Off season. What to do? There’s always more projects to do than there is money and time, especially when you have kids right? The answer was fixing the immediate needs and the items that would make the biggest improvements to performance (short of the driver… that’s another project that will never be finished).

The first item on the list was actually a Christmas gift from my kids, and a nice visual clean up on the car. The rear tail light was fogged / milky and generally an eyesore. It’s a simple fix, but improves general happiness with the car.

Next was a project that I started shortly after getting the car. Brakes. Specifically, the “Poor Man’s Big Brake Kit”. The idea here is that you take the calipers off the R56 model and add them to your R53. They are direct bolt on replacements, are larger, and allow for a larger rotor. That should provide greater ability to absorb heat during extended sessions. I already had the calipers from a Pull-a-Part, so now I just had to get the rest:

  • Stop Tech slotted rotors
  • EBS Red Stuff Pads
  • Way Motor Works stainless steel brake lines
  • Motul 660 brake fluid
Front Rotors… small child for scale

People say they can do it in 2 hours, I figured on at least.

Well, after my 4 hour allotment I was 30% complete. On the front everything went fine until I got to the 16mm bolts holding the carrier bracket. They are seized as tight as can be, and I can’t get my impact in at the right angle.

Then I moved to the rear on the same side. It went better. Still had to fight on the carrier bracket bolts, but they came off. Had a little trouble compressing the piston to get the caliper back on but eventually got it. Then I started swapping the brake line. After fighting for awhile I called it a day. I felt I was trying to cross thread the bottom bolt and then stripping the top one. Frustrated, I figured that was enough for that day.

After several other failed attempts with electric and battery powered impact wrenches, I sucked it up and brought in air power. 150 psi, 650 ft/lbs and then…

You’d hoped that would be the end of the story, but it wasn’t. This project continued to kick my ass. Time to bleed the lines.

I had ordered a pressure bleeder, quickly hooked it up and did a pressure test.  It wouldn’t hold pressure, so then I did it right.  I put the teflon tape on the brass feelings and torqued it with wrenches instead of fingers.  I connected it again and ran another pressure test at 10psi.  This time the pressure was stable.  Just about the time I started giving myself the lecture about doing it right the first time…. POP! Somewhere out the back of the reservoir.  Now I get it was a bottle of Motul 660 go to waste. Ugh!!!!!!

Frustrated and at my wits end with how difficult this simple upgrade had gone, I turned the car over to the professionals at Empire Autohaus to fix my mistakes.

They were probably just trying to make me feel better, but they said they had a hell of a time bleeding the brakes as well. They had to do it multiple times and reported the lines were completely dry. Buy nonetheless, brakes were finally done.

Ok, deep breath. Back to cool things. My birthday came and that meant that I could buy myself a present. What better than a set of lightweight Koniq wheels for some big sticky race rubber?

The wheels look great. 15×8, coming in weighing 11.8lbs. Amazing. Now, the $1000 question, will they fit over the new larger calipers on the front of the Mini?

They just fit. There is so little room between the wheel and the caliper that you can’t use the tape in weights for balancing. Minor detail… they look amazing! Now for some rubber! How about some Hoosier R7s in 245s please…

Still not done. One more projects left to go. More rubber means we need more power, and more sound! I was on the fence between the iNvidia and the MillTek exhaust. I talked with Way, we talked through goals and real world experience pointed towards the MillTek.

The build quality was really good.  All the welds looked great. All the parts and pieces looked like they were meant to be seen rather than stuffed under the car.  All the pieces fit well, and most importantly the tips on the exhaust are in the middle and straight.

The sound is good. It’s not a V8, so you have to take that into consideration. Inside the car it’s a nice deep rumble.  It’s an interesting juxtaposition.  When you are on it hard your ears are confronted with the high pitched super charger whine from the front on the car and a deep rumble from the exhaust at the rear of the car.  There are no shortages on audio feedback from this car.  Outside the car the exhaust has more rasp than you can hear from inside the car.  It’s not at all a rice or coffee can but you can tell it isn’t a V8.  Sound is clearly a personal preference thing, I really like how it sounds now.  It actually sounds like a car that has something to it rather than an eco-box.  Cruising is almost as quiet as before, no drone.

As far as performance, I haven’t run before/after tests on a Dyno so I’ll just give you the results of my butt dyno.  It certainly does feel like it has more low end grunt in 1st and 2nd gear.  My driveway is fairly steep, so the first thing I do in the car is basically a hill start.  It pulls up the driveway easier and with less pedal than either of the two family cars.  Around town I shift… 1st, 2nd, then 4th. It pulls hard enough in 2nd that there really isn’t a need for 3rd gear, just drop in 4th and cruise.

So, there you have it. Off season was productive and the Mini has come a long way.