Dear all - thanks for these fantastic responses, we feel energised and inspired, perhaps a car that looked like it was a scrapper (despite its awesome condition) may yet have life.
Those HC and CO readings at idle are more what you would expect from a Mini without a catalytic converter.
Either the converter needs replacing or the engine management is receiving the wrong information from one or more sensors causing it to react incorrectly.
The problem is likely fairly inexpensive to fix regarding parts cost, the trick is finding someone to correctly diagnose it without just throwing parts at it and clocking up a load of labour charges.
That ULEZ zone is just draconian. Most people replace their cars regularly and as new vehicle emissions are constantly falling compared to older ones the stock of vehicles will soon be much cleaner anyway. The occasional older vehicle among a sea of new ones won't hurt anyone if it's maintanined properly. The charges appear more like an easy way to raise revenue or am I just being cynical there. And as usual the greatest burden falls on those with modest incomes who may only just be able to afford to run an older vehicle.
As the readings are exceptional and you compare with a non catalytic converter engine, I like the idea that it may be that. We replace the catalytic converter at 24,465 miles in 2004 with a "used cat" the receipt says, which I am sure I would have agreed to on basis of cost. Fitted new exhaust and downpipe at the same time.
We replaced the ECU at 18,727 miles.
Speaking from experience of running an spi mini, you'll save a lot of grief if you buy yourself the diagnostic computer for it, and learn about it and the correct readings. This is the only way I figured out which sensors had failed on mine, which in turn had destroyed the catalyst over time.
If I remember rightly on mine the two crucial ones were the coolant sensor (check it's not defaulted to a static value causing the car to constantly run rich) and the lambda sensor (should jump from low to high rapidly).
Here's a video I did. https://youtu.be/-viNgiyXjl8
if we get through this episode, I will follow through on this. Thanks for the video. Can you diagnose based on those numbers or do you need to track them over time and start the headscratching if any of them wander?
I never knew I was an spi mini owner, I have now learnt what spi means.
I have discussed this with the garage.
So, based on all the feedback I spoke to the garage and they agree that if we replace the catalytic converter, the vacuum pipes and check the sensors it might do something. We certainly think that it is worth our while spending that money on that and seeing if emissions falls off the "FAIL LIST". Then we could get the rest of the structural work done.
I also suggested that I should take the car for a couple of hundred miles burn as it hasn't done a trip over 10 miles for about 18 months, garage thought that might help too.
I couldn't sleep last night, the prospect of losing our mini felt like something akin to a bereavement. We now feel there is a chance, thanks everyone. fingers crossed.