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5-speed gearboxes (aka quieter freeway travel)

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  • 5-speed gearboxes (aka quieter freeway travel)

    Hey there-

    Now that I'm actually building a garage, it's time for me to get my sadly neglected Mk2 Mini back on the road again. i'm not looking for an autocross champ or track monster...just something that's spirited, sporty, and fun for Sunday drives and sprints to the store and back. I was thinking about taking advantage of a few technical innovations that have surfaced in the 43 years since mine was built...I'm not thinking of a VTEC motor, 13 inch wheels or squeezing in airbags (or even a radio), but maybe minor reliability upgrades like an electronic ignition module to get rid of the points...and I was also thinking that a 5-speed seems like it would be nice to keep the revs down on the freeway. Yes, I know freeways have never been the Mini's strong suit, but a city-slicker like me needs to spend time on the freeways to get to the nice country roads. Back when I was last actively involved with all things Mini (10 years ago?), there were several 5-speeds on the market...and a FAQ page on Mini Mania's site says:

    "Several companies sell 5 speed gearboxes for Minis (at a price), for road or race use, including Mini Spares Center, Mini Sport, and Jack Knight Developments (as used in the Rover Cooper S conversion). A 6 speed racing gearbox is also available from Special Tuning agents."

    I have looked at the websites for all 3 of those companies, and it appears that none of them are selling 5-speed gearboxes anymore.

    I did find one from KAD, but it's straight-cut, which tells me that it wouldn't help much with my goal of reducing noise in the cabin on the freeway. It also looks like it's geared (no pun intended) toward racing applications. Call me a sissy, but I like synchromesh.

    Does nobody make a 5-speed gearbox for the street anymore? Reliability issues?

    I suppose my next-best option for keeping the noise down on the freeway is to raise the final drive and then try increasing power output while maintaining a good wide power band (I know, those are often mutually exclusive goals) to compensate? I know this is a lower-tech solution, but are there modern sound deadening solutions that are effective? Is there anyone else in the club who likes a Mini that's "spirited" but won't make the wife refuse to ride and won't deafen the kids?


  • #2
    Hey Shane,
    Has it been that long? good god time goes by quick. anyway, I havent seen a "New" 5 speed on the market for a long time except the KAD race box. And your right, most all are straight cut and 5th is not always an overdrive gear. You can get a later 3.2 final drive and the stereo shops carry sound deadening stuff for the floor. Just make sure the area under the pedals isn't to think..of you'll have "clutch issues"
    "remember, in this country, they drive on the wrong side of the road"
    ‘64 Austin Countryman-???
    '60's Austin mini truck - the chicken truck
    '60 Morris Van - Marvan
    '55 Chevy wagon- the heavy Chevy


    • #3
      I thought of another option when I was drifting off to sleep...


      • #4
        Keith Calver head, Isky torquer cam, 3.1 final drive. Done.


        • #5
          OK. Enough mis-information!
          Non-overdrive, crash box 5-speeds came out in the 60s. (I still have one around here some place.) Made by Jack Knight and Colletti. (Forgive the spelling, if I got it wrong.) They were intended for small bore race cars only -- specifically, the 970. The shift pattern was a race pattern with 1st up and to the left and reverse directly down from 1st. Second through 5th were in the normal H-pattern. Crash box = no synchro on any gear, so they were a bit of a pain to drive on the street.

          When the 5-speeds were reintroduced they were based on the A+, rod change and all were overdrive 5th gear, at least the "street" ones were. I can't speak for the race boxes. Jack Knight, Mini Spares and Mini Sport made them. In street form, they were not intended to be special race boxes and with the normally weak 2nd gear synchro of the A+ gearboxes, got a reputation among the boy racers as being weak.

          I run a Mini Sport in the 998ccClubman estate and a Mini Spares in the 1406cc South African estate. The Mini Spares has the better feel with some concentration needed to get 3rd right in the Mini Sport one -- but that could just be a symptom of the one I have. Both run 3.44:1 final drives with the overdrive 5th coming in at around 3.0 - 3.1.

          The later (A+) 5-speed is the best answer for compromise between get-up-and-go and lower rpm (especially in a small bore engine)...IF money is no object! They are/were VERY expensive.

          The Mini Spares 5-speed is still available for special order. Highly recommended as something to spend some of your lottery winnings on.
          The more I know about Minis, the more I know I don't know about Minis.


          • #6
            What the h-e-double hockey sticks do you mean, misinformation?! I'll say it again; KC head, Isky cam, 3.1 final drive. Done.


            • #7
              Only second best, Jerry, IF money is no object. I seem to remember Dan and I with our 3.44 4th gear cars running away from you climbing a mountain pass while you stuggled between 3rd and 4th gear. And no crap about a pot of beans on the passenger seat.
              Let's see. If Money is no object as specified, then the modifications you suggest (less the fun killer 3.1) and a 5-speed. Would leave the TIC by the side of the road whimpering.
              The more I know about Minis, the more I know I don't know about Minis.


              • #8
                Back to reality. Unless your rich uncle just left you a small inheritance, the 5-speeds price themselves out of the market.

                If sustained freeway speeds of 70mph+ at lower rpms are your goal, you can put in a 2.76. But talk about fun killers! And, no, that final drive will not give you more top end!

                Jerry's suggestions of a 3.1 and the torque aimed bits are a good compromise. With the 3.1 you'll probably feel more comfortable about those long, boring freeway trips, if that is what you do, and you'll still have the low end pep. With the 10" rims you will need to do something about speedometer calibration, but that's easily cured. Take a ride in Jerry's car some time and you'll appreciate all the thought and work that went into it to get it where he wanted it. (Just don't trust the speedometer reading!)

                I'll stay with 3.44 final drives and keep the low end pickup that way. Of the tens of thousands of miles I've driven in Minis on long trips, I seldom have cruised outside of the 60 - 65 range...and that's with 3.44s in 1275s and 998s and even on long trips with 3.765s in 998s.
                Last edited by Cheleker; 10-25-2010, 07:06 PM.
                The more I know about Minis, the more I know I don't know about Minis.


                • #9
                  Chuck, just for grins what would a Mini Spares 5-speed run? $5k, $7k, more?

                  Always good to pre-allocate ones lotto winnings.


                  • #10
                    You can search the Mini Spares web site for cost f.o.b. U.K., or the Mini Mania site for the Mini Spares box in the U.S. It would be worth a look at Seven and Heritage, too.
                    The more I know about Minis, the more I know I don't know about Minis.


                    • #11
                      I could not find it at Mini Mania but did on Mini Spares website. The A Plus version is advertised at £1,702.50 exc vat (~$2700 US) or £2,000.44 inc vat (~$3200 US), both f.o.b UK.


                      While this is far from 'cheap', to be honest given the specialized and somewhat limited market we're referring to here, I'd actually thought they might have cost even more..?


                      • #12
                        Search on "5 speed" on the MM site.
                        The more I know about Minis, the more I know I don't know about Minis.


                        • #13

                          $999 buyout for a prototype (?).


                          "If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there." -- George Harrison


                          • #14
                            Well spotted, Dan. Looks like a Mini Spares box minus the differential. I've got a call in to MM to find out more.
                            The more I know about Minis, the more I know I don't know about Minis.


                            • #15
                              Missing diff., as is obvious. Missing rod change shift plate specific to the 5-speed. Should still be available from MS.
                              Box has never been used.
                              The more I know about Minis, the more I know I don't know about Minis.