Modified R53 Mini With 420hp | Chop Shop

This modified R53 Mini has had its roof-chopped, engine turbocharged and takes modern Mini tuning to the next level.  

Feature from Performance Mini magazine. Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: 24Seven Photography.

When it comes to modifying cars, there are levels to this hobby. But even at the very top end of the tuning scale, where you’ve got the big-power builds, the wide-arch cars, you’ve got those people who take things further still, who go beyond and take their cars to the next level, people like Richard Everitt and his roof-chopped modified Mini R53 (check out our Mini Cooper S R53 buyer’s guide). Going wide-body on your Mini takes commitment, but going for a roof chop? That’s something else and it’s just the tip of this incredible iceberg of a build that’s been 10 years in the making.

Before we even start getting under the skin of this modified R53 Mini, it feels like we need to learn a bit more about Richard to understand what kind of person takes on a project on this scale. “When I was a child, we always had classic Minis around the house so I grew up with Minis,” he tells us as we chat, “however I had a classic during the launch of the new Mini and I hated everything about it. That is until I drove a demo Cooper S that was given to me as a courtesy car, and throwing that around made me find a liking for the car’s sound and the way it drove with a very distinct Rover feel,” he enthuses. “Other than the classic Paul Smith Mini, which was my first Mini, the first new shape was a 2004 JCW car with a lot of JCW extras back in 2004, and probably a car I should have kept, but it was sold to fund this project,” says Richard, and we reckon that was the right decision.

Roof-chopped modified R53 Mini

“I was looking for a project. I always wanted to do a chop top but was not prepared to cut up a perfectly good car,” he reasons, “and this car had been fire damaged at the front and was on Copart. Every week I bid on the car and won, but it never hit the reserve, and after five weeks of auctions the owner and I agreed on a price, which at the time was cheap. Now it would be considered high, as back then minis were typically £7k-£14k, and my JCW was sold to make funds available for this car,” Richard explains, and so his tidy JCW disappeared and was replaced with this fire-damaged Cooper S. Now to most people that wouldn’t have seemed like the best move, but Richard had a clear goal and vision in mind, and this R53 Mini was perfect for it.

Of course, one does not simply casually decide to build a roof-chopped R53 one day out of the blue, and for Richard, modding has been a way of motoring life for as long as he can remember. “Every car I have ever owned has been modified, they never stay standard for long though I tend to keep the cars rather than selling. Over the years, I have a very tame view on modifications and have toned it down from how we used to modify. Most of the cars end up with forced induction and much more power than they left the factory with,” he grins.

Turbocharged engine in modified r53 mini

So to this modified R53 Mini, and where on earth do you even begin? There’s so much to talk about with this car, but it feels like the exterior is where we should start because it was the driving force behind the whole build. “The bodywork was done first, and while the body was being painted, I built the engine. The work was carried out in any spare time I had, so the build took 10 years of a few hours here and there,” says Richard, and that gives you an idea of how much of a labour of love this build really is. “All the work on the car was carried out by myself, and nothing was done quickly. The front bumper I made to fit the R53, and they are now sold through Orranje, same for the skirts, which are like those on the GP but do what the originals should have done and have the arch line follow them round. The G-Wing is modified to fit the car, but I am the original designer of the wing and had to have one with all the work and effort,” he explains. “The styling on the exterior is simple, it had to look like it came from the factory, and it is designed to be a second-glance car. There is minimal use of the red accent colour splashed about, but quite often, red on the Minis is far over-done, so here, red has been used to give accents where needed. Everywhere you look, the extra effort has been taken, items such as the bonnet vents aren’t just stuck on the top of the bonnet but recessed into it as it would have been if the factory did it,” he says. You get a real sense of pride from Richard, and he should be very proud of what he’s achieved here, as it’s an epic build.

Interior on modified R53 Mini

Obviously, it’s the roof that’s the most impressive part of this build, and this R53’s top sits 4.5” lower than it did originally. The roof skin is made of aluminium and was hand-rolled on an English wheel as it is 6” longer and 4” wider than the stock item, which gives you an idea of just how much work went into this project. But there’s so much more that’s gone into this R53 on the styling front, and the attention to detail here is insane.

The A-pillars and scuttle have been welded together to remove the split line, and Richard has added vents, which are moulded in to look pressed. The windscreen is the standard item, but it’s been cut down to size, while the side windows and rear screen are all plastic, and the rear bumper inserts were made by Richard and are now available from Orranje. At the rear, meanwhile, you will find a drop-down R52 Mini tailgate that’s been added as a throwback to the classic Minis, and the whole lot is finished off with that full colour-change respray in Glacier White, the perfect finishing touch for what is a truly astonishing one-off build.

