This modified R55 MINI Clubman provides all sorts of family fun. And who wants to be a grown-up anyway?
Feature taken from Performance MINI. Words: Dan Bevis. Photos: AS Design.
We’re all big kids really, aren’t we? No matter how much we may pretend to be grown-ups, with our mortgages and pensions and ponderings about National Trust membership, there’s always a little part of us that just wants to watch cartoons and eat ice cream and play with Hot Wheels. This largely explains the arguably quite silly cars we spend our money tinkering with: on paper, it makes most sense to simply buy something that will be reliable and frugal and cheap to run, but where’s the fun in that? You only live once, you’ve got to listen to that child-like voice in your head once in a while.
This is the reason why, when Arthur Linney decided to settle down and get himself a sensible car, he somehow ended up with the slightly bonkers Clubman you see before you. “Before this, I was heavily involved in the Ford scene,” he explains. “My previous three show cars were a Mk2 Focus ST500, a Mk1 Focus RS, and a Mk2 Focus RS.” A bit of a theme there, then – but eventually it got to the stage where the RS was sitting out on the drive more than it was being used, and there’s a lot of money tied up in something like that when you’ve got your adulting hat on and you’re saving for a house. “Thinking back for ideas of a cheaper toy, I thought of my old R53 and how much I loved that,” he recalls. “But having sold that due to its size and having two daughters, I needed something bigger – so I started looking at Clubmans, and made my mind up that I wanted one.”
Speculatively browsing eBay for cars is something most of us are guilty of on a fairly regular basis, so Arthur’s idle wondering was now given a purpose as he set his sights on the right Clubby to tick his assorted boxes. Before long, he found the car you see here, which had the usual N14-related issues sorted with plenty of reassuring paperwork to back it up.
An inspection revealed the car to be just as good as it seemed, and in no time it was on the family drive and ready to be pressed into sensible utilitarian service. Except… well, acting sensibly is dull.
“Being the Performance Product Manager at Euro Car Parts, I had access to numerous suppliers and could pretty much get everything I needed through work,” he explains, and you can see that there was only one way this was heading. He hadn’t bought a grown-up car, he’d got himself a project! “First up was an AEM induction kit and strut brace, as after a lot of research these seem to be the best on the market. Once fitted, it sounded great and felt a lot more responsive. Our friends at H&R sorted me out with a set of Monotube coilovers; I’m no stranger to using H&R springs, but this was the first time I have tried their coilovers and I must say they’re the most comfortable ones I have ever run. Still firm and hold the car when you need it, but they absorb today’s roads so well.”
Since he was up to his elbows in chassis bits anyway, it made sense to swap in some Powerflex bushes next, while a set of EBC discs and pads did the business with the stopping power – again tapping up those supplier contacts for the best prices. It’d be silly not to maximise those connections, wouldn’t it?
“I sourced a JCW Aero front bumper, which was lucky enough to be in the right colour to go straight on the car,” Arthur continues. “However, when the Airtec intercooler came I realised I had the non-turbo Aero bumper, as it required a bit of extra modification to fit it in! The intercooler itself I custom painted with a larger than standard gold Airtec logo, with the RS intercooler stencil I still had. One of our suppliers, Top Gear Exhausts, sorted out a custom cat-back, and this coupled with a Milltek decat gave a much better exhaust note… but a bit more neighbour-friendly than the exceptionally loud system on the previous RS!”
Things were really starting to come together by this point, although there was one element that was starting to bug Arthur – the wheels. It was running a set of gloss black GP reps, but they just weren’t doing anything for him, and he started casting his eye around for an appropriate replacement. After a fair bit of searching, his roving eye was caught by a set of Rotiform LAS-R which had previously been fitted to a MINI, so he knew fitment wouldn’t be an issue. The stretched tyres they came with looked a little bizarre juxtaposed to the Clubman’s broad flanks, but a set of 205-section rubber soon sorted this, ensuring that the arch gap was adequately filled with no concerns about rubbing. Job done!
“Happy with the supporting mods I had, I needed to get it mapped,” says Arthur. “So I got in contact with UberTuning, whose Stage 2 map with over-run made for a much better drive home! Annoyingly due to the car being too low, we weren’t able to dyno it – but we estimate it’s running around 250bhp now. And the final touch was to change the colour of the wheels to keep in with the blue, black and gold colour scheme; I tried Foliatec spray film as I’d never used it before, so the wheels can always be reverted back to their standard silver by peeling off the gold if I change my mind. I’m over the moon with how they have come out, they completely transform the look of the car.”
This, in essence, is a colourful lesson in how to do adulting properly. Where’s the fun in giving up on the concept of pleasure and settling for a Qashqai when you could be doing this?
“The Clubman is still used mainly as a weekend car, but it has plenty of room for all the family,” he grins. “It often gets double-takes as people hear the noise and look, not expecting to see a MINI estate making it! Then they look again when they see the loud-coloured gold wheels and how low the thing sits…”
It turns out that, as we knew all along, growing up and being sensible isn’t actually a real-world option, is it? You only live once, you might as well enjoy yourself; besides, your kids will think you’re infinitely cooler if you’ve got a sweet ride to roll into the school car park. Question Time and The Antiques Roadshow can wait, let’s go and play!
Tech Spec: Modified R55 MINI Clubman
N14 1.6-litre turbo, UberTuning Stage 2 map, Airtec intercooler, AEM induction kit, Forge recirc valve, Forge noise-maker delete, Forge resonator delete, Mamba braided oil feed pipe, Milltek decat pipe and custom 2.5in non-resonated cat-back exhaust system
H&R Monotube coilovers, Powerflex bushes
EBC dimpled and grooved discs, Yellow Stuff pads
Wheels & Tyres:
17in Rotiform LAS-R – sprayed in Foliatec Gold, 205/40 Nankang NV2 tyres
Stock Cooper S leather, JCW carbon gearknob and handbrake
Atom Speed bonnet scoop – colour-coded, Osram colour-change LED demon eyes, stickers and graphics from LTI Performance Ltd