Normally, we reserve this space for a story about a truck outfitted with audio and video upgrades that outshine the rest of the modifications on the vehicle. But when it comes to this pickup truck, we really have no excuse. We plugged the story into any available slot for one simple reason: This truck is SICK.
Yes, this is a pickup truck - a version of the Mini Cooper called the Austin Mini Pickup released for the '65 model year. These were quite popular in their day, but you won't find too many of them around...and none like this one. England's quintessential compact cruiser collided with the mad hatter of English customizers, Paul Ireson. Paul has been tinkering with cars since before he opened his first shop in England in 1976, where he set up customers' cars for racing. He's tuned plenty of his own cars too, and for decades has jumped behind the wheel for competitive laps. His first exposure to the world of glossies was a story on his '59 Ford Popular that ran in Street Machine magazine in the early '80s (it had a blown V-8 and a Jaguar rearend. Paul said it was one of the first street-legal supercharged cars in England.). An automotive tinkerer that comes from a land of tuners and racers, Paul now lives in Fort Meyers, Florida, where he opened a shop, Classic Auto Sport, for building customs and importing classic Mini Coopers. He's built a lot of Minis-even raced a few in his day-but not like this (has anyone?).
A single gullwing opens to reveal the 15-inch monitor mounted to the inside of the door.
Where do we start? Really, where? Everything's been touched on this vehicle, so there really is no hierarchy of fabrication to be addressed here. Let's begin, then, with the overall form of the vehicle. The body was completely handmade, from the very identifiable Mini front end, along the 3-inch-chopped roof, to the truck-like cargo box. Sherwin-Williams colors wheel about the vehicle with Jekyll-and-Hyde dualism. Medieval tribals cut across a disintegrating, swirly green background on the passenger side of the vehicle, while realistic flames flash across the blue body color on the other side.
There is one door, a gullwing (with shaved handles) that swings upward to reveal a 15-inch LCD set into the inside of the door. But that's not the most spectacular view. The originally cramped interior volume of the Mini has been squeezed into the configuration of a single-seat cockpit, colored to match the overall paint scheme on the exterior of the vehicle, and comes complete with a fiberglass seat custom-formed to Paul's butt. Twenty-two Stewart-Warner gauges (11 for each motor) and buttons are arranged in a line that follows the curve of the wraparound fiberglass "dash" that encases the rider, anchored by the Momo steering yoke and monitor for the Pioneer AVIC-Z1 in the center. That Momo yoke is linked to a Porsche 911 steering rack.
Two 8-inch JL Audio W7 subwoofers flank the seat, while ZR650-CSi 6-1/2-inch component speakers in the kick panels radiate the highs and middle frequencies. A two-channel 300-2 JL Audio amplifier feeds the component speakers, while a mono 5000/1 amp powers the subs. Two 6-inch LCD screens are mounted into the headliner and replace the rearview mirror. Pedal boxes from Wilwood Engineering hint at Paul's enthusiasm for racing (or, perhaps, they indicate that he is keen on stopping safely after the racing has been done). A full rollcage protects the driver should heroic attempts at braking suddenly and alarmingly fail.
A set of gauges for each of the two engines, 22 in all. The nav head unit and steering yol
Atop the fabbed and fabulously colored bed are two nitrous bottles and a pair of wide-diameter carbon tubes snaking from the engine compartment to the roof. That tubing is an elaborate air intake system for the rear engine, visible through the plexiglass window in the floor of the bed. Backup cameras are flushed into the bed supports. A 15-inch LCD is flushed into the tailgate between Scion taillights and beneath custom spoilers.
Back to the engines: The factory mills were 1.0L, four-cylinder, 60hp, transverse models. This was one of the first transverse applications in a car, a configuration later adopted by companies like Honda. Paul meshed his old-school tuner enthusiasm with the new wave of Japanese import tuner mania many years ago, so he had no qualms with replacing the original, worn-out engines with two Honda B16A2 1.6L, four-cylinder, VTEC engines - one under the bonnet and the other inside the bed.
These powerplants are housed in handmade subframes and have been balanced, checked, and machined to 2.0L by EuroExport. Other upgrades include Wiseco low-compression deep-dish pistons, lightened flywheels, a Competition Clutch race clutch, HBX Intercoolers, Eagle con rods, chrome-moly valves, titanium retainers, a Hondata S300 engine management module, MSD upgrades (high-output coils, caps, wires, and fuel pumps), two T3/T4 Master Power turbos (for 23 pounds of boost), Turbonetic blow-off valves and wastegates, a direct-injection wet nitrous system by Nitrous Express, and four 600-amp Kinetic batteries. Side air ducts (in the grille and the sides of the body) cool the brakes and rear engine, and the turbo's intake pokes out through the front grille. So what was the end result of all this knuckle-busting work? Paul estimates that the engines crank out a combined 1,100 hp and propel the 1,800-pound vehicle to F1 speeds.
Shell's V-Power 89-93 octane gasoline, a formulation that replaces the company's Optimax fuel, allows the high-performance engines to run at optimum levels and give Paul peace of mind when racing at triple digits. Detergents in the gas clean the engine and Shell's Friction Modification Technology reduces friction, ensuring there is no detonation. The engines are linked to a Honda Si five-speed transmission and a custom all-wheel-drive setup. The truck rolls on 17-inch MOMO Corse wheels wrapped in Dunlop Direzza tires with Digi-Tyre tire-pressure monitoring system. An EasyStreet air suspension keeps the Mini low. Paul tuned the suspension to racing specs, although he hasn't had a chance to test it...but he plans to very soon.
It was a part-time project for most of a year, until Shell Oil Company came onboard as a sponsor and pressed Paul to complete the project in eight very full weeks so that it would be ready for display at the immediately pending auto shows. A lot of people had their hand in this buildup. Paul thanks his wife, first and foremost; his son, Nick, who did some work on the truck; Alex Barrils; Chris Dalio; Don; "Dodge Guy"; Juan Jarrot; Stece McLesky; Rich Potts; Heather Quinn; Greg Rehard; Fred Shutrump; Pete Simmons; Andrew Wilson (U.K.); and Joe Wilson.
Paul has had a thing for Mini Coopers for 30 years. He's raced them, sold them, and customized them. It's passion that hasn't yet failed to stoke his enthusiasm for England's quirky compact-a passion that we greatly appreciate.