Clubman Estate Part 3
Following our trip to the IMM 2009, I realised that the suspension was a little on the low side, especially on some of the abysmal surfaces encountered on the roads south of the Border. Why do we pay our road tax and then put up with such crap surfaces? Would the French be more militant about it? Anyway, off the soap-box - for now!! We were carrying a fair bit of weight in the Mini, but I noticed that the top arms were not so very far from contacting the bump-stops at the front. Now, I've had Minis of all varieties for over 40 years and the only time the front of the car ended up so low, was when the knuckle joints had worn away through the nylon cup in the top arm. I NEVER had to replace a rubber do-nut in hundreds of thousands of Mini miles. These do-nuts on the Clubman Estate came from a 5000 mile 1999 Sportpack Cooper which I broke for parts and there has only been 2000 miles added to that. OK, they are now nearly 10 years old - but most of the Minis we could afford in the early days were older and had done 10 times the mileage. Looks to me like Rover re-spec'd the rubber and used inferior stuff - no wonder they went to the wall.
I thought long and hard about this problem and even considered coil-overs, but in the end I settled on a full set of Moulton Smooth-a-ride do-nuts (quite a lot taller at the front) together with Mini-sport adjustable trumpets. Hopefully this would allow me to lift the car up a bit and allow a bit more carrying capacity into the bargain. As the running gear has such a low mileage I kept the Sportpack Koni dampers.
I attacked the front nearside unit first, as that was the way it was put away in the workshop last time. First job was to remove the control valve for the emission system, followed by the plastic cover over the wiper motor - this gave access to the 1 5/16" tower bolt. The suspension compressor was greased up and threaded into the do-nut with the car still on the ground, which ensures that the thread engages easily - still with car's weight on the do-nut - a few turns on the compressor makes sure that when you lift the car with the jack, there will be space to remove the re-bound buffer. With the wheel removed and the car safely lifted and supported on an axle stand under the solid part of the subframe, the Koni damper was removed next, closely followed by breaking the taper on the top swivel pin. Next off was the upper arm fulcrum pin nut between the toe-board and the rear of the tower. Next out are the two 1/4" bolts (outer one with a nut) which secure the fulcrum pin plate at the front of the tower. A few more turns on the spring compressor makes it (relatively) easy to remove the fulcrum pin towards the front of the car and then the top arm with trumpet. Removing the spring compression and taking the compressor out of the way completely, you can now jiggle the old do-nut out from the inside of the tower.
This shows the extent of the problem - the cone on the left was taken from the front nearside and the one on the right was from the rear nearside. As far as I'm concerned there was no excuse for them supplying 'unfit for use' components - purely academic now I know. Not only has the rubber collapsed, but the trumpet had 'rubbed' it's way into the surface - something that never happened to anywhere near this extent in the earlier cars, even after much higher mileages. Pointless rant over!
After cleaning the squidged out grease from the inside of the tower, the new Smooth-a-ride cone can be fiddled into place - they only JUST fit on edge and then can be turned into the correct position and the compressor greased and re-fitted. I'm not really convinced that Issigonis needed to be that mean with space to do some of this work - would it have mattered if the car ended up an inch longer than it did?
It is now just a matter (as the famous manual states!) of reassembly in the reverse order of removal. One little point worth a mention is that the two small bolts in the front fulcrum plate are best fitted before the compressor is removed and certainly before the rear pin nut is tightened so that you can rotate the plate to align the holes.
With the adjustable trumpets on almost their lowest setting (just one full turn out) the cars sits well at the front - obviously it will settle and need further 'trimming'. The rears needed a bit more height and I have set it up with that end slightly higher in the hope that when loaded it will be almost horizontal along the sill line. Time will tell what this new set-up is like but first impressions of driving are that it is far smoother than it was and handles ruts and speed bumps in an altogether more comfortable manner. The roads here in Orkney are far better than most, so it will be interesting to see what it performs like in the industrial areas of the North of England.
Sunday 15th November
It was a grand day here, so we decided to have a little shakedown trip around the Island in the Mini. We live at the Northwest corner of the Orkney Mainland and one of my favourite little trips is out East via Swannay loch and on to Evie, where we made a little detour down to the car park (and toilets) just to the East of the Sands of Evie
The view towards Rousay with the tip of Eynhallow to the left
I think the rear suspension could do with a little more height, especially if we are to bring back a stack of wine from Germany next year! The front is probably about right for now - it may settle a bit further, we'll see. Another thing on the 'wish list' is a wind deflector to go in front of the leading edge of the sun-roof - if you are heading into a strong head wind, there is a little bit of wind noise. Rover fitted one to the 'British Open Classic' in the 90's and they are available at a very silly price, but in my opinion don't look very good. I might make a mould off the roof and construct one in glass-fibre and paint it in body colour.
From Evie we headed out to Finstown and then on to Kirkwall for a quick coffee and a stroll. It was coming dark as we made our way home through Harray and Dounby and it was evident that the lights need a bit of adjustment following the suspension adjustments. I fitted the adjustable Wipac light units from the Sportpack Cooper (one new unit was needed on the passenger side) but I still have a spare motor drive unit in case one packs up - they are in a very vulnerable position where all the crud is flung at high speed from the wheels.
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