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Johannesburg to Cape Town, and back M.I.N.I.

July 1994. I had just totally rebuilt "Jem's" (named after Jemimah the puddle duck - yellow 1275E Clubman) engine which had been using more oil than petrol for several months. This involved getting new pistons/rings and a +20 rebore to 1294cc. Two weeks of solid work on a task I had never tackled before but with a "little" help from Haynes managed to get the thing going again. The day after putting the engine back I had the car roadworthied (MOT for UK) and that night at 6pm left for Cape Town. This, for obvious reasons was not a good idea, but the journey had to be done.

Considering the rebore etc. I restricted my top speed to between 60 & 70km/h, quite hairy on a road with a 120km/h speed limit, for the first 400km of the trip (Johannesburg to Kimberley). Other Sefrican Miniscules will know the route. Thereafter I increased the speed by about 10km/h every hour 'til I reached a comfortable 110km/h.

At each petrol stop I was putting in about 500ml of oil, which didn't concern me as the engine was still running in. At about 4am I had the misfortune of hitting a piece of shredded truck tyre which removed the front licence plate, dented the metalwork under the bumper and knocked the exhaust loose. This I found out at the next town where I stopped to inspect for damage under the engine.

Due to the extra exhaust noise, I never noticed the knocking coming from the engine bay until about 6am when I stopped for more petrol (and oil) and heard this incredible rattling coming from under the tappet cover, even when idling.

On removal of the cover, I found that the last rocker arm (#8) was running totally dry and had worn away to such an extent that I could fit a screwdriver tip in the gap between it and the shaft. Bad news when you're 400km away from the nearest Leyland agent. The only thing I could do was tighten up the arm after lubricating it with a bit of grease and hope that this would get me all the way to Cape Town, still another 600km away.

After that I reduced my speed to about 60 - 70km/h for the rest of the journey, with the CD turned off so that I could hear any unhealthy noise, and at every town I took the tappet cover off to check what was happening. It's quite a nerve-racking experience to have your ear so tuned to engine noise that every change in sound becomes a danger signal. Fortunately, the rest of the trip was uneventful, although long. I arrived in Cape Town at about 5pm, 23 hours after leaving Johannesburg.

While there I had my father airfreight the rocker shaft assembly from my old Leyland Marina (wrecked) in the hope that it would fit the Mini engine. I was fairly confident that it would, as I had already cannibilised that engine for quite a few parts during the overhaul.

An hour after receiving the parts, I had the car running again, and during the next week while running around Cape Town had no problems.

Returning to Johannesburg was rather boring: no problems whatsoever, travelling at about 120km/h for most of the time (+/- 14 hours).

During the Johannesburg - Cape Town route, the car used a total of 2.5 litres of oil. On the return journey it used less than 0.5 litres and the exhaust was a lovely clean shade of grey instead of the greasy black I was used to seeing! I never did figure out why the #8 arm wasn't getting any oil.

Unfortunately, since I left SA a week later, the car has not moved since but hopefully will be okay to run after an oil change and dust off when I return (undetermined date).

I would not hesitate to do the journey again, the main lesson learned being that I should take a better supply of tools with me (I had to guess the torque when putting the "new" shaft on).

Tim Hague

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