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1963 Morris 850 - Rebuilt 1098 Engine In & Driving!

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#1 timmy850


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Posted 24 November 2013 - 10:12 PM

So my dad used to own a Mini back in the 80's.

This one in fact.. He was given it by his aunt. And the car was given to her by a family she used to work for. And that family got given it by their parents. So only one person had actually ever paid for the car since it was new.

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My dad was a poor university student at the time and was excited at the prospect of a free car, working or not (in this case not working). It hadn't been running for quite a few years, at least since before it was given to his aunt. He towed the car off to his dad's shed. Eventually they found out the spark plug leads were in the wrong order, and it ran fine with them all sorted out. He had it for a few years until my parents started to have a family.


My dad then gave it to his dad (my grandpa) in the mid-late 80's where it sat in his shed on their property. He used it for a bit, but soon their road ended up not having enough ground clearance for the mini so it stayed in the shed for a few more years. In the late 80's my grandpa had the car resprayed from Tartan Red all over to red with a white roof, and had the 850 engine swapped for a 998 in 1989. He did a swap from the pudding stirrer to a remote change at some stage too. When they moved into town 15 years ago it was his daily driver for short runs around town.

It looked like this at the end of 2012
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It is still in remarkably good shape for it's age, living in dry Australia helps, living less than 1km from the beach doesn't. I've been entrusted with the car since earlier this year (a few weeks before the yearly inspection too) and I've made a few little changes since. I'm aiming for a period style, and trying to preserve as many of the 850 features as I can. I'm sticking to 10's and no flares/wheel arches. There are lots of Coopers and Cooper replicas here, and it's nice to be different for once! I've got a few more posts to show what's happened in the past year or so...

Edited by timmy850, 27 July 2020 - 09:42 PM.

#2 Mini-Mad-Craig


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Posted 24 November 2013 - 10:16 PM

Very lovely indeed! Keep us updated with your progress  :highfive:

#3 steven


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Posted 24 November 2013 - 10:55 PM

What a lovely story awesome little mini

#4 timmy850


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Posted 25 November 2013 - 09:30 PM

Very lovely indeed! Keep us updated with your progress  :highfive:


What a lovely story awesome little mini

Cheers for that! I've got a few more stories to tell yet...

The first round of changes I made were in January this year. The aim was the tyres and interior carpet..

The first thing to update was the rear tyres. My grandpa would say that the front tyres do all the work, and the rear ones don't matter. This thought process lead to the rear tyres being over 40 years old, one being a radial, and the other being a crossply. Both of them rubbed on the shocks on their inner faces, and the crossply was near to an inch taller than the other one. I got those replaced quick smart before they exploded or sent me off the road. I was planning on driving the car rather than just commuting to the shops and back!

The second thing that needed changing was the carpets. They'd obviously had a tough life and were looking a bit worse for wear. Here is the front one...
And after. I trimmed the insulation over the crossmember after this photo. This was one of the budget sets, so it doesn't fit that great

I then took it to a Mini show about 30km away, which was the furthest the car had been in years. The brakes were very soft and it would pull to the side under hard braking. The steering was also a bit vague (for a mini). But I made it there and back without any issues. My grandpa thought I was crazy driving it so far!

You might be able to see in the pictures an enormous set of seats. I couldn't quite fit them into this photo
Or even this one. They were so big I couldn't see out, reach the back seats or even fold them to get someone in the back. My grandpa had fitted them because the rubber diaphragms had split on the old seats...
He isn't the tallest fellow so he had the seats raised a bit. I couldn't see traffic lights without ducking forwards!
And at the back...
This was the general condition of the seat bottoms. I got some second hand ones to get me through for a bit
Bucket seats vs original ones
And how they look now. I got rid of the steering wheel cover after this photo, and you can see my excellent aircon on the dash there!
And a much later photo with a decent camera
I then got my electrically minded friend to help me wire in the tacho (TIM branded of course!)

Around this stage, the mini went from being stored at my grandparents house and me borrowing when I wanted to use it, to being stored at my place and me paying for all the bills! The "Giveaway Mini" strikes again! More to come...

Edited by timmy850, 25 November 2013 - 09:33 PM.

#5 sonikk4


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Posted 25 November 2013 - 09:34 PM

Nice wee car and like the idea of keeping it period.

#6 timmy850


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Posted 27 November 2013 - 12:35 AM

Nice wee car and like the idea of keeping it period.

Thanks :-) The way I figure it is that I also have a 3 year old car. When I want to use a classic car I want it to feel, look and drive like an old car, not like a new one. I don't want the Mini to be a smooth, quiet, modern car because I already have one of those!



