offence, David!]