MINI RS-Style Door Pulls

Since we’re turning the MINI into a dedicated track car, we gutted most of the interior.  The Gen 1 MINI has a huge oval opening in the middle of the door once you remove the door panel. It has a rather sharp edge (protected by a piece of weather stripping) and since we were not able to find any aluminum panels pre-cut in the right shape, we just decided to build our own out of existing materials and cover them in vinyl.  The new door cards are there to protect the occupant and keep out water. They also give us more clearance for the wings of the Sparco seats. We also wanted to rework the door handles since they stand away from the door when the stock panel is removed and looked out of place.

First we had to re-think the door handle.  Since the door handle just pulls a cable much like you would find on a bicycle brake system, we decided to take advantage of the cable housing.  By fixing the wire to the door, then when you pull on the housing it activates the latch.  Put a strap on the handle, and you have a Porsche RS style door pull. It works well and is very clean.  The photos show how the cable attaches to the door as well as the finished look. We still have some stray bits of tape to clean up, but they look pretty good.

Capture the end of the cable
Cap off cable end
Plastic to seal the opening
Mounted door card
Door latch and pull

R53 MINI Rear Foglight DIY

When deciding the feature set of the first generation Cooper S, MINI USA decided not to make the rear fog light available in the USA. The rear tail lights of the 2002-2004 cars were actually wired for it (and could be modified to function as additional brake lights), but from 2005-2006 the cars shipped with a blanking plate in place of the center mounted rear fog light. That always bothered me. It’s bad enough that the faux grill inserts in the rear bumper don’t actually do anything, but the center mounted plug is just stupid looking. Fortunately there a couple of options if you want to do something about it.


The light is MINI part number 63247166015 and it should cost under $30, including the bulb and socket. The plug is removed by using pry tools on either end from the back side of the bumper cover. You should be able to reach it without having to drop the exhaust, but do not try to pry from the outside until you pop the tabs from the back.

Besides the new fog light you will need to add a circuit for power, a switch (with relay), and wire the light for power and ground. I chose to wire the switch to a circuit that always has power. I used a Rigid Industries Lighted Rocker Switch wired to the left side of the parcel shelf under the steering wheel. The switch is out of the way so it won’t get accidentally engaged, but bright enough to see as you get out of the car if you forget to turn it off.

So why don’t you just add a switch in the blank spot on the switch panel? Because it’s not a mechanical switch panel. Those are actually electronic switches, so adding a switch to middle is not as easy as just drilling a hole and mounting it from the back.  If you had one that was very shallow, perhaps you could, but I didn’t want to risk it. I have the Euro Parcel Shelf, so I added the switch into the blank plate on the lefthand side.

addacircuit switchpanel switchon switch-location

Bilstein PSS B14

Two years ago, we tried using the budget-priced Speedtech coilover suspension for MINI at the track. The suspension is the bargin cousin of the KW v1 coilover. Similar spring and (non-adjustable) dampening rates, a bit heavier construction, and a limited 5-year warranty. On paper, it’s a good trade-off of function vs price, but it wasn’t robust enough for heavy track use.  We blew out the right front damper the first season, and the left front the second.  For the street performance driver who wants to significantly lower the car without a harsh ride, we would still recommend it, but not for a car that will see a lot of track time.

Our favorite non-height adjustable suspension for the MINI is a set of B6 struts over H&R Sport Springs.  By far, that’s the best combination of predictable track performance and road comfort. The only major limitation for a trackcar is the size of the front springs which limits the amount of negative camber that can be dialed-in. The spring perches on the Bilstein struts are a bit lower than Konis so the car sits about 10mm lower on the same springs. Since we wanted to go just a bit lower than that, we started looking for heigh-adjustable coilovers.

This season we’re trying the Bilstein B14 Performance Suspension System (PSS). Bilstein offers five suspension options for the first generation MINI and the B14 PSS is second from the top (but the top is almost double the price).  At the low end, are the B4 struts for use with stock springs; followed by B6 struts to use with stock or lowering springs; the B12 kit which are B6 sport struts with Eibach Sportline Springs; B14 PSS described here; and the top of the line is the B16 PSS10 Adjustable Coilover Kit.  The goal of this experiment is to see if we can dial-in just the right set-up using just height-adjustment, camber settings, and adjustable swaybars.

The car goes for an alignment on Tuesday then it’s off to the track on Friday so we’ll post an update next weekend.

Installed Rear B14 Set

CravenSpeed MINI Cooper Door Sill Plate DIY

At some point you’re going to want to do this mod.  Will it make you faster, better looking or get the chickweed out of your lawn?  No.  You’re going to want to do it for one of two reasons: 1.) You’ve become obsessed with removing all the shiny bits from your car; or 2.) Your current sill plates look like crap (my case).  Whatever your reason, this is an easy 15 minute DIY project and the only tool you probably need is a plastic pry tool, and maybe some goo-gone.

First some background.  If you look in the MINI parts catalog for sill plates, you’ll find part nr. 51717200469 for the Cooper S (number 4 in the drawing below). They’re bright aluminum with a printed “Cooper S” and sell for about $56 each.  Their function is to cover up the four clips that hold the top of the side skirt to the sill.  If you look on the inter-webs, you can find different versions, some with checkers, others JCW, some that even light up.  Since ours got all banged up taking the stock seats in and out of the car a couple of times, we thought it was time to find something a little more substantial and a little less flashy.  Enter the CravenSpeed black sill plates.

CravenSpeed used to make these plates primarily to people who want to black-out their cars.  They’re a little less expensive than stock and are much more substantial.  Swapping them out couldn’t be more straight forward.  Find a plastic pry tool, start at one edge and pry away.  Since the stock ones are fairly thin metal, be careful to not cut your hand as you run the tool along the edge.  If the old ones do not come up cleanly, use some goo-gone to clean up the old adhesive.  Since the 3M adhesive the new ones use is pretty robust, we didn’t bother to clean them up too much as we know this stuff sticks to almost anything.  They certainly look better than the banged-up ones they replaced.

sillplates front and back ends dents pry goonew plates

Hand Brake Handle DIY

Sometimes a part comes along that you just want to have. The CravenSpeed Hand Brake Handle is one of those. It won’t make you any faster; it won’t save any weight; you don’t NEED it. But once you pick one up, you will WANT it. Installation takes about 10 minutes using common hand tools. Installation is very easy:

  • Set the parking brake, and use a pry tool to remove the end cap. (You can use a screw-driver but you risk scratching the cap. If you never plan to re-use it, go ahead, otherwise, get a pry tool.)
  • Push in on the back of the brake boot to free the frame from the console, and then pull the boot over the handle to expose the zip-tie. Cut the zip-tie and remove the boot.
  • Use a screw-driver to pry the tab and remove the old handle.
  • Fit the new handle with the set-holes facing up. Insert and tighten the set-screws with the included 1/16 inch hex key.
  • Put the boot back on and use the included zip-tie to attach it to the handle. Trim the excess of the zip-tie.
  • Pull the boot back over the handle and set the frame back into the console. Set the front first, then pinch the back until it slides into place.
  • Slip the three rubber grip rings into place.
  • Sit back, grab a cold brew, and enjoy. You’re handy now!

Stock HandlePry carefullyCut Zip TiePry hereSet ScrewsZip tie bootAll done