R50 vs R56: Bruce Takes Las Vegas


Just back from AMVIV. Had a great time seeing everyone that I haven’t seen since MTTS, Southwest MINIfest or the last AMVIV (or last week). I love these kinds of events, not for the event part so much, but for the reunion part. Anyway, today’s post isn’t a love fest. More like Roxy vs. Bruce, part 1.

The drive from Phoenix to Las Vegas is very challenging for low horsepower automobiles. The elevation change is crazy, starting at approximately 1100′ in Phoenix, passing through 3500′ in Kingman (and higher through some of the passes) and down to about 2200′ in Las Vegas. Sure, that doesn’t sound like much, but some of the grades in a car with 118 HP can’t be pulled with your foot on the floor in 4th gear.

Oh wait, that’s not right. Most of these passes I could easily take at 4th gear, at the speed limit. Just not in a 2008 MINI Cooper R56. For the job, a 2003 MINI Cooper R50 handled the job much easier. Not what I was expecting when driving the newer MINI across the desert.

Part of the problem is gearing. The R56, which is equipped with a 6 speed manual gear box, which is really a 4 speed with 2 overdrive gears. 5th is mostly crap when pulling hills, but if it’s a 1% or less grade, you might be able to maintain speed. 6th is crap unless you are driving level interstates. Hell, 4th gear, on steep hills, isn’t low enough to maintain 65MPH. I was driving in 4th on the steepest grade and watched my speed drop to 56MPH as I crested the hill and finally began to accelerate. I almost had to shift into 3rd. In Roxy, 4th (with either the 5 or 6 speeds) was perfect, 5th would still pull hills and 6th was more like 5th in the R56.

Also, for a car that gets such great fuel economy around town and during my normal commute, making this drive was embarrassing for the amount of fuel needed. I did not compute my MPG this time, but it took more than 2 tanks of fuel (at 14 gallons per fill) to get to Vegas and back, which is roughly 600 miles. This is a trip that should have used slightly more than a single tank, instead, it took more than the R50. An R56 S did the same trip in slightly more than a single tank. I don’t understand why I would need twice the amount of fuel as an S. It must be the new math.

And, you remember how I didn’t believe an R56 Cooper with a manual transmission actually existed until I purchased one? I have a new search/mission. I am now looking for a MINI Cooper (not S) that will make the drive from Phoenix to Las Vegas (or Southern California) without throwing codes. Every time I made the trip in Roxy I would get the CEL. It would seem that Bruce suffers a similar hate of leaving Arizona as he also decided to show me the CEL when making the drive, both ways, along with a trip to Bullhead City on different roads, also both ways.

Other than that, Bruce was a hit at AMVIV. Thanks for all of the compliments guys. It’s taken a lot of work to get him looking good. I am more than pleased with my results. Glad that you noticed.

The Pieces Are Coming Together Nicely

Bruce white wheels

Title cribbed from a Facebook comment by our man John in Philly. And, he is correct. The pieces are coming together nicely. For those of you that can’t quite tell what is new, it would be the 17″ Sparco wheels, white, that Bruce is now rolling on. Picked these up from Mr. Eurotechs for a song (Thanks Jerry!) and I think they look fabulous. Also, for the record, this is the first time in my life that I have ever had after market wheels on a car!

The only issue I have with this new setup (that I would have had with the stock wheels once I put proper tires on them), is how high this MINI rides. Check out the photo above. Now, check out this shot of Roxy, taken in the exact same spot.


In the rear, Roxy had a little tuck. In the front, there was no noticeable gap. On Bruce, he looks like a dune buggy! That’s inches of gap! Now, Todd or Gabe would suggest that I go to an 18″ wheel. Since neither of them are offering to keep me supplied with tires, I’ll stick to 17″. That just means the next exterior mod will be suspension, for sure. Details on that to follow later.

The next mods that will actually be coming before AMVIV are interior mods, courtesy our friends over at CravenSpeed. They will be the brand new shift knob and the XXL Flexpod. Expect a full review of both of those later this week over at White Roof Radio. I’m pretty excited!

Also happening pre-AMVIV will be new floor mats. I know that, for reasons passing understanding, you guys and gals like your rubber mats. I get it, you live where it snows and there is salt and other stuff on the bottom of your shoes for a good part of the year. Well, here in the desert southwest, we barely get rain, let alone snow. And I prefer the comfort and the look of carpet mats. I’ll be hitting up OutMotoring for those.

So far, here is what I have done.

