One annual event I really miss since we moved away from California nearly 6 years ago, is the annual “Monterey Weekend.” If you are a car nut, that can only mean the weekend of the Concorso Italiano and Historic Automobile races at Laguna Seca. (Oh, and there’s some sort of car show at a place called Pebble Beach, too. But that’s a bit too high brow for me.) It’s always a weekend of good food, good company, and nothing but fast cars as far as the eye can see. This year we had a bit of fog too, but that didn’t dampen our spirits. The good news for 2006 is that Cooper will be the featured Marque. The Northern California BMW CCA chapter has a great deal with their Festorics event and trackside hospitality tent.
Looking for a way to find BMW and MINI parts numbers? Check out RealOEM.com online. Search by body R Code and build date (R50 for Cooper, R53 for Cooper S, etc.) Build date is on the sticker on the Driver’s side door jam.
I’ve always been curious about when the super-charger actually kicks in. How do you know if some other modification is actually adding power? There’s always the “butt-dyno” but that isn’t very reliable. I thought it would be nice to see boost pressure and see what happens under various conditions. I started looking at what was on the market to add some gauges around the tachometer. I found many offerings online offering a gauge pod which sells for about $150 by itself, a couple of gauges, and the necessary wiring harness. Since I’m always mucking about with the electrical system of the car adding or changing one gizmo or another, I thought it would be nice to have a voltmeter as well. The complete kit was selling for about $380 and dealers are charging a couple of hours of labor to install it, so I set off to see what I could do for less.
I found was the Autometer Ultra-light series of gauges. They fit in nicely with the MINI gauge design. Autometer sells black mounting cups which are possible to attach directly to the back of the tachometer (with slight modification for the 2 1/16 inch size cup mounts) but I wanted something more secure. So I built my own mounting bracket.
The tachometer has two screws in the mounting holes in the back that have to be replaced with longer ones to hold the mount. A word of caution here: the mounts are just plastic so don’t over tighten. I decided to angle the mounting cups to get them a bit below center axis when viewed from the front.
I had to build my own wiring harness and route the vacuum hose through the firewall to pick up the vacuum/boost pressure at the pressure regulator under the intercooler. It pulls power and ground from the cigarette lighter plug. It is also hooked into the dimmer loop so the lights of the gauges light and dim just like the rest of the instruments. I picked up that line at the cigarette lighter plug as well.
So what was the total cost? I was able to buy the gauges and gauge pods at Summit Racing. (They even gave me a free hat.) The pods were $13 each. The voltmeter was about $35. The boost/vacuum gauge was $52, but I got a $20 off coupon in my first order for the voltmeter, so effectively it was only $32. I spent about $4 at the hardware store buying aluminum stock and various fasteners. Excluding shipping costs, that makes my total $97.
I found that the intercooler hood scoop tended to scoop up leaves, bugs, and cigarette butts. Maybe it was just because I was doing a lot of driving in NJ (sorry). I saw a MINI catalog featuring a grille and thought I might try to make one myself. Putting a screen to keep the junk off of your intercooler will sacrifice a certain amount of air-flow and I suppose there is some risk of having snow and muck block it as well, but if it’s that cold out, I don’t think it will matter. I much rather have to stop to unclog the scoop than pay for a new intercooler. (And as I would later find out at the track, it helps keep the rubber klag out as well.)
Remove your air scoop by removing the two screws and two bolts that hold it on. Take care not to let the trim piece fall from the hood. There is a gap between the scoop and the trim piece that seems to have been built for this purpose. Trim a piece of cardboard to get the right shape then cut out a grille from a piece of $2 Gutter Guard from the Home Center. Paint the edges with flat black paint to prevent rust. If that’s too complicated for you, send me $5 and I’ll mail you one. Motor on.