The next thing to go was the side view mirror. The old one had been the cheapest one from the local auto shop


I got an old bullet style mirror and it looks much better now. It's not very useful for seeing out of, but at least it looks the part!



After that the brakes gave up. A big shove on the pedal meant it went straight to the floor and it didn't slow very much. The handbrake wasn't much help either. Adjusting the drums (twin leading front + single rear) didn't improve things at all so I thought I'd bleed the brakes to check there wasn't any air bubbles in there. The first 3 sides were fine, but the right rear had nothing coming out of the bleed valve. Removed the vale, and nothing out of the wheel cylinder. I removed the wheel cylinder and it was seized, and there was still no fluid coming from the metal pipe. I pulled off everything from the back corner and it ended up being the rubber flexi hose. It looked very much to be the original hose! I then checked the other side, assuming it would be much the same, but it was near new! I don't know why you would only change one at a time, but that's the way my grandpa did things... so for the sake of one rubber hose, I replaced both hoses, wheel cylinders, and both sets of shoes.


I installed all the parts on the rear and bled the whole system and it worked a lot better than before. They still weren't great, but at least they worked. There was a car show on up a nice mountain pass, about 40km each way trip so I made it up and back for that. The way back down the pass was interesting, and the brakes got worse and worse.


I decided to have a look at the front brakes to figure out why they were a bit off. It was a similar story to the back end - mix of new and old parts, right side had new looking shoes and cylinders and a leaking brake hose! left side had old looking shoes and cylinders and a new brake hose! They all got replaced - rubber hoses, cylinders and shoes! It took a while to bleed them all up and adjust them and then they were really good - high pedal, good braking and brakes nice and straight.


It was due for a yearly inspection and thought I'd see how it went. We ended up a fail on:

- handbrake not working as emergency brake

- handbrake not holding on hill

- licence plate bulb blown

- greater than 3mm play right front (wheel bearing)

- greater than 3mm play left front (ball joints)

- greater than 3mm play steering left side (possibly tie rod ends)


Now I could see why I got given the car just before the inspection...

Edited by timmy850, 27 November 2013 - 12:37 AM.

#7 timmy850


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Posted 28 November 2013 - 12:25 AM

When I left off the car had failed the inspection. The licence plate bulb turned out to have a corroded connection so I cleaned that up and it was fine. The bad handbrake was a combination of the brand new shoes and the cable needed adjusting, so I got 3 out of 6 items on the list done for free!


I put in an order for front wheel bearings, tie rod ends and ball joints. Luckily I got to bleed the brakes again after this (my favourite job)...


Retro cars call for retro tools


The old bearings were definitely dead


I looked around at a few shops looking for a 1 1/2 inch deep socket to undo the ball joints. I ended up at a truck spares shop ironically


Then I could undo and replace the ball joints. It was my first time changing ones with shims, which was real fun!  


And assembled the new bearings


These solved all of the issues with the play in the wheels, but there was still a bit of looseness in the steering wheel. I took it back for an inspection but got them to adjust the drums first and replace the wave washer in the steering  which had got flattened and had no spring left in it. It passed this time, and the brakes were exceptional and the steering was so much more direct without the slop in it.


It was just in time too, as the following weekend we (local mini group) had a grand tour planned of the local roads. It was over 250km, which was the furthest the car had been in years. I managed to keep up most of the time with the "big bore" guys too!

We went up and down a few mountain passes and had a break at a nice lookout


This was the fun part!


I was tempted to do it flat out Italian Job style, but I didn't want an engine bay full of water (like the guy behind me did..)



And a few weeks later we had another run, this time though a national park. The more I drive it on long runs, the better it seems to run. I'm sure all the short trips over the last 10 years weren't too kind to the engine and it's starting to free up a bit now!








Next up: new (to me) wheels!



#8 timmy850


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Posted 29 November 2013 - 01:35 AM

