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VTEC Magic – MCM Mini Revisited

This little green Mini is one of Mighty Car Mods’ most enduring and popular builds. In its original guise, it was powered by a 1275cc, Siamese port engine supplemented with a belt-driven supercharger.

Fast forward a couple of years and the guys decided it was time for a new engine. Their choice was a tried and proven Honda B16 with some VTEC magic.

Most commonly found in a Honda Civic, the B16 was a tight fit in the rather space-constrained Mini engine bay.

While most factory components were retained, some had to be relocated in order for the engine to fit. The alternator (pictured above) migrated from the front of the engine to a tiny space available just behind the manifold.

The acronyms you see above are where the biggest differences between the old and the new engine lie. DOHC and VTEC, Double Over Head Cam and Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control. This is what turns a sedate, suburban commuter into a screaming and soaring monster.

What the VTEC system does is provide the engine with two different valve timing options for either low or high RPM conditions.

The way this is done by having two different lobe profiles on both intake and exhaust camshafts. The first profile is the gentle, mild option used for low RPM, every day driving, the second is the high RPM “beast mode”.

Haltech’s Elite 1500 is in charge of switching between the two cam lobes. It does so by monitoring RPM, engine oil pressure, engine temperature, vehicle speed and throttle position. A tuner can program the switch point from low to high lift depending on some of these conditions being met.

When the VTEC activation parameters are met, the ECU sends a signal to this little solenoid (above) which initiates the change. At that point, a hydraulically controlled pin slides across all rocker arms on each cylinder, locking them together and forcing them to follow the high lift cam lobe.

The result is an instant transformation which has embedded itself in the popular culture with a catchcry “VTEC just kicked in yo!”

In the case of our subject car, this effect is further emphasized by the car’s ridiculously low kerb weight of about 700kg.

The Mighty Car Mods JDM Mini might be unashamedly old school but when the VTEC kicks in it’s anything but!

The interior, while classy and comfortably is not exactly suited for anyone over 1.8m tall. How Scott (at 2.2m) managed to not only fit inside but actually drive the car continuously over the weekend remains a bit of mystery…