I recently made a couple of mods that have really changed the character of the MINI. The latest mod you can barely see lurking behind the rotor in the picture below. I took out the stock sway bar and replaced it with an Alta adjustable 22mm. Even on the softest of the three settings I can feel the change in handling. The MINI always had minimal body roll in corners, but now it’s really flat. It also had a tendency plow, but now it’s neutral.
The installation process is fairly straight forward. Here’s a couple of helpful hints though: Attach the bar to the subframe before you re-attach the subframe to the chassis to save your knuckles and remove both struts makes it much easier to fish out. Total time for two people who have never done this before on a MINI was about 3 hours.
The other change is even harder to see, but easy to feel. I went into Behe Performance to get a brake flush and found out they were having a Pulley Special: A 15% Reduction Pulley installed for $235. I couldn’t pass that up and what a difference it makes. If you are still sitting on the fence about a pulley upgrade you should jump in. I cannot imagine any other single mod you could make that transforms your car as much as this.
So you may be asking yourself why doesn’t the car come this way from the factory in the first place? So far, I’ve ditched the “S-Lites” with runflat tires for R-90s with Goodyear F1 GS-D3’s. I got $600 for the S-Lites which is what the R-90’s cost so the net cost was the price of the new tires, which after rebates was about $500. I bought a Cold Air Intake which I installed myself. ($125). MTH Car tune ECU remap (I got it when it was only $60). Madness Pulley installed ($235). EBC Greenstuff brake pads ($170). And finally the Alta Rear Sway Bar ($169.) Grand Total: $1369.
I’ve reduced un-sprung weight by 48 lbs; improved the ride quality, handling, braking, and acceleration; my gas mileage has improved by 3-4 MPG; power comes sooner and the engine revs more freely and I’ve increased horsepower from 163 to about 185. For another $700 I can get a free flowing exhaust and push horsepower up to 190. Compare that to the JCW kit that was made for my car: It didn’t include the air intake, suspension, or brake upgrade and increased horsepower by 37. The improved JCW head probably still wins on improved torque, but look at the cost: It’s almost $5K without the 10 hours of labor required to install it compared to everything above for about $2,000.
Imagine the problem from MINI’s Perspective. You could have added better brake pads that weren’t made of chalk for a minimal cost, say $50. $75 would get you a cold air intake, and I’m sure you could have requested a smaller diameter pulley at no cost. Software changes would cost nothing, and larger pipes in the exhaust would be minimal, but let’s say $200 for the sake of argument. A beefier sway bar might also cost $20 and it wouldn’t kill them to add adjustable camber plates in the front for another $200. What would you have? A nearly 200 hp Cooper S that costs only an additional $600. The problem would be that this car would have about 200 hp and there wouldn’t be enough of a gain in the JCW package to justify the additional $5,000 price tag. So ultimately it isn’t a matter of cost or performance, but positioning. If you want to sell 3 cars, one at 115 hp and the other at 210, you need to position the third in the middle, which is right where the stock Cooper S turns out to be. Not because it isn’t capable of more, but because you can’t justify the middle car being $5,000 less than the JCW and $5,000 more than the Cooper if you choose otherwise.