Like a lot of car people I like wheels (I think I had 4 sets for my last car and I've still got 2 of them). I looked around for a while at the different options for 10 inch wheels and decided that I didn't want flares, which narrowed my choices a bit. I also didn't want to upgrade to discs at the moment either (they end up being expensive after shipping from the UK). I really like the look of the wide Cooper steel wheels, which lead me to the reverse offset "cooper" wheels. I put a wanted add on an Aussie mini forum and got a response back pretty quick, the only problem was they were 2700km away in QLD. Luckily a guy who lives near me was going up and back with a bit of room in his car so I was able to get them back easily! Here they are...
They filled up the guards really well with the 165 tyres.. Before
And after
I was trying to decide between the standard silver
And Old English White. All Aussie cars have the silver wheels so I thought it would be something different
I got them sandblasted and they turned out really nice.
And started on the paint. I picked a premixed spray can from the local parts shop but it turned out too white. I'm hoping to get some paint closer to OEW soon and redo the top coat.
I had the tyres swapped from the standard wheels as they were nearly new and in good condition and we had the "All British Day" on in Sydney (over 1000 British cars), which ended up being over 300km return. It was a nice drive up along the coast
Here are some photos from the show
And a before after comparison from the rear:
I was given a set of repro bumpers which had been sitting around for a while at a guys house. They have a slightly different profile to the old ones but they are a huge improvement. The old ones were quite battered and bruised after 50 years..
And after they were installed I went for a nice drive and found a quiet spot to take some photos. 


#9 sixtyeight


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Posted 29 November 2013 - 10:06 AM

what a fantastic looking car and great story!

#10 Mini ManannĂ¡n

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Posted 29 November 2013 - 10:13 AM

Ah, the memories... My first car was an 850cc '63 mini,  I paid £30 for it 32 years ago  O_O  I put those exact same wheels on too - we considered them proper wide wheels in those days  :D

#11 timmy850


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Posted 02 December 2013 - 02:48 AM

what a fantastic looking car and great story!



Ah, the memories... My first car was an 850cc '63 mini,  I paid £30 for it 32 years ago  O_O  I put those exact same wheels on too - we considered them proper wide wheels in those days  :D

I was still 8 years from being born then! 



Next up I went around to a guy's house who had sold his mini a few years ago. He still had a good collection of parts he was keen to sell. I had some things that I wanted to get, and some things jumped out at me at the time...
The biggest thing in the interior that bugged me was the weird looking shifter boot and the gear stick. My grandpa had done the remote gear change conversion and must not been able to find the parts he needed so he had improvised a bit. The boot around the base of the stick was made up of a strange alloy welded cylinder which had been glued and screwed to the floor and an odd looking rubber boot on top of that. 
First thing to do was pull out the old gear stick. The new one I got is on the left and the old on the right. The long and bent gear stick was from a Morris 1100 sedan, which normally have a front bench seat and the bend is there so it doesn't rub on the seat. They were both a bit dirty and greasy, and the old stick had a very worn nylon bush on it. 
I cleaned up all the gunk off the bottom of the new stick and regreased it. It had a pretty good condition top nylon bush, but the lower one which is in the cup in the gearbox still needs replacing. The new one had a more powerful spring too.
I installed the new stick and boot. I need to give the metal ring a coat of paint when I get a chance (I seem to have misplaced all my spraycans in the garage)
So this is what it looked like before. The stick was pretty high and sat back almost over the handbrake. It was also super floppy all the time and extremely vague to try and find gears. As soon as you let go of the stick it would flop about, so half the job was getting it back to where it was in order to get it out of gear before selecting the next gear...
I tried to get the same angle for this photo. 
And a slightly lower angle. The difference is absolutely unbelievable. The tighter spring keeps the stick close in to where it should be and the throw has gone from 10cm down to 5cm or so. It's honestly hard to believe that it's the same gearbox. 
The old headlight and wiper switches had broken years ago, so they had been fixed by gluing golf tees to them. The red one had broken recently so it was good that I was able to get some better ones. 
And the newer ones fitted. 
Up to now the car had no working windscreen washer. It has the nozzles in front of the screen but that was the full extent of it. I picked up a pump, and bottle with a one way valve. I just need to figure out some room under the bonnet to fit it and get a bit of hose. It took me a while to figure out how to get the pump to squirt water out properly but I've got it worked out now
I also picked up another rear ash tray as I was missing one. I also picked up a good condition original profile front bar so I swapped that over too
I then swapped the previous front one to the back (it was in better condition) and fit the overiders which was a very fun job...

I could hear a grumbling noise from the rear end. It sounded like a wheel bearing was on the way out so I ordered in some new rear wheel bearings and a few little other bits. The right rear one especially had a bit of play in it. Both sides had the old style ball bearing ones, which aren't really available anymore so I got a set of the tapered ones.

The right rear wheel bearing turned out to be a big pain. I couldn't get the hub off easily so I had to go and buy a gear puller, which resulted in the inner bearing being stuck to the spindle and I couldn't get it off
I got out the angle grinder 
And 5 minutes later
I got the new bearings greased and assembled quickly and all back together. It solved the play in the bearing but the annoying noise was still there. It was more of a knocking noise than a grinding noise. I went out for a drive and when I stopped to have a look I noticed the exhaust pipe looked a bit funny. It was a bit loose and had been knocking against the body. 
The exhaust hanger rubber looked like this after I pulled it down to stop it knocking. I managed to pick up a replacement from the local exhaust shop. This stopped the noise finally!

