Reader's Ride | It might not wear an S badge, but this boosted Mini Cooper can bite

  • Wheels24 reader Richard Kinsey is motivated by rally racing, and his daily drive reflects this passion.
  • His Mini is fitted with several unique parts, making it a useable performance powerhouse.
  • He learned that too much power could corrupt after shattering the original clutch.
  • For motoring news, go to Wheels24

The Mini Cooper S is a popular car among petrolheads. Its taut chassis, responsive handling and feisty engine offer plenty of bang for the buck. However, these days, the latest Cooper S models can set you back around R580 000 if you buy a new one, which is a lot of bucks, putting it out of reach of most enthusiasts.

Moreover, the latest Mini Cooper S comes with an automatic gearbox, which hardcore petrolheads will tell you, is no good. You want a manual transmission and a clutch to kick, right?

This is where Gauteng-based Richard Kinsey's rally-inspired F56 three-cylinder Mini Cooper rises to the occasion. He bought the car (well, his dad did, as Richard was still in school) back in 2017. He then took ownership of the vehicle upon completing school, and he used it to travel to college and back from 2018 to 2021. He currently uses it to work and back as a daily to complete his articles as an accountant. Over the past five years, the car's been treated to bespoke tuning and visual upgrades.

If you drive a modified car daily, please share it with us here to get in touch to feature it in our Reader's Rides section.

Rally-inspired 2016 Mini Cooper with more power an
Rally-inspired 2016 Mini Cooper with more power and handling upgrades

Rally cars are his thing

"I remember it was around 2005 when I was playing one of the latest rally racing games on PlayStation that I really started enjoying the dirt cars. Vehicles like the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo V and VI, the legendary Subaru WRX STI, and the classics like the Group B specials from Audi and Lancia are the cars I fell in love with," he says.

Kinsey notes that when he went car shopping with his dad, the criteria were simple - the car just needed to have a manual gearbox. He considered a Subaru WRX, and in fact, he bought one. "I sold the Mini in haste a couple of years ago and bought a Subaru, but I missed the Mini so much that I repurchased it from the new owner," he expounds. "I just love the feeling of driving and control that I have in the Cooper, and because I've fitted it with some choice upgrades, it handles amazingly, and it's quite nippy for what it is."

Rally-inspired 2016 Mini Cooper with more power an
Rally-inspired 2016 Mini Cooper with more power and handling upgrades

Bolt-on power upgrades do the trick

As standard, Kinsey's Mini Cooper made 100kW and 220Nm from its BMW-sourced turbocharged 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine. These days, it's driving around 138kW and more than 300Nm on the wheels.

READ: Reader's Ride | Why Nakita Padayachee drives a Toyota 86 (and her supercharged ambition)

It's a massive increase considering all the upgrades are bolt-on, with a bespoke engine map to ensure everything comes together smoothly. "I haven't touched the head [cylinder] or tried to change the pistons or rods. It's working so well with the bolt-on upgrades that ripping the engine apart to get more from it seems unnecessary. I'm thrilled with the car's current performance," he says.

This modified Mini Cooper can sprint from zero to 100km/h in around 6.3 seconds with the added power and torque. The standard car takes 8.1 seconds.

A custom air intake system, a trick exhaust system, and a high-performance air filter all work in harmony with a custom software tune that unlocks mega performance - but it does come with risk. "Although the turbo and the internals are standard, the standard clutch has proven to be the weak point here, and it can't take much more performance than this before calling it quits. I've already had to replace the clutch, and I am considering a high-performance option in future."

Finding aftermarket parts and high-performance alternatives for this engine can prove challenging, but Kinsey says some of the bits and pieces from the 2.0-litre Cooper S engine can work depending on your requirements. "We've gotten away with using what we can from the Cooper S, but the intake and exhaust itself is custom made, and so are a few of the other items you'll see around the outside of the car and inside," he expands.

Rally-inspired 2016 Mini Cooper with more power an
Rally-inspired 2016 Mini Cooper with more power and handling upgrades

Unique rally-inspired look and feel

The most prominent exterior upgrade has to be this car's massive rear wing. Sure, the OZ Racing rally-white wheels look good and catch the eye, but that whale-tail spoiler on the rear makes this build very interesting.

READ: REVIEW | 2021 Mini Cooper SE: Is SA's cheapest electric car worthy of its R680k price tag?

"It's a custom wing imported to South Africa from Japan by a local parts specialist. I've also added custom Union Jack style rear lights, additional driving lights at the front and lowered the car using a coil-over kit. The car handled exceptionally for my needs from standard, and the lowered, sportier suspension setup just makes it that much more engaging to drive. I tend to drive fast in corners, and I like leaning on the grip in the car, so this setup, with just the right amount of power, works very well as a daily," he grins.

Eagle-eyed Mini enthusiasts will notice the custom numberplate holder and aftermarket mirrors.

"I've kept it simple and as clean as possible, but I wanted that rally car look, and I think I've managed to achieve that. Inside I've fitted some custom gauges. I thought about upgrading the seats and perhaps a half-cage, but this is my daily driver, and I want it to remain useable.

"The upgrades, as it stands, didn't cost a fortune, and yes, the clutch replacement hurt my pocket, but when it comes to modifying cars, you learn as you go. I love that it's a manual car and that I control the gears. There's just something about manual, sporty cars that make them special as good as these new automatic gearboxes are.," he exclaims.

Rally-inspired 2016 Mini Cooper with more power an
Rally-inspired 2016 Mini Cooper with more power and handling upgrades

Big plans for the future

Kinsey says that he's pleased with the state of the Mini Cooper build and that he's going to start a new project soon. "I'm not sure what I'll build next, but I know it will remain a rally-inspired build. I want to try something different with a Subaru or maybe a Lancer Evo, but these cars are becoming scarce, and the Lancers themselves are hard to find as they are sold in such few numbers locally," he notes.

We asked if he would consider an electric vehicle modification - perhaps turn this Cooper into an EV with a Tesla motor at some point in the future. "I am not interested in electric vehicles, and I don't think I ever will be. I have a passion for petrol-powered cars, and I don't think electric cars deliver the same performance feeling, never mind how fast they can be. If I didn't learn about manual cars and drive them myself and experience this thrill and rush from internal combustion, I probably wouldn't have known better and would have maybe considered an EV conversion," he says.

Kinsey plans on taking the Mini Cooper on some epic road trips, and he will be exploring its dynamics further on track and skidpans where time permits. 

If you drive a modified car daily, please share it with us here to get in touch to feature it in our Reader's Rides section.

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