Like Clockwork

Transmissions remind me of a fine timepiece – just as complex, except larger.

The mystery surrounding how a transmission is assembled usually keeps people away from gearing changes – however this is where some of the best magic happens on the MINI.

After much research and phone calls across the pond a shorter final drive and layshaft shaft set was sourced from a company in the United Kingdom, the Toucan’s birthplace.

Only good things come from a company with a beagle as their logo.

Aside from being shorter gearing, the was also straight cut for both strength and that classic race-car style transmission whine.

(straight-cut on top, OEM helical cut on the bottom)

Some things are best left to experts in their field so we disassembled as much of the gearbox as we could and left it with Johan at Trust Transmission in Kitchener, Ontario.

Johan worked alongside Getrag in Germany (the manufacture of the MINI gearbox) and is an expert at what he does and also has a MINI himself. Getrag does not produce repair items for this gearbox which meant the smallest mistake could turn it into a heavy paper-weight.

The empty 4L jug of Carlos Rose by the workbench is how I knew he was legit.

The gear-set was removed from the OEM mainshafts and transplanted onto the shorter geared British units.

Like a fine watch, after re-assembly it spun beautifully. Johan also repaired the syncos, smoothed the shift-forks, and refurbished the shift linkage mechanism.


The MINI uses an unconventional layout for it’s gearbox. The layshaft is split in two to allow the box to be smaller to fit in a tighter area.

1-2-5-6th gear are on one shaft, with 3-4-Reverse on the other. The crown gear on the differential sits in between these and outputs to the driveshafts, and on the other side sits the input shaft which sends the power from the engine to the transmission.

The final result is a car that runs through it’s gearing quicker.

Although the drop in RPM between each gear is unchanged – the maximum speed in each gear is shortened giving better torque multiplication and faster acceleration in exchange for top end speed.

Way more fun!

Fingers crossed it makes the Toucan sound similar to this :D



More Wheel Drive

Our good friends at AutoAnalyser Performance have been extremely generous to the Toucan by sharing their vast knowledge of race-car setup as well as helping us source toucan treats.

The OEM open differential was something that had to go, and in-place went a Quaife Limited Slip unit to give Toucan grip with both it’s claws.


First the transmission was pulled and the box was split.

The belly of the beast – so many gears.

Ring gear was removed from the factory open differential

Quaife limited slip vs. OEM open differential

Fresh bearings pressed on

Let there be grip.





Hot-Rod Days

Vintage hot-rods have always had a warm spot in our hearts – such unique stylish that has not been seen in many years.

When we met Doug Marshall who owns a metal fabrication shop and builds vintage hot-rods – the gears immediately began to turn after some inspiration from these vintage machines.

Within a few days Doug had the Toucan’s fenders and began working his metal magic.

First some measurements.

Then some cutting.

Some beautiful metal plates were made to fill in the MINI side scuttles.

Fired up.

Tacked into place.

Beginning of the fill.

Filled with real metal.

No bondo or filler needed here – true metal art.

The hot-rod inspiration begins with hand punched 3″ louvers.

All done.

More ventilation with a small throwback to the hot-rod days.




Dressing Up

Purple Dreams

The Toucan’s underside came back from powder-coating - some purple and white with gold flake is just what it wanted.

Some new OEM hardware to complete the restoration.



Christmas Diet

Pre Surgery

Front crash support.

Post Surgery

More airflow, and less weight.

2.1 lbs removed off the nose.

No crashing allowed now.

Cosmetic Surgery

Toucans need to breathe too.
So some dry carbon fiber vents direct from Italy came to the Toucan’s rescue.



The Belly of the Beast.


The Operation

Slice and Dice – the stock hood X brace weighed in at 3.6lbs – easy weight loss.

The Scraps

Cardboard templates were made of the scoops.

Measure once, do it live.

First blood.

1.1lb weight loss per side when replaced by the carbon vents – dieting made easy.

