The E.R.A Mini Turbo was conceived as a 1980’s replacement for the Mini Cooper S. A car with all the key characteristics of the Cooper – speed, handling, excitement - but one which would introduce into the concept the refinement and comfort lacking in the original, but so necessary for modern motoring.
E.R.A set out to engineer a car to the highest automotive standards. There would be no compromise on engineering quality. The car should use as many tried and tested standard Austin Rover components as possible. It should minimise the use of special tooling to avoid lengthy testing and uneconomic production batches. It should be easily and readily serviceable by any Austin Rover dealer.
The car should be styled so as to be instantly recognisable as a Mini, and yet to be distinctive. It was to be trimmed and equipped internally to modern standards, but with a hint of classicism – no digital instruments or super modern gimmicks.
It was to be the fastest ever production Mini, but not by using an intractable high revving competition engine. It must have excellent torque and mid range performance to cope with modern traffic conditions.
It was to be safe and predictable in the hands of the inexperienced.
E.R.A believes that these demanding criteria have been met satisfactorily.
The body modifications and spoilers were styled by Dennis Adams, the designer of the Marcos sports cars and the Probe concept car.
It is aggressive without being boy racer. And the body kit is properly tooled to provide a good fit on the Mini shell and be of considerable strength.
The interior is almost totally changed. Gone are the standard Mini seats and the 'bus driver' position. Gone also is the noise and harshness of the standard car. Specially designed and tested sports style seats have been installed, giving excellent support and comfort.
The car has a full range of VDO traditional dial instrumentation on an entirely new instrument panel. A sunroof lightens the interior and the car is trimmed in a careful combination of best Connolly hide, cloth, ambla and deep sound deadening carpet.
The power for the E.R.A Mini comes from the well tried Austin Rover A series 1300 turbo engine which gives a smooth and reliable 94 bhp at 6200 rpm but, more important than out and out power, the mid range torque has been matched by careful testing on the E.R.A test beds to suit the required performance of the car. It is easily sufficient to provide excitement and satisfaction to the user, yet docile in traffic.
Installation of the turbo unit in a Mini involved modification of the body shell and many hours of development to ensure that the tight squeeze did nothing to impair reliability. Modifications to the water and oil cooling systems ensure that the power unit and transmission remain adequately cool even in high ambient temperatures.
Of course more power in a Mini would be useless and potentially dangerous without adequate suspension and brakes. Suspension modification was planned using computer simulation and then tried out in practice at racing speeds on high speed test tracks and at Castle Combe race track.
Specially made lower front suspension arms provide the necessary 1.5 degrees of negative camber which, combined with increased front wheel toe-out, minimises torque steer; a common problem with powerful front wheel drive cars. New adjustable damper units and bump stops are fitted all round and the car is lowered.
The car is fitted with ventilated front discs and four pot callipers and modified drum rear brakes. A servo system ensures acceptably light pedal pressures. Extensive development work has been carried out on the braking system to optimise stability under harsh braking conditions.All alloy, one piece, 6” x 13” wheels are used all round with either Goodyear or Dunlop 165:13:60 section, low profile tyres HR rated. The wheels have been fully impact and fatigue tested and each wheel is fitted with a disc type knave plate and tamper proof lock.
One of the press pictures.
The ERA Mini is far more than just an engine conversion, although just swapping the engines seems such a logical move that you wonder why there isn't a thriving cottage industry engaged in making demon Minis, like latter day John Coopers.
As we'll see, there's rather more to it than just dropping in the engine and ERA are determined to do it properly, reworking other elements of the car to produce a car that can handle the extra power and performance as though it were made for it. Although out of the public gaze for so long, ERA have a reputation inside the industry to protect and have to get this car right as it has to be a success to allow them to carry on and build the next project, which will have far more overt ERA content.
Nevertheless the foundation of the ERA Mini is an ordinary Mini City selected off the production line, painted and with glass fitted. Once that's arrived at ERA's Dunstable works, a team of three descends on the car and the conversion unfolds.
The engine is the standard Metro Turbo unit, the old A-Series (or rather A Plus after its update of a few years ago) in 1275cc form. Despite the presence of a substantial Garrett AiResearch T3 turbo, it runs a 9.4:1 compression ratio without complaint.
The ERAs plush interior.