There are several ways to extract horsepower from a Mini Hardtop, and most are far more straight-forward than squeezing a V8 engine under the clamshell hood. And yet, at the request of a client, England-based EDM Racing is well into the process of doubling the retro-styled hatchback’s cylinder count while making it rear-wheel drive.
Amusingly called Vini, the V8-powered Mini started life as a 2007 Cooper S. It had a little over 100,000 miles on its odometer when David Power, the managing director of suspension bushing expert Powerflex, instructed EDM Racing to prepare it for an improbable engine swap. As mechanics stripped it to the bare metal, Power sourced a 4.0-liter, 415-horsepower V8 and a matching seven-speed automatic transmission from an E92-generation BMW M3 and began figuring out how to make it fit into a city-friendly hatchback delivered new with a 172-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. Installing the new drivetrain directly behind the front seats would have likely been the easiest solution from a packaging standpoint, but the team decided to keep the front-engined layout.
The conversion consequently required chopping out significant chunks of the Hardtop’s firewall and floor, so EDM Racing started by designing and welding in a roll cage to maintain the car’s structural integrity. The firm then installed modified front and rear subframes from a Subaru Impreza to keep the four wheels in their original position, or as close to it as possible. Power stressed he wants Vini to look nearly stock, especially when it comes to its track width, meaning punching out the wheel arches Renault 5 Turbo-style was out of the question.
The V8 fits surprisingly well in the Mini’s engine bay, and it keeps the car’s weight distribution in check. Power originally considered using a Subaru-built flat-four or a straight-six from an earlier M3, but both would have put too much weight ahead of the front wheels. Installing the automatic transmission was more difficult, however.
“Making it all work in an OEM fashion will be a challenge for sure, but no more so than the most galling part of the project so far: Chopping out a transmission tunnel wide enough to accept the Getrag. I was aware of the dangers associated with cutting too much away and removing integral strength from the shell in the process, hence why we tackled the job in set stages and with the cage [installed],” EDM Racing’s Elliott Dunmore explained.
As of January 2020, the numerous body modifications are complete and the Vini wears a two-tone paint job that blends Metallic Green from the Jaguar Land Rover palette with Pepper White from BMW’s. The Mini received beefier brakes, a fully redesigned suspension, a one-of-a-kind carbon fiber dashboard, and a custom-built air box that’s slimmer than the V8’s original unit. Everything fits, surprisingly, but it all needs to be stitched together, and that’s more difficult than it sounds considering nearly every part of the drivetrain relies on electronics.
EDM Racing and Powerflex are documenting the project on a Facebook page called Vini the V8 Mini. When it’s completed, hopefully in June or July of 2020, the rear-wheel-drive, 415-horsepower Mini will demonstrate what it’s capable of on race tracks in England and abroad. It will remain fully street-legal, so think twice about accelerating when you see a green older Mini in your rear-view mirror while road-tripping across the United Kingdom.