Meet the 9000-rpm definition of pocket rocket
We’ve seen more Mini conversions than we’ve eaten hot dinners—and trust us, as former road testers who have spent decades on the circuit, we’ve had plenty. But few powertrain swaps have been as eye-catching as this project that turns the humble Mini from a front-engined, front-drive runabout to a rear-engined, rear-wheel-drive rocket.
What began life as a 1982 Austin Morris Mini City with a 1-liter engine and just enough speed to nose ahead of a London double decker has been transformed into a high-revving, 2-liter buzzbox that will surprise unsuspecting sports car drivers in any traffic-light Grand Prix.
As you’ll hear from YouTube presenter Petrol Ped, at the heart of the conversion is a Honda engine from a Civic Type R, which boasts 212 hp, and is wedged in just ahead of the rear wheels The work was initially carried out in 2014, by Z Cars—a Kent-based tuning company that has been meddling with Minis and more for the past 20 years—but the Mini’s owner found he was having so much fun that he couldn’t stop using it—come rain, shine, or even salt-gritted roads. That took its toll on the body, so a restoration was called for, which has just been completed.
The conversion uses the K20A2 engine from a 2002 Honda Civic Type-R, which offers 212 hp at 8000 rpm, and 149 lb-ft of torque at 7000, making for the sort of driving experience where you have to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in. Hang in there and the rev limit arrives at 9000 rpm.
According to Z Cars, the stripped-out Mini weighs about 1630 pounds (or 740 kilos), giving it a power to weight ratio of 260 hp per ton. However, anyone feeling adventurous can opt for forced induction; a supercharger kit could take that to 335 hp if desired. We’ll happily settle for a “mere” 236 bhp in a tiny thing like this.
The Mini may have made a name for itself through the use of a transversely-mounted inline-four-cylinder driving the front wheels, but Z Cars tears up that template and fits a tubular steel frame to accommodate the Honda engine and six-speed gearbox. Other engine options include a Suzuki Hayabusa and a Subaru flat-four.
Other changes include increased track width and accompanying flared wheel-arches, a new cooling system, uprated brakes, suspension that’s adjustable for camber and toe, Gaz coilover shock absorbers and a bespoke fuel pump and fuel system. Completing the picture are 13-inch alloy wheels with sticky Yokohama Advan tyres.
If you are stuck for something to treat yourself to this Christmas, we humbly suggest adding a Z Cars Mini to your wish list for Santa.