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Maxing Out A Mighty Mini


The John Cooper Works badge is nothing to be scoffed at, packing a sizeable stable of ponies in a rather diminutive shed that happens to handle like a go-kart piloted by a puppy on a sugar rush. So, can you make it better?

John Cooper Works (JCW) is to Mini what AMG is to Mercedes-Benz, M is to BMW and RS is to Audi… albeit in a package that sacrifices the size of its overall footprint but none of the shits giggles associated with performance tuning.

So when a Mini leaves the factory with a JCW badge slapped on every acreage of interior and exterior because of marketing, you know it’s got the chops to send some of the bigger boys running home to get chipped or tuned.

With more power than a Volkswagen Golf GTI housed in a smaller shell, the power-to-weight ratio and riding-on-rails handling should be sufficient to satisfy the lust for speed of most motorheads.

Furthermore, any additional power would just overwhelm the dynamics and turn it into a handful that might end up with more Code Browns than your local drycleaners might be willing to tackle.

So how do you go about upgrading the car without taking a dump on the harmonious existence between the facets that combine to form a ridiculously balanced hatch?

For starters, tackle it in a way that the engineers themselves would have. Target minute but precise upgrades that improve the various aspects of the car without one ever overshadowing another. This way, the power gets a minor boost and the suspension is tightened up equally to keep those ponies on the right path while the brakes are given more chomp to reign them in.

You get the idea.

So in the cramped engine compartment, the focus was on airflow in and out of the engine. An Arma carbon air intake helps the 2.0-litre mill inhale better while a MTS downpipe and custom exhaust system went in to help with airflow for the twin-scroll turbo and improved exhalation. Keeping the charged air temperatures down for a denser mix with more oxygen is a Forge Racing Intercooler.

Seeing that power figures wouldn’t have climbed significantly, the electronics and transmission side were left untouched, deemed capable of handling the excess force.

From the factory, the JCW Cooper is something to write home about for its handling. Nonetheless, there’s always room for improvement. Bilstein B8 shocks now handling the damping and thicker Eibach anti-roll bars at both ends reduces roll.

Stiffening up the chassis continues with Ultra Racing strut bars at both ends again as well as a lower bar and rear bar. Lastly, to completely capitalise on the sharper handling Powerflex bushings were installed at the lower arm together with camber bushings for more camber.

Seeing that the larger brakes on the JCW necessitated factory wheels with lower offsets for clearance, there was still the need for aftermarket wheels simply because it’s a modified ride. Work Emotion CR-Kai wheels wrapped in sticky Federal RS-RR rubbers now help the Mini’s point-and-shoot capabilities even further.

The braking department saw Endless pads at both ends together with HEL Performance braided hoses. However, only the rear rotors were replaced with larger HHC units for more bite at the rear.

More than just a dash of red on the inside sets the JCW apart from its regular Cooper cousins. Still, it’s disappointing that bolstering the driver in place while tackling corners wasn’t much of a priority… or so the owner here assumed. Out went the factory driver’s seat and bolted in place on a Recaro railing is a Recaro CS Sportster bucket seat.

Apart from that, the interior remains stock save for the addition of a Defi gauge to monitor boost.

Lastly, the exterior gets some functional and form-fitting additions such as the carbon fibre spoiler, 3D Design front lip and JCW Pro rear diffuser. Like a present on Christmas morning, the entire thing is wrapped in some intricate vinyl by the boys from WrapHauz to ensure you can see this thing from a mile away.

And that ladies and gentlemen… is how you improve a JCW Cooper.

Car – Mini John Cooper Works

Engine – MTS downpipe, custom exhaust system, Arma carbon air intake, Forge Racing intercooler

Electronics – Stock

Transmission – Stock

Chassis & Handling – Bilstein B8 absorbers, Eibach anti-roll bar (front & rear), Hardrace tie bar, Ultra Racing strut bar + lower bar + rear bar, Power Flex lower arm bush + camber bush

Wheels & Tyres – Work Emotion CR-Kai Federal RS-RR tyres

Brakes – HHC brake rotors (rear), HEL Performance brake hoses, Endless brake pads (front & rear)

Interior – Recaro CS Sporster seat (driver) + Recaro seat rail, Defi gauge (boost), door trim light bar (retrofitted)

Exterior – Carbon fibre spoiler, 3D Design front lip, JCM Pro rear diffuser, vinyl wrap by WrapHauz

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