The Mini was never built for rock crawling, but damn does it look good on 46-inch tires.
The Mini Cooper is a great little car, combining funky styling with exciting handling. It's not typically a go-to choice for an off-road build, but it turns out that it looks absolutely badass in monster truck form.
This build comes to us from the skilled folk at Grind Hard Plumbing Co. The team bought the Mini earlier this year as an unfinished project that was largely built for show. The Cooper's drivetrain had been scrapped, with the body placed on a Jeep Wrangler frame with a Jeep four-cylinder engine under the hood. It was also missing key components like fuel lines, brake lines, and working steering. It looked great, but was a long way from running condition.
That didn't deter Grind Hard from taking on the project, however. The idea of a Mini Cooper sitting on 46-inch tires was too good to pass up. Work started with verifying the engine would indeed run, along with checking the functionality of the electronics in the Mini's interior. With that squared away, the team began replacing and reworking most of the basics of the vehicle's running gear.
The Mini needed the hydraulic steering setup reconfigured, as the hydraulic valve was driven by a useless steering shaft assembled from a mess of flex joints. This is a key system on jacked-up builds, as it avoids the need to directly mechanically connect the steering wheel to the steering arms. Instead, the steering wheel connects to a valve, which then sends hydraulic pressure to a ram to steer the giant front wheels. It's a big aid both to steering effort and articulation.
After an early test drive, it was clear that the whole drivetrain and suspension needed reworking, too. There was virtually no travel up front, and no four-wheel-drive either. New driveshafts were fabbed up, along with fancy new suspension shackles that were custom-designed and cut on a waterjet machine. After a few revisions to the geometry of the drivetrain and suspension, the Mini was sitting far more comfortably—and with all-paw traction to boot.
Other work involved fabbing up a working fuel system, cooling system, and a new transmission cooler and cross member. Virtually no system went untouched. It goes to show that it's one thing to jack up a Mini on big tires, and another thing entirely to actually make it run and drive.
In its current form, the Mini looks like great fun on the trail. It's got great articulation, which is mostly limited by tire contact on the body. Without difflocks, it's not a great rock crawler, but it can roll over some big obstacles with its 46-inch tires nonetheless.
Notably, though, one small flaw was revealed on the test drive. The transmission was able to move around enough to mess up the transmission cooler fans. That's not a particularly difficult issue to remedy, though.
There's still some fine-tuning to do before this Mini is a perfect off-roader. More trimming and fettling will further increase the articulation and iron out the last of the ride issues. Overall, though, it's a capable micro monster truck that looks absolutely boss. Call it a win.
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