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.
The engine has been tweaked with RD Sport's undersized supercharger pulley and its 258 Sport camshaft. To deal with the excess rotation and boost, the engine is managed with RD Sport software. Alta Mini's cold air intake and intercooler air diverter ensure the motor is well fed. For optimized flow, Mansoury had the intake manifold internally polished and match-ported. The Cooper S exhales through a Supersprint header and terminates in its full stainless-steel exhaust system.
The engine is crowned with MiniMania's upper strut brace, a stout-looking piece Mansoury had chromed. Nology plug wires complete the engine mods.
Mansoury modified the factory Cooper S aerodynamic kit with a blacked-out front grille and clear rear taillamps. Ultimately, this car appears to be something that just rolled off the production line, understated but exceptionally cool.
Mansoury drove 600 miles to meet us for a test drive and photo shoot-he promised we would not be disappointed. After hearing the sound of his Cooper S reverberating off the canyon walls, it became evident he wasn't lying. This car is fairly quiet on idle with just a tad lower voice, but romp on it and it screams. In fact, several times as the car was out of sight, we thought Mansoury was being overtaken by a superbike. On this serpentine stretch, the Cooper S was in its element, cutting through the canyon much faster than cars packing twice the horsepower. The larger rear bar dials out some of the Cooper's inherent understeer and lets you carry much higher entry and exit speeds. This car was also equipped with an Alta Mini short-shifter, which did a great job abbreviating shift throws. And when challenged by uphill straights, the MINI had enough beans to produce a glorious burn-out until those big brakes came into play.
After playtime was over, we sat in the cabin and watched "The Fast and the Furious." Not a bad movie; not great either. Cars going fast in a straight line...BFD. I'd like to see that Supra on this road with the Cooper S. No amount of camera magic is going to let that Toyota win this race.
Alta Mini Performance
7733 S.W. Cirrus Dr.
Beaverton, OR 97008
Moreno & Sons Upholstery
2020 Futon Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95825
11397 Slater Ave.
Fountain Valley, CA 99708