While I really do like the old A Series Engine I have always felt that the costs of bringing this engine up to scratch were financially excessive. To get an engine that puts out high hp and is traffic happy is a difficult process. I have therefore come to the decision that an engine conversion is the way to go. Given that many people (including at least a couple in Australia) have converted to a Japanese spec engine, I decided to have a go too.

I initially selected the Suzuki GTI Engine package as the one to go with but have not had a great deal of luck isolating one. There is a website by a guy named Brad who has inserted a Starlet GT engine in his Mini. He has got this registered recently in NSW and seems very pleased with the outcome. He recently posted 13.9 pass at the dragway with little post installation development so that gives some idea of what is possible...

Given the specs of the Starlet GT engine I have decided to go with this engine too, mainly because I can source one and also because it comes with a turbo as standard which will negate having to do this as a side issue. To get it to sit under the bonnet I will attempt to relocate the intercooler which currently sits on top of the engine to the lower front. This has two benefits, it means that I have a bit more room to play with as far as how deep I have to sit the engine in the engine bay, and placing the intercooler at the front increases the cooling effect creating a denser charge of air entering the engine leading to an increase in overall power!

The basic issues that need to resolved and these are things that have been highlight by Con Torresi in Brisbane and are a good starting point. His statements below are a good reason to go the Jap Engine route.

So how do you get a Japanese Engine in a car. By the sounds of it easier said than done. But the results could be amazing. Here are my reasons for thinking strongly about all the hassles that will result when I start on this journey:

  1. A modern engine with cams instead of pushrods, and a gearbox that isn't in the sump!
  2. The complete unit fits under the bonnet, no bumps or holes! (Unlike Vauxhall 2L solution which requires a full subframe conversion)
  3. A level of power that is achieved without taking the engine to the high end of its physical limits. And reduced costs, an A series pulling 135 hp costs a large amount of money (approx $5000).
  4. A 5 speed gearbox with overdrive!
  5. Fuel Injection!
  6. Unleaded Petrol, no need for a head conversion

I could go on but there the main ones for me. The idea of cruising to Sydney with the Engine ticking over at 2000rpm instead of 4000rpm sounds very inviting. Con has indicated on his site that highway cycle he gets around 50mpg. Below is the list compiled by Con Torresi (plus a few things added by me, from a hacks point of view (in Dark Blue), and taking into account that the ACT Rego process is alot harder than that in other states, like NSW, but I have found out they're almost as hard in QLD, so that proves it is possible!)

The above is a very rough guide. The custom parts are the frame, axels and mounts. The rest is comparitively easy if you are reasonably mechanically minded. Most mini nuts are, or at least have to be. 

I've been looking at a project that could result in a low level production of custom subframes. If that project gets off the ground I'll post the details here.


Con Torrisi.

Side note: Due to the requirements for even small scale manufacture of subframes it looks like Con had to can the idea because of the costs involved in getting certification.


Before attempting this you should go have a talk to an Automotive Engineer. Why? Because in order to get something like this registered you need an Engineer's Certificate, because the changes are so radical. It doesn't mean that you have to get someone else to do it, it just means that they have to supervise you to some extent, plus they can give you very helpful advice along the way.

Other things to consider if you decide to go ahead are:

  1. See an engineer. This is pretty much mandatory as you won't be able to get a rego certificate without one and they can tell you the things you have to get correct in order to make the thing safe. Here is a list of engineers that are recommend by ACT Road User Services (ie. The ACT Version of the RTA).
  2. Plan heavily, try and get as much advice on what to expect;
  3. Take your time, rushing will ensure that you do most things twice and possibly stuff the whole thing. This could take up to 12 months to complete (depending on how much time you have);
  4. Make sure you have the skills to complete the job, if not get a professional to do those bits (eg. custom drive shafts best left to a professional). A must is an ability to weld, preferably MIG/TIG welding but most forms of welding should do the trick. Mild steel will be more than strong enough for the subframe as long as the right type and thickness is selected;
  5. And finally just to let you know...