Bucket seats in R53 mini

Naturally, we can’t talk about this car’s looks without taking a good, long look at the wheels that Richard’s modified R53 Mini is wearing, and they are really rather sexy. “Over the years on other Minis I have had several different wheel styles,” he tells us. “I have always liked the Team Dynamics Pro Race 1.2 as a nice wheel, and it is the easy choice to go for, but the BBS RC336 wheel, for me, is the perfect balance between looking like it could be aftermarket or could be stock,” Richard explains. These 17s really suit the R53 perfectly. The fitment is great, the colour looks so good against the white bodywork, and we’re totally on board with the whole almost stock kind of look, and they just complement the whole build.

Bonnet vent on modified r53 mini

Of course, if this build was just about the aesthetics, it would be impressive enough, but we already know it’s not and that Richard has put in a huge amount of work with the engine too. “The engine build took a few weeks’-worth of weekends, but it had everything, starting with the block, which was sleeved to take the power, as turbo versions with higher boost and more cylinder pressure tend to crack the bores,” he explains. “Then we had pistons, rods, and the flywheel sent off for balancing, and once they were returned, the build started. However, other than the oil squirters and fixings everything else has been modified,” and this Tritec bears no resemblance to the engine it started out as.

In addition to the mods that Richard has already reeled off, the engine has been treated to a set of King main and big-end bearings, K1 rods, Wossner pistons and rings, a port-matched and upsized head, a Newman 250/400 fast-road cam, an Airtec oil cooler and then, of course, you’ve got the turbo conversion that makes this R53 an absolute beast. Richard is running an Owen Developments GBT5463 turbo with a Turbosmart Comp Gate 40 external wastegate and Vee Port BOV. There’s also a bar and plate front-mount intercooler, along with a 3” downpipe hooked up to a 200-cell cat and a 3” exhaust all the way back from that with two resonators.

Turbocharger in modified r53 mini

With that hefty turbo, the engine needs enough fuel to match the massive increase in oxygen, so there is a Nuke fuel rail and FPR feeding 1000cc Bosch injectors, and the whole setup is overseen by an Ecumaster EMU Black standalone engine management system. The result of all that engine work, which we’ve only really scratched the surface of, is a seriously impressive 360hp on the 16 psi low-boost setting, and a monstrous 420hp when Richard cranks it up to high boost at 23 psi, and that really drives the point home that this Mini is the complete package.

Of course, if you’re putting that much power through a chassis that only had to deal with a fraction of that when it was new, you’re obviously not going to just hope for the best. Richard has put in a lot of work beneath the surface to make sure that the rest of the car is up to the task of handling all that newfound turbocharged power. First of all, the transmission has been upgraded with the addition of a Clutch Masters lightened flywheel and an FX400 nine-pad clutch, and while the gearbox is standard, there’s a Quaife LSD to help put the power down to the tarmac.

BOV

Next up, it was time to sort the suspension: “I’m running Meister Rs, these used to be the popular coilover system, and as the car took time to build, these were collected from several years ago,” Richard explains. “All the arms are adjustable, and all bushes and anti-roll bars have been uprated. All items on the car are enthusiast-trialled and have been from the top of the pile picks – I can safely say the car’s handling ability outperforms me,” he laughs. The brakes have also been uprated, with Richard fitting a set of R56 four-pot front and rear calipers, which were stripped and painted to have the Brembo logo instead of the Mini one on them, and they are joined by braided lines.

Finally, we come to the interior on this modified R53 Mini, and it’s no less special or spectacular than any other part of this build. “The interior has to be simple, uncluttered, clean and a comfortable place to be,” says Richard of his approach to the cabin. “I like the Mini styling so there was very little to do here. I added a double-DIN surround adapter, again designed by myself, to hold the Sony head unit, GP-style rear panels and a cage. Keeping things subtle is the key to style, and the modifications all work very well together,” he says. We can’t help but feel like he’s being a little too humble here, though. First of all, you’ve got those single-piece Motamec Evo-One seats with OMP four-point harnesses, and it’s a pretty awesome-looking combo that really gets your attention.

Coolerworx shifter on modified r53 mini

Up front, you’ll find a Coolerworx shifter, there’s a custom flat-bottom sculpted steering wheel trimmed in Alcantara and leather with red stitching and centre stripe to match the numerous red interior details, which include the Chilli red trims, and both the gear knob and handbrake handle. There are custom-painted stalks, and Richard made his own paint transfers to add the icons back onto them, custom gauge faces with a microcontroller running a screen for engine information, and red door pulls. Then there’s the rear seat delete and roll-cage that sits back there, and the last additions are the Hertz speakers and the F10 5 Series under-seat subs that have been sunk into the floor. There’s nothing unimpressive about this interior, and Richard’s done some great work in here that makes it look and feel special and individual.

