For those who missed Gabe’s article, The Lost JCW GP: The R58 JCW GP Coupe, about the saga of the GP Coupe, it might help to start by checking it out before proceeding, as it served as inspiration to complete this project.
We’ve all had projects we wanted to complete and time just got away from us, right? This story is about one such project. As a JCW Coupe owner, creating a GP Coupe is a project I’ve been working on too slowly since 2013. As a field reporter for MotoringFile, I brought my story to MotoringFile and am grateful for the opportunity to share this journey with you.
In 2013 I was hoping for my second MINI and wanted something special, so the GP2 looked perfect. I was first in line to order one at MINI of Peabody. As details trickled out about the GP2 it became clear it would not have an option to get MINI Connected. Integrated, advanced connectivity options were emerging and, for me, buying a new car without that was a dealbreaker. In retrospect, had I known the shortcomings of MINI Connected and lack of updates for it to keep pace with new phones, I might have stuck with the GP. I looked to other models and the JCW Coupe’s unique blend of quirky style and remarkable performance made it an easy choice. Rumors had been circulating that a GP Coupe was forthcoming but as you may have read here on Motoring File, the GP Coupe never got a green light for production.
The first GP (2006) was an instantly iconic MINI. At that time it was difficult, if not impossible, for non-GP owners to purchase GP parts from the dealership without proof of ownership. Six years later, MINI changed that policy for the GP2, and anyone could order GP2 parts to build their own, so after purchasing the JCW Coupe, I began a 7-year process to transform my JCW Coupe into a GP Coupe; this endeavor is not for the impatient, as you will soon see in the Challenges section below.
Ordering a new car can be fun, and ordering a MINI, with all of MINI’s customization options or personalizing a MINI you already own, is a staple of MINI ownership. The Thunder Grey Metallic exterior color was not available on anything but the GP in 2013, so I chose White Silver, which was used by MINI for launch promotions of the JCW Coupe. GP seats were not available upon order but Recaro seats were, so those were ordered with the car.
Along the journey two kinds of differences emerged: purposeful differences where I chose to do something different (usually for stylistic reasons), and unavoidable differences.
Purposeful differences included the choice of interior colors such as red in the doors and use of carbon fiber dash panels, door panels, brake handle, hood scoop and hatch handle, instead of gloss or matte black as used on the GP. Although more costly, I prefer the carbon fiber appearance to a matte or gloss plastic finish.
Since there are no rear seats in the Coupe, a rear seat area internal brace is not needed.
The White Silver exterior drove the decision to go with Satellite Grey leather dash, which I felt was more complimentary to the exterior color.
An Alcantara steering wheel was chosen for its comfort and grip. In this author’s opinion, the alcantara steering wheel should have been standard issue for the GP – it feels phenomenal.
Rennline door strap pulls patterned after the Porsche RS style pulls were installed as were Rennline door lock pins. The door pulls were a stylistic decision to add another red accent to the cabin.
The Coupe comes with a rear shelf behind the driver and passenger seats, which contains two plastic conical pieces which I had painted Chili Red which again adds red accent to the interior that, in this case, is also visible from the outside.
The hood scoop decal is missing its red outer ring because I chose not to install one. This is because the bonnet stripes have been painted into the bonnet and roof, and the outer circle would disrupt the lines of the stripes incongruously. The stripes were a must for me, as I think they provide a sportier look to the car than without.
The exact Kumho tires sold in 2013 are no longer in production, but most high-performance summer tires (not run-flat) are comparable. Tires are also often a personal choice.
Mini LED Daytime (halo) Running Lights weren’t available when the GP2 launched but they’re perfect upgrade to any R5x MINI and are installed on this one.
Thinking of doing this yourself? Here’s what you’ll need:
- JCW Coupe
- GP Front rotors, calipers and backplates
- GP Master cylinder
- GP Coil-over springs and mounts
- GP R136 Wheels
- GP Rear diffusor
- JCW Coupe / Roadster Rear wing
- Chili Red painting on rear shelf plastic pieces
- GP Red lower grille intakes
- GP Carbon Fiber belly pan
- GP Black mesh Side Scuttles (may require new carriers – mine did)
- GP Hood scoop decal (set)
- GP Side stripe decals
- GP Rear logo badge
- GP Interior dash badge
- GP Rocker panel inserts
- GP Roof number (doesn’t fit the angled area behind the driver door, only the passenger side)
- GP Red Shift knob
- Cross strut brace (GP and JCW both functionally identical)
- Red seat belts (not completed on this project)
- Recaro seats (GP and JCW Recaro are functionally identical)
- GP Floor mats – black with red lining
- GP wheel alignment (dealership)
- Red brake lines (optional – ECS Tuning has these and they’re a great add-on)
- If you live in a place with snow check if your snow wheels fit over the front calipers before installing!
Every once in a while you see a car someone made look like a more expensive car. You know the ones – when someone puts an ///M badge on a BMW you know isn’t an actual ///M or OEM package. A decision was made up front on this project not to brand the car as a GP until all OEM performance upgrades had been installed. In short, the car needed to walk the walk from a performance and parts perspective, and could not just be a JCW with GP decals on it. So this took tremendous patience as pieces were added over time.
