Mini Mechanics: Gulliver’s Engine Removal

Engine Out

Fixing up a car twice your age is a really confusing process! I am constantly learning new things, and nodding to words that could mean “we are taking your un-mechanic ass for a ride”. So far our introduction into mini mechanics has been a whirl of information, but it is really an exciting process! 

So without many words on my failure to really see what the mechanic is showing me, or to truely understand why the flat top pistons are better than the dished top ones… Here is an update on our very own classic mini engine removal and diagnostic process:

Rust (This was pointed out before the bonnet was even popped!):

With the Gulliver pulled up in order to access the engine better, you can see just how bad the rust under the car is. One of the holes is big enough for Bennies hand to go through! Surprised

For the Put Foot Rally, I am more concerned about not having my feet sticking out the bottom like the flinstones, and passing the road worthy so we can legally be on the road! Once we get back from the trip we will have to have a re-look this and come up with a real plan to replace the panels that are rusted. (read: the whole floor)


I am not touring Africa like this!

We are going to do a “quick fix” for now – re-enforce, cover up all the problems, and ensure the bumpy roads won’t cause the car to fall apart. I am also looking into getting a sump guard to help protect the under-carriage from bumps and pot holes as well.

Engine Stuff:

Our trusty mechanic attempted to show us what was going on under the hood. In reality he jabbered away while Bennie and I nodded vigorously and swapped glances of utter confusion. But! Here is what I managed to pull from the show and tell:

Our peeling, blue, 850cc Cylinder Head is apparently an odd condition. There had been some sort of unleaded conversion done on it, but the insert had come lose inside. Our mechanic also had not managed to figure out why there we extra valve seats in all the chambers. On top of that, one thingy that was supposed to be bolted in place, was stuck in place with some glue. Creating a lot of corrosion, and blockage there. Mechanic ended up having to break this part off due to the glue being some kind of super-engine-putty-stuff. There is a lot of yellow-coloured buildup in the cylinder head (especially on the side that part was glue on). On the bright side the head gasket was fine, nothing blown there at least.

Old Head (Broken part include)

Gulliver’s Old 850cc Head ‘Side 1’

Old Head

Gulliver’s Old 850cc Head ‘Side 2’

Mechanic thinks this was the reason the engine overheated when we tried to drive it, poor Gulliver was all blocked up! He gave us 2 options for the head. Either he can send this head off to get re-conned, they try clean up the head an make sure there is no damage inside.


He has a 1100cc head that is in good condition that he can sell us to replace the old one with. He will still have the new one re-coned, and the unleaded conversion done, but he reckons the old head will just keep causing problems, especially on a longer road where over-heating is a problem to start with. We went with the “New”  head:

New 1100cc Head Replacment 2

Gulliver’s New 1100cc Head Side 1

New 1100cc Head Replacment

Gulliver’s New 1100cc Head ‘Side 2’

The radiator is fine, Mechanic just wants to send it in to get refurbished, to make sure its running its best.

He also says the pistons needs to be replaced (expensive I know) but he showed me, they wobbling around quite a bit. He is going to look around for new ones and send us a quote for replacing them once he has actual figure so we can see about that.  

He also has an exhaust manifold for us to use. I had to read up about that because I can’t even picture that part, never mind what it could possibly be for! Here is what i learnt (thanks Dad for simplifying it into Ashleigh Language!) ‘The manifold is what connects all the exhaust ports together and then to the exhaust pipe.’ Turns out thats where one of the leaks where coming from. Which is nice to know!  I found a diagram showing the manifold.. makes a bit more sense now.

There is also an oil leak near the gearbox, but not a big issue, should probably just be replacing the seals and such. Mechanic is very happy with the gear box we have, he says it’s one of the better designs that came out the factory. He will go over it properly but doesn’t think we will have any issues there.

He says we have Hi-Lo shocks already installed in the front of the mini, and that the back doesn’t really need them. But the cones for the shock have collapsed, so they will need to be replaced. He gave us 2 options, to buy 2nd hand ones off him or to order new ones. He will also send us quotes for that so we can look at them before we decide which way to go.  We going with the 2nd hand ones for Put Foot Rally as the fancy ones imported from the UK ar like 45pounds each! (the exchange rate is currently sitting at R18.50 to the Pound. It’s killing my Classic Mini Imported parts list!)

Lets face it, Africa is hot! And even if we will be going in the winter, it’s still going to give Gulliver a hard time with his temperature. Luckily our mechanic also has an oil cooler for us, and will look into prices for oil pressure, water pressure and temperature gauges so that we can monitor on the road better and pull over before something happens instead of after.

Head Romoved

So far there is good news and some bad news in general. But he is still positive we can make it through… only concern Is the budget right now, because some parts we can’t get here, and need to be imported (with the terrible rand at the moment)

SO that’s where we are for now….

Mostly we are learning A LOT about the car, which is good. The guy is determined to do a good job on it so he’s being pretty thorough.

For more information and further updates on how Gulliver is doing, visit his very own about page here.