  • Removed the stripes, roof graphics and most of the clear bra material
  • Complete exterior detail (another planned for later in the month)
  • Installed JCW Body kit
  • Installed JCW Side Scuttles with clear markers
  • Added 17″ Sparco wheels, white

Because I Like Things a Certain Way


It’s taken a solid week. A solid week of scraping, huffing goof off and more time with a hot air gun than a professional hair stylist. And, the results of that time spent are finally what I expect from my car.

It’s not perfect. At least, not yet. I have only done an initial cleaning. In this case, that means getting rid of all of the exterior vinyl (yes, the lizards are gone!), cleaning up all of the goo, claybar and polish where the old graphics were, claybar everywhere else and 1 coast of Meguair’s Tech Wax (2 on the boot and bonnet). I can say he is looking pretty sharp so far.

At this point, I’m giving him a grade of ‘good enough’. Prior to heading to Vegas for AMVIV, another polish will be in order, depending on the power of the Arizona sun. There is still a barely visibly line where the clear bra used to be that I’m hoping completely matches in the next few months.

I’m still shocked at the overall state this MINI was in. I have never had to use so much clay on a car in my life. I’ve also not seen clay so dirty after being used, but I used to keep Roxy in really great shape as you know. I’m pretty sure this is the first time this MINI has seen a coat of wax and I’m also sure that it hasn’t been this clean since it left the dealers lot in 2008.

Other than 1 more solid cleaning, there are a few other exterior mods that I am going to do before AMVIV. In short order, the MINI emblem on the bonnet needs to be replaced. I’m also going to install a new set of mirror caps (totally not worth cleaning the clear bra residue from these), and looking into doing something with the side markers. I might get a set of chrome scuttles from OutMotoring and add in the clear side marker lights, or go crazy and do something to this. I haven’t decided yet.

Next big exterior mod will be wheels. Stay tuned!


On Locks and Switches


Before reading any further, please note that our boy, db, has yet to read the owners manual of his 2008 MINI Cooper. He swears he’ll get to it, but for now, you get this rant. We tried to stop him. Ed.

There was really something about the first generation MINI that I liked. Actually, a few things. They really made the vehicle unique and relatively easy to use. At least easy to use after you spent the better part of 12 years with it.

  1. Unlocking the boot
    In the R50/R56, unlocking the hatch/boot was a very easy affair. With the key, a double click on the unlock button would do it, or the main door lock toggle switch. A quick flip of that and all doors are unlocked, including the boot and it would open for the loading or unloading of whatever.

    In the R56, I still have yet to figure out how to consistently unlock the hatch. I know I can pop it with it the key, but why doesn’t it unlock from the lock toggle? Speaking of, why do I have to flip that twice to unlock the passenger side door? And, why does it not work if the car was previously locked with the key? If it were consistent, I could figure it out, but it seems to have a mind of it’s own!

  2. Window toggles
    I’m glad that, unlike the F56, my window switches are still in the center stack. I’m really glad that those toggles support 1 touch up and down. Truly awesome features. What I’m not pleased about is the fact that if there is anything in the cup holders, you can’t access the switches. To be honest, I would have rather received a custom coffee mug that fit in cup holders and allowed me to use the switches. This is just dumb. Hard b dumb.

  3. And, finally
    I guess I’m going to have to go to JCWhitney or something, but I really miss the clock that lived on the roof. There is not a way for my car to tell the time that I find convenient or easy to read. I know that, in the grand scheme of things, this is pretty minor, but still. I just want my clock back.

Sure sure sure, I’m way late to all of these parties. I just wanted to make sure I was part of the club. Do we get hats or something?

2015-02-22 15.48.15

Body Work

2015-02-22 15.49.38

This is as far as I have gotten with the clean up. So far, the stripes are gone, as is one of the lizards from the roof. If you are curious, it’s the 6 that I have removed, the 9 still remains. I think.

What you are seeing above is the culmination of 6 hours worth of work. That includes remove the clear bra, cleaning the gunk left behind, removing the stripes, cleaning the entire mess, claybar, polish (Meguir’s #2) and wax. Yes, on the body kit, but only the front end. Oh yea, and half the roof, where the 6 lizard used to be.

It’s clear to me that whomever owned this MINI previously did not take very good care of it. The paint, while in pretty good appearance, is very rough. Clay bar not enough rough, hence the polish. I expect to have it to my standards in about another week.

Also completed is the body kit. Fully installed and, if I can be so bold, it looks really kick ass! Side skirts and rear bumper removed and installed, mostly, by yours truly. Our man Jerry took care of the front and provided guidance/assistance on the rest. Eurotechs is one of the best MINI shops on the west coast, and this is why. Jerry rules.

Oh, the body kit? Photos below. Still phone photos. Once the exterior is all cleaned up as I like, full big camera photo shoot will happen.