The biggest barrier to building a GP from parts is cost. While the parts are still available, they come with a premium because the only manufacturer is MINI, supply is low and GP parts aren’t really discount much. ECS Tuning has a nice feature that helps find and order GP2 parts – Just type “GP2” in their search window and a long list of OEM GP2 parts are all in one place. If you’re handy with doing your own mechanical work you can save a lot on labor, but things like the front brake kit will set you back thousands of dollars unless you’re lucky enough to find them used. I was also able to recoup some of the investment by selling the old 4-piston Brembo JCW front brake calipers. Check your dealership for pricing as well, as they sometimes have parts specials.
The GP has a custom wing, but the wing on the Coupe is motorized and only comes up at speed, so I when I ordered the car I knew I wanted an alternative and surprisingly found a dealer-installable OEM option. The fixed rear wing was something shown at the Geneva Auto Show in 2012 but appeared in just one dealership JCW accessory guide, so it wasn’t heavily marketed and turned out to be a rare addition that carries the roof color to the back of the car, and mirrors the design of the GP by having a rear wing. Finding this accessory today is likely difficult. It’s a hunch, but I think this would have been the wing MINI used, had the GP Coupe been produced. Note: when the fixed wing is installed, the wing switch is disabled, as the fixed wing does not have motors on it and is not designed to move.
Being a detail-oriented project manager, I asked my local MINI dealership about templates for aligning the GP hood scoop decal and interior dash panel badge, only to find out after exhaustive research that there are none. Note to GP2 owners: If a rock hits your hood scoop, or a kid yanks off your dash badge, your replacement install will likely be done by eye. I even asked GP owners on NorthAmericanMotoring.com for help by way of a tape measure to accurately align the logos, but got no takers. Determined to find a way, I found the best photos of these two areas online, then took photos of those areas on the Coupe and measured surrounding distances and the badges themselves for scale. Then I brought the GP images from the web into Photoshop, used a grid to get common measurement, and used a proportion calculator to figure the ratio of my measuring tape measurements to those on the grid. This process allowed me to align the interior badge and hood coop decal as accurately as possible without a template. Whew!
Speaking of decals, the roof number decal is designed for a wider area than the angled area just behind the doors, which seems the most logical place for it because so much is curved on the Coupe’s roof that it’s the only spot with a flat line. The roof number fits on the passenger side because the top edges of the decal skew rightward and don’t run into any openings, but on the driver’s side the angled line where the hatch meets the car is opposite, so the decal would have to bend into the gap and would look awkward – so placement of a roof decal really only works on the passenger side. The vendor I got my decal from was also not very helpful with my request for creating a custom version of the decal that has the top edge skew left to fit the driver’s side. I decided to leave it off to figure out whether there’s a better way to doing it.
Scuttles were a problem. When I found out, my first thoughts was, “really? Scuttles are a problem?” The JCW Coupe scuttles are chrome, but the GP scuttles look more like the front grille of the car with a chrome outline. Finding the GP style scuttles was easy. Taking off the original (JCW) scuttles was easy. Then I looked at the fitment and the black plastic carriers that house the lights in the scuttles have different holes than the GP-style scuttles so they wouldn’t fit. So the carriers and the GP scuttle must both be ordered and installed.
Red seat belts are an important part of the GP and, as of this writing, are not installed on this GP Coupe but will be as soon as is feasible. The Coupe and Roadster have different mount points for seat belts so it’s not as easy as buying GP seat belts and installing them. Since seat belts are a safety feature tied into the car’s computer, they are also complex to replace, and finding a shop that replaces the seat belts with DOT-approved straps in a color as close as possible to Chili Red requires a mini side project all its own.
One detail that remains elusive is the GP Mode programming – dealerships won’t do it unless you own a GP and even then they say it would have to be done on an actual GP (you can’t just give them a VIN of a GP you own). MINI corporate also tells me it’s impossible. Unless someone can work some magic with ECUs, GP mode will likely remain elusive for anyone but GP owners. The GP Mode uses the front brakes to simulate what a limited-slip differential (LSD) does. If anyone knows of a way to enable GP Mode on a non-GP MINI, please let us know in the comments below! If it truly can’t be done, I may install an actual LSD.
In my day job I work for Bose. One thing Bose is well known for is high quality noise cancelling headphones, but some may not know you can order their QuietComfort II headphones on the Bose website in custom colors of your MINI as I did for this project.
After seven years, the OEM stripe decals began to fade. When a piece of a tire from a car on the highway recently made a small dent in the bonnet, I made the decision to paint the stripes into the bonnet and roof rather than replace the decals. Surprisingly, the cost to paint the stripes was the same as buying and installing OEM decals but they’ll never have to be replaced again.
Since this is the first GP Coupe I’m aware of, it is one of one and thus has roof decal number 0001 (not installed as of photo shoot).
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE
This conversion wouldn’t have been possible without the support, products, advice and labor of many people including:
- Scott McLeod, MINI of Bedford in Bedford, NH
- Brig Currie, MINI of Peabody in Peabody, MA
- Dave Habeeb (night photos)
- Greasy’s Garage in Worcester, MA
- ECS Tuning in Wadsworth, OH
- Gabriel Bridger of MotoringFile
- Rennline, Milton, VT
- OutMotoring, Knoxville TN