David Brown: remastering the Mini
Since its inception in 2013, David Brown Automotive has made a name for itself as a supplier of impeccably crafted models that celebrate the evocative lines and driving pleasure of 1960s British cars, but with modern reliability and transmissions.
In 2018, we passed through the DBA facility at Silverstone to meet company founder David Brown, who gave us a tour of his workshop and explained every detail of his latest creation at the time, the Speedback. GT of 503 hp. Now we’re back for another visit, both to check out how the company handled during the pandemic and to get a sneak peek at the latest version of the company’s Mini Remastered.
Three years after our visit, the production of Mini Remastered is in full swing. The company has already completed 70 cars and hopes to produce 100 units per year.
But why add the Mini to the company’s lineup? “The Speedback takes a tremendous amount of time to build,” says Brown. “We wanted to create something that would increase the volume of the business. So, there hasn’t been much debate on what it should be, as the Mini is one of the most iconic cars, almost ever.
“You can do it all with a Mini,” he tells us. “You can stick a motorcycle engine in the front, you can make it run like a go-kart, you can do whatever you want. As a blank canvas, it’s absolutely great to start with. But above all, David said: “We didn’t want to lose the mini character of a Mini”.
David begins to speak to us through his brief for the Mini Remastered with a short anecdote. “I have two heroes,” he said. “My dad; he’s dead. Roger Daltrey; he’s not. And my dad’s take on the Mini was that it was one of the best-designed cars in the world, but the worst made. , a gigantic part of what we set out to do was remove this less well-made item. ”
We would say he succeeded. The Mini Remastered is the best-built original Mini we’ve driven to date, and it still has all of the quirks that make the car so charming.
The doors slam like a tin shed when you close them, the motor is gruff, and the speedometer is an old-fashioned Smiths unit with a needle that bounces around the approximate speed you’re riding, rather than reading a fixed number.
These vintage characteristics are reinforced by a rock solid shell, stronger mechanics and electricity that works every time – a rare treat in a British car of this vintage.
DBA’s engineering team is also obsessed with detail and has a quality focus on par with most German automakers. For example, the bodywork of every Mini Remastered is seamless, meaning the drainage channels that typically run down the A and C pillars have been removed for a cleaner look.
Normally this is done by cutting the seams with an angle grinder, welding the gap, and squashing imperfections with putty. As you would expect, however, it’s not as strong as a standard body, as you rely on the solder joint between two millimeter-thick panels to hold the car together, rather than distribute the load. on a quarter-inch seam.
DBA takes a different approach. He starts by cutting the seams, but then reinforces the pillars with beams before welding the panels closed. So the shell is stiffer than when it was originally designed – and you can really feel it on the road.
More importantly, the only thing in between these panels is the welding wire and the steel. There is almost no infill in the Mini Remastered, as this gives the shell the best chance of resisting corrosion. Any classic Mini owner who sent their pride and joy to a body shop that didn’t know what they were doing will tell you that the sealant is hydroscopic and, if any moisture gets under the paint, it will eat away at the car. inside.
David was well aware of the Mini’s most famous weakness. According to him, the rust problem affected even cars that had just rolled off the production line. He tells us: “My first car, the SVB 240N, was a Mini orange. Most of the orange was actually rust and it was new. Brand new.
“The first thing you did when you bought a Mini was buy a bunch of sub-gaskets. You bring it home, lift it up, stick it on some bricks and put it underneath with a box of this sub-seal and pour it over there. All you did was trap the rust that was already there!
At this point, we walk around David’s workshop, examining some of the finer details of the Green Mini that he keeps to buy in stores or to lend to reporters. And we notice that the gutter around the roof is not standard – it is flat rather than curved.
Turns out the standard roof looked a bit unsightly against the cleaner pillars, so DBA’s panel beaters spent hours cutting the channel flush with the roofline and removing ripples. of the panel; it’s craftsmanship like this that really lends credibility to the car’s high price tag. It’s effective and discernible from the original, but subtle enough that it doesn’t attract attention.
Manufacturing is one thing, but personalization is at the heart of DBA’s work as well. His factory has a specially designed room above the workshop, where customers can design their perfect car – and David has had some unusual requests.
“We have a guy in Canada,” he says. Billionaire. Hovered in his private jet, landed in Oxford, came here on a Saturday to get a Mini Remastered. I think it was going to be gray with a red interior and relatively standard.
“By the time he left he had chosen one that had a yellowish interior, but it was also rainbow colors on the outside because his grandchildren love unicorns. And he was extraordinarily specific about where he wanted his stripes to go. He didn’t want them to end up flush – he wanted them to mix. But he only wanted them to blend in 12.5mm.
David got another puzzle from the client once his team finished putting the Mini together. “We painted this rainbow car,” he said, “shipped it to Canada and then got a call from the guy’s shipper. He asked us ‘How much does the back seat weigh?’ So, we weighed one in and returned the information with a question like “Why?” “
“And the reason he took out as many pieces of it as he could, put it in an elevator shaft, took him to the top of his skyscraper where he has an art exhibit.” And that thing is there, burning its warranty!
Finally, we press David on his plans for the future, but he remains silent saying: “I think there is still a lot to do with the Mini. But we wouldn’t be averse to doing whatever anyone wanted.
“One day I would like to see us do a pickup. Do that and it almost becomes a workaholic, maybe a little less luxurious. But the only thing I would say is that right now we have enough to satisfy the customers that we have. “
Classic tuned Minis have been popular almost since the first cars rolled off the production line. In 1964, Austin offered a specially designed 1275cc Cooper S variant for racing – and David Brown Automotive took that attitude forward into the 21st century with his Oselli Edition.
When launched, the 1275cc Cooper S cost around £ 800. Adjusted for inflation, this comes to around £ 16,000 in today’s money, although impeccably-preserved copies regularly change hands for over £ 30,000 at auction. The Oselli Edition is priced at £ 98,000 mainly due to the amount of crafting that goes into each one.
Both cars are powered by four-cylinder A-series engines, powered by two carburetors. However, David Brown’s effort benefits from larger displacement, tighter technical tolerances, and a much more modern electrical system, which means he would be spinning rings around his grandmother – just like you. can see it in the table above, along with a comparison of the specifications of the cars. .
Read our review of the original David Brown Mini Remastered