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Homepage. This page: Robert remembers the early Mk1 Minis and their tendency for water-related problems.

Water and early Minis don't mix.

Robert contacted me, after reading another contributor's memories of serving an apprenticeship with the Austin Motor Company. He started out his career in the motor industry working for a BMC garage, and has a number of stories to tell relating to the first, Mk1, Austin Minis and Morris Mini-Minors that came through the workshops he worked in. Here are his recollections of working on the early Mini.
"I was interested to read of a 60ís apprenticeship, which brought back some memories of my own.
I started my career in the motor industry in a Nuffield Group garage (Morris, MG, Wolseley, Riley) in 1959, the same year the Mini was launched. The Mini was an amazing little car at the time and took the motoring world by storm with rave reviews. However after only a few days it rained, and every car caught in a shower came to a halt.
The reason was quite basic. Apparently all of the pre-production testing was carried out in Spain in a region which rarely had rain, and the design team had not realised that rain was common in Britain. Consequently, as the distributor was right behind the front grille, the ignition system had no protection from water ingress and when it rained the ignition system shorted out and the cars stopped. The first fix was a simple metal plate held in place by self tappers, but it did nothing to help. The next fix which came quite quickly, was a waterproofing kit consisting of a cover for the distributor cap and coil, and a tube of silicone grease.The only problem was the grease, which had a low melting point. If you happened to get some on your hands it was almost impossible to pick up any tools.
The early Minis suffered from other water problems too. Water leaked into the interior through the front wheel arch seams. Today the fix would be an application of some kind of silicone sealer, but this did not exist then and to cure this problem our panel beaters were detailed to weld the seams (the floor pan pressing was later modified). All our cars were undersealed which meant that when welding was carried out, the underseal caught fire beneath the car.
As I was the junior apprentice I was detailed to lie on the floor beside the car with a CTC fire extinguisher to put the flames out. Everything was o.k. after the first side, but by the time the second wheel arch had been done, I had inhaled enough CTC fumes to make me stagger about like a drunk. Roll on Health and Safety! Between my experiences with Miniís and later 1100ís I now consider my self somewhat of an expert on car water leaks."
Thanks for your stories, Robert also sent over a photo of a rare Radford-Mini. Shown below, a typical Mk1 Mini of the early 1960s, one of several to appear elsewhere on the site.
Photo of a Mk1 Mini in the 1960s
Visit the motoring memories pages at oldclassiccar for more articles like this.

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