An odd sight to see.

Perhaps one of the weirdest feelings, next to sawing holes in a good hood – is drilling dry carbon.

3/32nd pop-rivits and some silicone adhesive made the perfect seal.

It’s time to breathe.



Still Alive




Sometimes I come across photos of Took’s when she still had fun on the city streets and miss exploring new sights and sounds around the lands with her. Kind of makes me wish she wasn’t just confined to track duty only in her new life.

Hoping Took’s new track life will be just as fun!

Have been slacking with updates recently, but rest assured there is some exciting new events in the life and times of Tookie on the horizon that will be posted soon!

I ♥ Plastic Arches

Fitting the meaty 225/45/15 Hoosiers looked like an almost impossible task with a hint of possible thrown in.

We started by cutting the plastic reinforcements and lip from behind the arches with a rotary tool. This made the arch more flexible and able to bend. From there we pulled out our friend the heat gun.

Using some plastic melting heat we slowly massaged the arches out. Once pulled and hot we let them set  using some cool water to lock them in the permanently flared out position.

A few blisters and burns later we had 2.5+ cm of tire clearance for Toucan’s feet to steer, and a much meaner stance.

I ♥ Plastic Arches.



Sticky Socks

Chemical Nights

Purple Crush

Little things that don’t belong usually add up to making the difference between a clean image and a distracting image. As magic as the OMP wheel felt, the yellow did not belong in the black and purple interior of the Toucan.

An afternoon in the hands of a charming old lady at the local upholstery shop in town and the non-belonging yellow marker stripe was transformed to a more fitting purple; almost a perfect match to the harnesses.

It is amazing what a big difference such little things can make.

Track Cars on the Street


The Touch

Steering wheels are like the pillows; so many feel average, but when you get the perfect one it makes life magical. The moment I first felt the OMP Targa magic was cast, naturally that spell was continued to the Toucan.

The smaller 330mm diameter was key for the Toucan, with the 355mm wheel and the low seat the steering wheel was blocking vision out of the car. Here’s a comparison photo of the John Cooper Works 355mm wheel vs. the 330mm OMP Targa, just a touch smaller.

Mini specific hubs are some sort of witch craft; people claim to have them but they really don’t exist. We ended up using a MOMO hub which claimed to be Mini specific, when it arrived it turned out to really be an E46 BMW hub and did not fit properly.

That problem was quickly fixed with a trip to an old-time friend Fraser at Torode Precision; one the most generous and interesting people I know with a true passion for British motoring. In a few minutes we had a 6mm spacer machined to fit behind the hub, allowing the BMW hub to fit like a glove on the Mini.

Monkey Bars

Midnight Delivery

Get Low

Finally had some one on one time with the Toucan and got her stripped out and ready to deliver to Ronnie at O’Brien Motorsports. When I showed up to the shop Ronnie felt he could lower the seat an additional 3″ over the VAC / Recaro side mount setup with his own custom mount, lower is always better right? Lets do it!

Over the weekend I stopped by the shop to test out the seating position. He had fabbed up a mock up bracket and somehow he managed to get the driving position for me bang on by only knowing my height and leg length like a true metal tailor. Needless to say the seat came in at 2.9″ lower than the Recaro / VAC setup which feels way too good.

With the new seat position the line of sight is just over top of the wheel, feelsgoodman!

Black and Purple

Just a Baby

The Toucan lived a simple life back in the day. It was just a shy little 2003 Tookie S living every day doing the things toucan’s love. Sipping tropical smoothies down by the river, cruisin’ USA with no destination, and delivering me wherever I needed to be with a smile loaded.

One day times changed; the toucan decided it wanted to spend more time going fast and less time parked on streets. Later that day it took a pledge to always have fun, and go fast doing it. From that day on the transformation began. ToucanLife.

Baby Toucan in a park;

Teenage Toucan by the beach with friends;

Teenage Toucan exploring the countryside;