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Road Test: Mini Hatchback Jack Knight Hot Rod 3dr


This is the Mini Hot Rod, and it’s probably the quickest road Mini ever built. But my first responsibility, once inside this extraordinary machine, is to try not to mark the pristine sheet-alloy footwells, for it’s been custom-built by Mini specialist Jack Knight for an unnamed German customer (probably a BMW high-flyer - remember, BMW owns Rover) and it’s also one of Rover’s Frankfurt and Earls Court show cars, so it needs to stay pretty.

There’s no ignition key; just flick a couple of dash-mounted switches before strapping into the four-point harness seatbelt, otherwise you won’t reach those switches. With the engine running you’ll instantly want some ear protection, such is the din from the highly modified A-Series engine and straight-cut gears, hardly shielded by the uninsul-ated bulkhead and interior.

Having clacked the Quick-Shift stick across the slotted gate into first, Ferrari style, build up some revs and gingerly engage the clutch. The Hot Rod energetically squirts forward but strong arms are needed because the tiny suede-rimmed wheel determinedly fights its way back to the straight ahead. But careful now, the steering’s heavy but it’s also super-responsive and, coupled with the ride quality of a toboggan, any sudden or ill-considered input could easily result in a Mini-shaped hole in a nearby hedge.

With a slight graunch grab second before the needle hits the 7,500rpm red line. Blindfolded, the whining transmission accompaniment would indicate that you’re travelling at speed in reverse. But no, you’re going forwards, fast, and in very short order you’ll need third, fourth, and then, you guessed it, fifth. With such low final gearing it’s not long before you’re up to about 110mph and climbing.

By now the noise, now primarily from the induction and exhaust of the engine, is, hear this, REALLY VERY LOUD INDEED. Keep the throttle buried and there’s more speed (and noise) to come if you wish, but as your every sense is already receiving a hefty battering, those powerful four-pot calipers and vented front discs soon beckon. And don’t forget there’s no synchromesh so a nice blip of the throttle as you double de-clutch to a lower gear is de rigueur.So, as if you didn’t already know, this is no ordinary Mini. Its 1,380cc 16-valve double overhead cam Weber fuel-injected 160bhp engine (and all the other tweaks) make it as involving and demanding as a road car can get.

It’s not for popping to the shops; in fact, I wouldn’t even classify it as pract-ical transport. It’s a furious funster, so unless you’re a committed and affluent mini maniac, forget it.For the cost of this Mini Hot Rod you could own a brand new BMW M3 Cabrio or a Range Rover 4.6. On the other hand, if you really like Minis…

Tom Stewart

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