Some folks say size matters, but Lynn Schoonover of Riverside, California, will prove that theory to be misleading. His '61 Austin Mini Cooper pickup, Dinkee, might be small in stature, but that's all. This British-built lightweight packs a powerful, heavyweight knockout punch. Remember the story about the little train that could? Well, Dinkee is the little truck that did.
In 1959, designer Sir Alec Issigonis produced these little micro mini cars, pickups, and vans, and they were laughed at when first introduced to the automotive culture. These tiny, affordable vehicles were originally fitted with an 850cc 34hp engine. It wasn't until 1961, when the first Mini Cooper hit the streets, that the engine was improved to 997 cc, producing a massive 55 hp.
Recently, the Mini Cooper craze has exploded with Chrysler/BMW introducing its all-new Mini in 2001, adding a new chapter in the book of the Mini story. The new Mini is currently available in three models. The standard Mini One comes with a 1.6L 90hp Chrysler engine, the Cooper is powered by a 115hp version of the same engine, and the Cooper S adds a supercharger.
Dinkee's foundation is a T-bucket frame that was shortened by 5 inches. A dropped straight-axle leaf spring front suspension was de-arched by Leaf Spring Supply in Fontana, California, to achieve the low stance up front. California Roadsters in Orange, California, performed all of the suspension mods, both front and rear. A Ford 9-inch rearend was stuffed with 4.10 gears and a posi-unit that was set up by Terry Stoker. The four-link/Panhard bar rear suspension system is controlled by a pair of Alden coilover shocks. Stainless brake lines direct fluid to the Ford drum brakes on all four corners, which are responsible for stopping this little beast. A set of American Racing Torq-Thrust II polished aluminum wheels - 15x5-inch in front and 15x8.5-inch in the rear - are consumed by Mickey Thompson Pro-Street P135/50R15 tires up front and 29x10R15 M/T meats in the rear.
The Corvette engine was machined 0.030 inches over, balanced, and blueprinted. A pair of aluminum Edelbrock cylinder heads was fitted with roller rockers, and the engine has the unique sound of an Edelbrock geardrive. A Holley 750-cfm double-pumper carburetor quenches the thirst of the mighty small-block. The GM high-energy ignition system (HEI) distributor delivers spark through a set of 8mm Taylor ignition wires. To guarantee consistent engine crankshaft and camshaft timing, an Edelbrock geardrive was installed, creating that unique gear-meshing whine. A set of ceramic-coated 1-5/8-inch Doug's Headers flow into the 2-1/4-inch exhaust system, muffed by a pair of 24-inch glasspacks. The Corvette horsepower is bolted up to a reworked Art Carr 200-4R transmission that was stuffed with the latest high-performance tranny components. Once this bright-red mini cranks over, its '65 Corvette 327ci, 365hp performance is ready to flex its tire-smoking muscle. This mighty Mini has posted eighth-mile e.t.'s of 7.64 seconds at 94 mph.
All body mods were done by the skillful hands of Terry Stoker of Ontario, California, and the original steel Austin Cooper body had its hood stretched 5 inches and two rows of louvers punched to help dissipate the engine heat from underneath. The front fenders were welded to the hood, creating a one-piece tilt-forward hood. In addition, louvers were punched into the tailgate to remove any trapped air inside the bed. The gas filler was relocated to the front of the bed, and Collins Upholstery stitched up the red leather bedcover. A custom-built floorpan was bent and fabricated by Terry Stoker of Ontario, and Ron Forman from Ontario applied the bright DuPont Viper Red paint and shot the flames on the front fenders and interior dashboard.
The interior's gray carpet and charcoal-gray low bucket seats were handmade by the folks at Collins Upholstery in Pomona, California. A set of Auto Meter silver-face gauges informs Schoonover of the engine's vital signs.
When all is said and done, Dinkee weighs in at 1,876 pounds, and with 365 Corvette horsepower, this little guy gets up and goes. In fact, we can personally testify that after Schoonover gave us a ride - yes, it does kick tail. The power-to-weight ratio is incredible.
Wherever Dinkee shows up, it's an instant crowd-pleaser, and its growing popularity has created its own Dinkee fan club.