#12 timmy850


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Posted 04 December 2013 - 06:48 AM

We had a local cruise on after I got the wheel bearing sorted. It was a great day out, a good turnout of cars and some awesome roads. The car ran really well, but again it was running hot for 90% of the way. The only drama for me was after lunch.. all of a sudden there was a loud crunching/grinding noise coming from the front of the car! I pulled over straight away to see what was broken. One of the screws holding the number plate on had worked itself loose and it had fallen down on that side and was rubbing on the road. I had some spares in the boot but no small cable ties, so I did the rest of the trip with it on the passenger seat. 
I decided to have a look through the cooling system to figure out why it was always running hot. I'd tested the existing temperature gauge against a calibrated laser one from work and it was reading very accurately, which was good and bad! It would of been nice to have a faulty gauge rather than a dodgy cooling system. There was:
A new looking pressed type water pump. 
73 degree thermostat
Cheap 3 core radiator with a few bent fins

Back side looked good though
What looked to be old paper gasket and silicone gasket blocking up the tubes
Crunchy looking thermostat housing. Unfortunately I couldn't get the temperature sender undone as it was really stuck, and I ended up accidentally breaking the tube for the mechanical temp gauge :(  
I put in an order for: a new cast impeller water pump, a "super 2 core" radiator, new thermostat, and a new thermostat housing. I really didn't want to mess up the nice new radiator so I had a few practice runs getting the old radiator in and out to figure out the best method of squeezing it in. 
New water pump and gasket. 
Ready to go back in...
The new thermostat, housing and gasket
Here is the new and old radiators. They had nearly identical dimensions and the 2 core fit without any changes.
All back together finally! I just got the radiator in before realising I would need the fan belt on first, so it came out again. It was a real pain getting all the radiator hoses back on and all the bolts done up tight. I put on a new belt while I had it apart

I found a NOS Stewart Warner temp gauge on eBay identical to the one that I broke earlier.I checked it against a calibrated temperature gauge and it's within a few degrees
So with all the new cooling system parts, I was hoping it would work a bit better! I drove for a while, starting along the highway which would always cause it to run hot. Normally it would be fine at 80kph and show about 80 degrees, but for every extra 10kph I went faster it would add 10 degrees in temp. With the new radiator it got up to a max of 80 with most the time at 75 degrees.
The next challenge was a long uphill section. I've been known to make it to the top of a long hill with 105-110 degrees by the top! One particular section I did used to be a real struggle. I made it up with a max of 82 degrees. It was a reasonably warm day too, so I'm really glad it all worked out!

The last thing I've done to the car was sorting out the other gauges. My dad had installed the oil pressure, temp and amps gauge back when it was a standard 850 in the early 80's. The ammeter has been unnecessary since the generator was replaced with an alternator so I thought I'd get disconnect it as I didn't like the thought of all the amps going through the back of the dash.. I pulled out the two wires from the gauge and back into the engine bay. I went to start the car to check it was all ok but I had no ignition light. I checked the fuses etc before working out that the ignition circuit had been routed through the gauge and I'd removed the connecting wire...
I've got a pretty decent trip coming up this weekend, so it will be a good test for the cooling system!

Edited by timmy850, 30 June 2017 - 11:03 AM.

#13 timmy850


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Posted 08 December 2013 - 06:03 AM

A few shots from today







#14 timmy850


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Posted 11 January 2014 - 07:43 AM

I got a little box of bits for Christmas :D
Red brake and clutch covers and accelerator pedal cover
A new gear knob
I got a new green lense for the indicator, the old lense was cracked and didn't stay on
The engine steady bar got a new set of rubber bushes and a coat of paint.
I have also done a little cleaning in the engine bay and given a few bits a quick spray of silver/black, which helps lift the appearance of the engine
I got a set of mesh headlight covers
The short end pieces of chrome were missing when I got the car. I've got both sides now!
Here is the front with all the bits added on. I've also gone back to the white parker/indicator lenses as one of the orange ones turned out to be painted rather than orange glass and had peeled a bit.

I've also got a wheel bearing to change, seats to re stuff, and give it another oil change and tune...

#15 jamesmpi


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Posted 11 January 2014 - 08:04 AM

Excellent little thread to read. Your 850 looks smart....looking forward to your next update ;-)

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