2016 Records

We Went Back For More in 2016

The New Zealand land speed record Mini team, Project ’64 have returned from Bonneville Speed Week this August with two new records in hand and a new record top speed for their 1964 Mini Cooper S.

The 970cc A-series powered reached a staggering 166mph / 267kph into a 9mph/14.5kph headwind on track conditions that were universally agreed to be less than ideal. Many 400mph plus capable cars at the same meet were only managing speeds in the three hundreds. The team were happy with that result though after a difficult week tuning the Cooper to run well on the supplied race fuels at the event and for the altitude. “We arrived knowing the Mini was capable of 175mph but part of this sort of racing is the other factors you need to overcome,” said crew chief Garry Orton.

The Mini was producing around 370hp on methanol on it’s final runs. The power plant consists of a straight-cut Mini standard format Mini gearbox sharing the oil with a big bore A-series block with a short throw crank for 970cc, a BMW K1200 Motorcycle head, fuel injection and an intercooled IHI turbo supplying around 20 pounds of boost.

The two records set were at 144.033mph on race petrol and 156.006mph on methanol. They were unable to convert their 166.046mph into a record as on their record run they had a sudden loss of oil pressure at 144mph. “No one expects a highly tuned race motor to last forever and we had hoped it would last a week.” Said driver and engine builder Nelson Hartley. “We won’t know exactly what failed until it’s apart but we suspect it was the BMC oil pump. We were running a number of original parts due to space restrictions and it is amazing that they have worked so well so far outside their design parameters.” A full strip down of the engine will happen on it’s return to New Zealand. The pressure loss happened on the team’s last day of racing leaving them with not enough time to swap motors and go out again.

Following Speed Week the team transported the Mini to Los Angeles where it was filmed for a segment on American comedian Jay Leno’s YouTube channel — Jay Leno’s Garage. You can view the video on our video page.

Next the Mini will make it’s way back to New Zealand by Maersk Line container where it will take up residence at the World of Wearable Art and Classic Cars Museum in Nelson after completing a tour of MINI NZ showrooms and events.

The team are hatching further plans for Bonneville and other racing but are unsure at this stage if they will include this Mini Cooper S. “While we were incredibly happy with the power and reliability of this engine we feel at this stage that we might have reached the limits of what can be achieved with the A-series power plant — it may be time for a modern take on the same game — with something equally iconic of course!” said Garry Orton.

Adapted from a draft article written for Mini World by Mike Wilson – 20 September 2016

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