The $130,000 Classic Mini Reviewed

How is it possible that a classic Mini could cost 99,000 GBP? David Brown Automotive has a case to make with a new/old Mini. How does it stack up? Autocar had some time behind the wheel and found out.

This, believe it or not, is a £99,000 Mini. That’s a staggering sum of money for any car, let alone one so small. The David Brown Automotive Mini Remastered ‘Inspired by Monte Carlo’ – just as long in name as in asking price, then – is a reimagining of the iconic Mini, but with neater styling and a modern twist.

It takes 1400 hours to turn a donor car into a Mini Remastered. The only components that are carried over from the donor are the engine and gearbox, both of which are rebuilt, and the VIN. Everything else, including the bodyshell, is brand new. The shell itself is stiffened with additional structural bracing and the Mini’s various gutters and seams are reprofiled or removed entirely to clean up the styling.

Ok so this is an ultra rare expensive retro-mod Mini? What’s it like to own?

The quality of the fit and finish, as well as the paintwork, is very good indeed. Whether or not that justifies the asking price is another matter. The cabin, meanwhile, gets high quality leather and a bespoke dashboard with lots of attractive details, such as knurled aluminium knobs for the ventilation controls.

The rebuilt four-cylinder engine now displaces 1330cc and develops 94bhp at 6100rpm and 87lb ft at 4000rpm. It drives the front wheels via the four-speed manual gearbox, which snicks around its tightly defined gate in beautiful fashion. The engine itself is gritty, rorty and full of character, although it starts to feel strained above 5000rpm.

Great… but how does it handle?

It has very alert, slack-free, unassisted steering that feels incredibly direct even around the straight-ahead. It takes just a small twitch of the wheel rim to get the front end darting this way and that. It also rolls dramatically in cornering, making you think it could tip clean over if you attack a bend with too much conviction. It won’t, of course, and once you’ve assured yourself of that the Mini Remastered becomes enormous fun to punt along a country road.

Ok I’ll be honest, it sounds awesome but it’s not quite what we want. What could be more interesting to us is a retro-mod R53 with all the amenities that we have in the F56 and beyond.

  • Kevin Bartlett

    So, it’s all original (ish). I would prefer a resto-mod, with more modern mechanicals myself. Maybe a 1.5 liter turbo from the current car (no idea if it would fit) or even the 1 liter from the Ford Fiesta (its not like a BMW engine has real lineage to Mini’s of the past anyway) and a six speed gearbox to take advantage of modern gearing. The interior is more in the vein of what I think is appropriate for the price (which is way out of anything I’ll ever afford anyway). But this is a car for someone with more money than they know what to do with. It’s not a first world problem its a 1% problem. Yes it’s less than 1/4th the price of a Singer Porsche but it’s likely the exact same market at the end of the day.

    Second thought, there almost needs to be 2 versions of this. One for a perfect restoration, to original inside and out, and another spec for old school styling brought up to date with modern electronics, amenities and mechanicals.

    An R53, with a modern head unit (because honestly that does most of the ICE functions anyway) integrated into the car correctly.

    • Nick Dawson

      Unfortunately, the Mini body is not wide enough to take an end-on gearbox, which is why Alec Issigonis developed his revolutionary gearbox in sump design, sharing the engine oil with the gearbox.

      The solution would have been to make the Mini two inches wider and two inches longer, which is exactly what Rover did in 1992, with a project intended to update the Mini, code name “Minki”.

      The attached pictures show Minki in the course of construction together with the finished project, the extra two inches in width and length are barely perceptible. What was dramatically noticeable was the improved refinement and performance.

      It used the regular 1.4 16v twin cam K-series engine and end-on 5-speed gearbox, and Hydragas suspension, all taken from the Rover Metro. Alex Moulton said of the Minki’ “If you drove that car you’d be amazed, it was extremely good. It was inter-connected, anti-dive, anti-lift, with tighter damping as a result of rubber-mounted damper valves. It was good for 120mph”. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ee256cec3f9f3ee2b324d6a715c3e5d67f03dee16192813a668e47733d715337.jpg

  • Nick Dawson

    Below I have compared the original 1964 Mini Cooper S with the David Brown Mini Remastered ‘Inspired By Monte Carlo’, together with the relaunched 1990 Mini Cooper and the 1997 Mini Cooper 1.3i with twin point fuel injection, as follows:

    1964 Cooper S – 1275cc, 76hp @ 5800rpm, 80ft lbs torque @ 3000rpm, 0-60mph 10.9secs, top speed 97mph, top gear 16.05mph per 1000rpm, curb weight 1435lbs

    1990 Cooper ‘Mainstream’ – 1275cc, 61hp @ 5500rpm, 67ft lbs @ 3000rpm, 0-60mph 11.2secs, top speed 92mph, top gear 19mph per 1000rpm, curb weight 1531lbs

    1997 Cooper 1.3i – 1275cc, 63hp @ 5700rpm, 70ft lbs @ 3000rpm, 0-60mph 12.2secs, top speed 90mph, top gear 21mph per 1000rpm, curb weight 1575lbs

    2017 DB ‘Monte Carlo’ – 1330cc, 94hp @ 6100rpm, 87ft lbs torque @ 4000rpm, 0-60mph 10.6secs, top speed 88mph, top gear 21mph per 1000rpm, curb weight 1653lbs