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MODIFIED F56 MINI: THE ART OF JUST ENOUGH

Posted by Matt Bell on 18th June 2021

Subtlety, nuance and a creative eye for detail set this uniquely modified F56 MINI apart from the crowd.

From Performance Mini. Words: Ben Birch. Photos: Jason Dodd

Most MINI fans will agree that one of the most exciting things about the brand is the infinite potential for personalisation. No matter what generation or spec you own, there are almost no limits as to the choice of products you can bolt on or screw in to make your MINI more ‘you’.

It’s this very fact that can lead to some owners going well over the top with the spec of their build, and ironically end up making it look exactly the same as all the others. If too much choice can create a confused result, then Edd Little’s modified F56 MINI is a moving lesson in purity and self-restraint.

Edd says, “Maybe being around lots of different car scenes over the years means I haven’t got sucked into the normal way of doing things. Or then again, maybe it’s just because I’m getting old and have made all of my mistakes already.”

In a previous life, Edd was an air-cooled VW guy –a scene that in its halcyon days was a hotbed of creativity and innovation, and which still influences every other modified car scene today. As anyone who has been into Bugs can empathise, Edd says he wanted to get into another make of car because the ‘dub world had got a bit samey and stale. The VWs are beautifully done, but there now seems to be a set formula for building one, and a lot of the top examples are exactly the same as the next, just painted a different colour. And so it was that Edd’s MINI journey began.

First was an R53 JCW with a Union Flag wrap. Not all that subtle, then, and his next project took things to an even wilder level with a bit of egging on from his friend and now business partner, Rog.

Edd explains, “I bought a GP1 and managed to keep it standard for five years. Then between Rog and I we decided to go completely mad on it.”

With Rog and Edd both being Porsche fans and owners, they took inspiration from the highly coveted Singer builds from California, including retro tartan seats, serious suspension and trick wheels. The end result was an instantly recognisable MINI; in fact, some may remember it from YouTube, where it was driven by Petrol Ped. If not, type in ‘the perfect B-road Mini’ and enjoy 20 minutes of epic supercharger whine.

That R53 really helped to kick-start the pair’s business venture, B_Road Hunting Club. Not only is B_Road a growing hotspot for petrolhead meets and coffee days (think the Caffeine and Machine of the south), it’s a place where you can have your dream MINI hand-built by the chaps.

“Over the years we’d each outsourced various work on our own project cars, and a lot of the time ended up redoing the work ourselves as they’d never done it quite right,” continues Edd. “As we got more competent, people who wanted something a bit different started coming to us, and the business grew from there.”

He goes on to describe the usual type of build they get involved in as ‘anything a bit off the wall’, and this is the exact ethos they took to building the Cooper S you see here.

Edd says, “I’d sold the GP1 and had actually put a deposit on a GP3. But when I found out it wasn’t going to be available with a manual ‘box, I cancelled immediately and started looking for something a bit unusual to build my own interpretation of the ultimate B-road F56.”

After trawling through the classified ads, he came across this 8000-mile Rebel Green example, which had already been tastefully modified by its owner Simon.

“If you want a car to be different from the usual you have to go for unusual specs,” smiles Edd, “so the colour was a great starting point.” In fact, he goes on to admit that he’s changed just 20 per cent of the car since buying it – but it’s the last 20 per cent of tweaking and refining that’s really put the cherry on the cake in transforming the looks and the overall driving experience.

Edd says, “The car came with Team Dynamics wheels, the Coolerworx shifter, the carbon interior pieces and the Lohen performance mods. With 300bhp it was always going to be more than quick enough, but it really needed the stance and driving dynamics changed, and the visuals elevated.”

Inspiration for the latter came from an old picture of a classic Mini race car lapping the Goodwood circuit. The little racer’s vintage green paint and white livery oozed pure class, and after a bit of contemplating ‘will it work, won’t it work’, the whole look was boldly recreated by Edd and Rog on the modified F56 MINI with spectacular results. At the same time, they changed the original black roof colour to an ‘antique white’ to match the livery, and, maybe surprisingly, they replaced the JCW hatch spoiler with a standard Cooper item.

