Rob Carver is a frequent contributor to MF who brings a welcome change of pace to our up to the minute world. Grab your favorite beverage, sit back and enjoy…

Sometimes, you try too hard to get away from something, and you find yourself
right in the very situation you were looking to avoid. One day in the early
‘70s as a kid, I found myself sitting in the broiling Arizona sun working on
a Mini, and altho I swore then that I would try to avoid that ever happening
again, it was unavoidable, I guess, because it kept happening over and over
again. As time went by, and I moved out of the stinkin’ desert to more
convivial surroundings, without the debilitating heat and frigid cold of
working outside in the opposite seasons, I was able to gradually move my Mini
wrenching indoors, (hey, people really do have garages and not just car-ports!)
and was also done without either freezing or burning-hot hand tools whenever
Mother Nature felt like reminding me who was running things outside.

When I bought my new MINI, I expected it would be like all the other new cars
I had owned recently – you couldn’t really work on ‘em as thoroughly as my
old Minis, mostly because of fuel injection and electronics. Gone were the days
when I spent a spring and summer rebuilding my Cooper from stem to stern and
top to bottom, with only engine machining & paint and bodywork left to someone
else. There is nothing more satisfying than driving to say, Denver and back
with friends, in a car you literally assembled yourself – and I do mean
rebuilding the tranny, engine, carbs, suspension, brakes, and electrics, all
with a pretty basic set of tools and jigs. The Classic Mini was tailor-made for
the adventurous home mechanic, and even though I had my trials and tribulations,
and it went right down to the wire for the jumping-off date, there was not a
feeling of relief when I was doing the maiden drive and listening for telltale
signs that never came – no, it was elation and a feeling of competence that
is like no other.

I never was afraid to wrench on most things, but as time passed I found less
and less to do on the cars as they got newer, so I found less and less to do in
my garage related to them, and I found myself doing the same things I was doing
before on the same cars. The new MINI comes along, and I made a vow I would be
wrenching and modding as much as I could by myself, regardless if was a little
or a lot. Got the new toy home, and found I was pretty satisfied with it as is,
so my mods have been little, and most of the work has been changing the oil,
adding and subtracting interior bits, and changing brake pads. Which brings me
to the latest in my shade-tree days: new pads, and a change of wheels and
tires. It seems like going bigger, lower and wider is the fashion of the day,
but having been on enough long trips on the 16-inchers and low profile rubber,
I began looking into 15 inch wheels and a less harsh ride for our latest
Border-To-Border-In-No-Particular-Order run up to Seattle that was nearing.
Things are crowded in the garage, so yup, I found myself setting out the tools
and parts to swap things in the driveway, and darned if it wasn’t damned hot
– I was having flashbacks to some of the worst days in Hell…I mean the
Arizona summer.

As I was arranging the jack and loosened the wheel studs, Ma Nature added
insult to injury – it began to rain (!!!), and it was those big, fat desert
raindrops that must’ve been waiting just for me all that morning. Rats. Up
went the big garden umbrella right away and the shade of it over the MINI added
to the dappled one from the big tree out front made me grin – I was going thru
with this come hell or high water, and I already had a taste of both. As with
most desert storms it was short and hard, and though now it was cooler
somewhat, the humidity made me sweat just standing there as I waited for things
to dry out a little – mostly myself, tho. 😉 While waiting, I was looking at
the wheels I had decided on, and thinking they were another shining example of
how the MINI world works when it’s running right: I had done plenty of
research on the various websites for feedback and ideas, and it had paid off
much to my satisfaction. The wheels are 15-inch König Silver Rewinds, a nice
retro-looking wheel, (they resemble Minilites or Panasports) and are light,
strong, and very affordable. After digging around, I found that most tire
places didn’t stock them in my area, and I wasn’t inclined to wait, so I
dug around on NAM and found a Miata racing parts place, Good-Win Racing, that
was practically right down the street from my house, and had ‘em at a great
price, ready the same day with Kumhos mounted and balanced, with even the
correct hub-centric rings for a MINI – they had enough interest from MINI
owners that they were stocking ‘em for just such an occasion!

Things went fairly well after the clouds burned off, and while sitting on my
old rolling mechanic’s chair and disassembling each corner in turn, I
remembered vividly moving it along a little every few minutes to take advantage
of the shade as the day ended in Arizona and I was working at top speed to
finish adjusting the drums on the rear of my old Cooper. I also remembered how
hard hot concrete is after you sit on it all day, and did as little of that as
possible. 😉 About a month or so ago, I tore a calf muscle and have been
limping around with a cane lately, so I had to be very careful how I set myself
up to do each job, but time went by quickly, and soon enough I was tightening
the last wheel stud and stowing the floor jack and tools away. I stepped back,
sweaty, with brake dust on my arms and old jeans, and admired my new wheels and
tires – damn! they looked good, and I even felt good, even tho my leg ached a
little. I took a shower, put on clean clothes, went out and started her right
up and drove away with a smile. I bedded in the brakes some, listening for
sounds that never came, and I felt incredibly relaxed – I knew I’d never
really escape that shade-tree, but then again, it always brought back Mini
memories, which can’t be bad thing.

Rob in Dago