It’s fair to say that this is one of the most impressive Minis we’ve ever seen. The sheer amount of work that has gone into this modified R53 Mini over its 10-year build period is just astonishing, the attention to detail is staggering, and the end result is simply incredible. Richard has left no part of this car untouched, everything has been modded and modded properly and he’s put so much of himself, of his personality into the car, it’s like the epitome of what modifying is about and what it represents.

And when it comes to choosing a favourite modification out of everything on this modified R53 Mini, it’s unsurprisingly something of an unfair question to pitch at Richard. “When you have modified almost everything it is difficult to call any one part my favourite modification,” he reasons. “The whole car delivers everything I wanted from it, it drives like it is on rails, it has huge amounts of power, and the styling is everything I wanted from the car. However, I would quite like to repaint it a blue colour…” he muses, and even with a build on this scale, the modding is never quite done. He’s already been at it since the shoot, in fact, but it’s definitely the closest it’s ever been to ‘completion’ and, as Richard says, the next step in this project’s life is enjoying driving it. And this really is a car that was built to be enjoyed, and Richard really deserves to relish every moment behind the steering wheel – after 10 years and so much work, he’s earned it.

rear of turbocharged r53 mini

Tech Spec: Modified R53 Mini

Engine:

1.6-litre Tritec, block sleeved to standard 77 size, LA liners, centrifugally-spun moly 2000 iron alloy casting, standard crank and balanced full assembly, King main bearings and XP range big end bearings, K1 rods, Wossner pistons and rings, port-matched and upsized head, standard-sized valves and upgraded springs, Newman 250/400 fast-road cam, new chain, sprockets, tensioner, oil pump, all gaskets, etc., ATI 0% crank harmonic dampened pulley, stock Cooper coolant pump and alternator, Airtec oil cooler with Mocal thermostat, coolant thermostat set for early opening at 82°C, 40mm alloy oversize radiator core with stock fan controlled via ECU, Sidewinder exhaust manifold, Owen Developments GBT5463 turbo, Turbosmart Turbo Comp 40 external wastegate, MAC 2 port valve boost controller, bar and plate front-mount intercooler, Turbosmart Turbo Vee Port BOV, custom inlet manifold, PCV system connected to inlet plenum through uprated non-return valve and catch can, 3” downpipe, 200-cell cat, 3” exhaust with two resonators, DW65 in-tank pump with custom setup in tank, removed in-tank regulator, Nuke fuel rail and FPR, fuel return line, 3.5 bar fuel pressure sensor, Bosch 1000cc injectors, Ecumaster EMU Black, MAP sensor combined temp on inlet manifold to 3 bar, oil switch replaced with Bosch combined oil pressure and temperature, 100 psi fuel sensor at regulator, stock wasted spark ignition with new leads and plugs, 4.2 wideband, bespoke harness to allow for tucking of the wiring

Power:

360hp on low boost (16 psi), 420hp on high boost (23 psi)

Transmission:

Six-speed manual gearbox,  Clutch Masters lightened flywheel and FX400 nine-pad clutch, Quaife LSD

Suspension:

Meister R adjustable coilovers, purple poly bushes throughout, adjustable arms throughout, upper GTT and lower OMP braces, Cabrio braces welded in place

Brakes:

R56 four-piston front and rear calipers stripped and painted to have the Brembo logo, VW golf vacuum storage, braided lines

Wheels & Tyres:

17” BBS RC336 wheels with Federal 595RS tyres

Interior:

Half roll-cage, rear seat delete, fixed-back Motamec Evo-One seats on stock sliding rails, OMP four-point harnesses, red fabric door pulls, Coolerworx mechanical short-shift, custom flat-bottom Alcantara and leather steering wheel, accent trims painted Chilli red, custom-painted stalks with homemade paint transfers for icons, custom gauge faces with microcontroller running a screen for engine information, toggle switches amended to add DRL and turbo boost buttons, laser-etched with an ATtiny85 microcontroller looking after the switched state, custom double-DIN, Sony XAV5500 head unit, Hertz speakers, F10 5 Series under-seat subs with Vibe replacement cones

Exterior:

4.5” roof chop, 6” longer and 4” wider aluminium roof skin hand-rolled on an English wheel, standard front windscreen cut down to size, A-panels and scuttle welded together to remove the split line, added vents moulded in to look pressed, recessed Jag-style bonnet vents, front F56 bumper modified, adjusted and moulded to fit, aluminium undertray protection, full R56 plastic under trays, modified headlights with RGB LEDs in the globe area, plastic side and rear windows, custom-made GP-style skirts, custom-made rear bumper inserts, GP rear bumper trim, passenger door handle fitted to the driver’s side to hide the lock barrel and modified to be removed if the key is needed, UK LED rear lights, R52 drop-down tailgate, removable tow bar for bike carrier and tow bar box, full colour-change respray in Glacier White

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