“I think the more subtle spoiler gives cleaner lines,” adds Edd. “It now looks like a modern interpretation of a classic Cooper S to me, rather than just another aggressive modern hot hatch.” To complete the visual changes, the extremely popular TD wheels were removed, precisely because of their extreme popularity.

Edd says, “A trick I’ve learned over the years is that if you want to create something unique that not many people can copy, you ignore the most popular parts and instead search out the rarest parts.

“By default you end up being one of a kind or certainly one of a tiny minority.” It’s a simple concept but one that takes much research and patience.

“I knew that the old Audi RS6 ran 8x17in BBS wheels with an ET35 offset,” he continues, “the perfect size and offset for the F56 as it’s the same fitted to the MINI CHALLENGE cars.” Six laborious months later and his eBay search finally turned up a set, which he snapped up immediately.

Edd laughs, “The guy had them just sat in his garage for donkey’s years, and within two minutes of putting them up for sale he’d sold them to me. He was stunned.”

The gorgeous German art is framed by Michelin and hung on a B_Road Hunting Club signature mod – a wheel stud kit. “We do it on all our builds. It’s more race-car, looks cleaner in my opinion and works especially well on wheels without centre caps.”

With the right wheels now in the arches, the KW suspension was set up to B_Road Hunting Club’s tried-and-tested geometry, tuned to make the best of English countryside blasts. A lot of people go too track-orientated with their suspension and end up creating something that’s amazing for the 5 per cent of time they drive it on track, but horrible for the other 95 per cent of the time.

Edd agrees: “The beauty of a MINI is that you don’t have to be going ridiculously fast to have ridiculous fun, and for most of us a more road-based set up will be more rewarding more of the time.” It was this grown-up approach that also led to him swapping the Scorpion exhaust for a JCW Pro exhaust. “The Bluetooth switchability of the JCW Pro means I can have it lairy if I want, but for most of the time it’s turned to Sport and it has a much better tone. I also got it with stainless tips just to be a bit different.”

The sum of these changes to the driving experience is much greater than the individual changes would imply – Edd has owned a Porsche Cayman and owns a replica Porsche 356 period racer, yet still describes this modified F56 MINI as the best car he’s ever had.

“I got in it the other day after not having driven it for a few months,” he enthuses, “and after a few miles hunkered into the carbon-accented cockpit, banging through the short-shifter with my Carrera GT-inspired gearknob. I was laughing to myself. It always amazes me what such a wicked little car this is – the fact you can package so much fun and performance alongside genuine everyday driveability is just mind-blowing.”

After executing such a well-disciplined exercise in sympathetic modification, it’s no surprise that Edd also knows when to stop tinkering. “I’m deep into my 356 project now so I don’t plan to do anything with the MINI other than enjoy it. Anyway, this car is simply spot on, so why ruin it?”

Exactly. You really can create a stand-out show car and driving machine without going bonkers for bonkers’ sake…

Tech Spec: Modified F56 Mini

Engine:

Airtec intercooler, Eventuri scoop and full carbon fibre intake, carbon fibre engine heat shielding, Scorpion decat, JCW Pro exhaust with stainless tips, power upgrades by Lohen

Power:

300bhp and 500Nm/370lb.ft torque (owner’s estimate)

Transmission:

Coolerworx shifter

Suspension:

Wieschers carbon strut brace, KW V1 coilovers, Cravenspeed under-body bracing, Powerflex bushes

Wheels & Tyres:

Stud kit, 8Jx17 ET35 BBS RC307 alloys, 225/40R17 Michelin Pilot Sport 4S

Interior:

Carrera GT-inspired gearknob, genuine MINI carbon dash and door handles, Royal Black Alcantara steering wheel with carbon inserts

Exterior:

Rebel Green and black JCW (pre-LCI), full Pro splitters front and rear, blacked-out badges, custom Goodwood-inspired graphics