A recent ad campaign for MINI included a "Colorforms(tm)" dress-up kit that allowed you to customize your MINI with everything from a shaker hood scoop to chromed side pipes. It was supposed to be a joke. A few took the idea to heart and sent pics of their own unholy real-life MINI conversions. Some were so bad we needed to remove our eyes and boil them.
Despite the questionable results, you had to admire the enthusiasm and creativity-these people really love their cars.
Ashkon Mansoury loves his MINI, too, but not to the point of desecration.
"I wanted to respect the stock lines," said Mansoury. "I wanted something different, but it would need to appear and perform like it came that way from the factory."
Mansoury had previously owned a BMW E46 heavily modified with AC Schnitzer components. The Cooper S would be more of a challenge, because Mansoury was not following a predetermined tuner map. Moreover, the ACS gear for the MINI is expensive, and we've yet to see any solid examples. And, for the record, MINI tuning is still in its infancy. With the exception of the Cooper Works program in England and a few others, the trend is mainly mix-and-match-this bar with these springs, this ECU with that intake. Whatever works for you.
As an installer/technician of high-end home theater systems, Mansoury began with the cabin, re-covering the dash, door panels, shift boot and e-brake boot in blue Nappa leather. Moreno and Sons (a local upholstery shop in Sacramento, Calif.) did the installation, managing to retain a factory look right down to the dual undertuck stitching. Though hardly noticeable, the self-dimming rearview mirror and the rechargeable flashlight in the glovebox are from a late-model BMW 5 Series. The nav system was augmented with a European-spec TV tuner/DVD player and its functions are controlled through a remote control with the sensor hidden beneath the center console. Although the TV tuner is available in Europe (the TV shuts off after the car is in motion), we don't get it stateside because of liability concerns-a damn shame, because it is a very sweet piece of kit.
Mansoury then focused on the rear trunk area, fabricating a custom tool kit with indentations for various implements. The cover was wrapped with leather and the interior features soft, felt-like material.
The MINI rides on 7x17-in. Mille Miglia HT3 wheels and Yokohama Parada tires, which measure 205/45ZR-17. The running gear came from The Tire Rack and arrived on Mansoury's doorstep mounted and ready to roll (we love those guys!). The sport springs and larger rear anti-roll bar are MiniMania pieces. Although the stock Cooper S brakes are good, this car goes one better with a set of StopTech 12.9-in. binders, featuring sizable four-piston calipers. The rear brakes were upgraded to include PowerSlot rotors and stainless-steel brake lines on each corner.