Downton Mini - Electrical work

Published on 19 May 2023 at 08:20

Back in the 1960's when the original Mini was a new thing a company called Downton Engineering down in Wiltshire decided they should have a go at tuning one of the 998cc engines to see what it would do. They bored it out to 1088 and I believe did some other witchcraft and pagan activities and got the thing to do a best of 108 mph and a 0-60 sprint in just 8 seconds. That was pretty impressive back then, so impressive that when a journalist called Ronnie Barker - no , not that one - phoned Alec Issigonis to tell him what had been done to his creation the figures were greeted with more than a saucerful of skepticism. So much so that Issigonis insisted that the car be brought to the Longbridge plant so he could see for himself, he was so impressed that Daniel Richmond, the man behind Downton, was given the job of Technical consultant to BMC. He went on to refine the head and built up a huge reputation with many of his cars winning many trophies.


One driver of a Downton engined mini back in 1966 was one Malcolm Leggate, or Leggo as he was known in racing circles. It just so happens that's the same Malcolm Leggate that lets me play with his cars these days, one of which happens to be a 1960's Downton Mini. See how it's all coming together? Anyway, it's just had the engine rebuilt and put back in the bit at the front of the car and now it needs quite a bit of wiring doing. The job is made easier by the fact it's little sump is full of Castrol R and every now and again it is a requirement to fire it up. Anyone that knows race cars will know that Castrol R is the best invention since WD40 aftershave - the smell is glorious and instantly invokes memories of classic races. Anyway, I digress again - The car runs and sounds fantastic, it needs a tacho fitting, Malc found a rather nice Smiths one of 1971 vintage which will do the job nicely. These days you can buy a tcho cheaply but 99 times out of 100 they need a magnetic pickup, whereas this old girl requires a signal from the distributor - the tacho goes in series with the positive supply to the coil. I tested it with the wiring in dangleymode to make sure it was ok before putting it in properly. It worked so all's good. The car has a brand new wiring loom in it but the chap that did it made some rather peculiar choices in his wire selection - the car has a new loom in it where all the wires are marked with their purpose but they have been used in a pretty random way eg with the wire marked choke being used for the starter signal to the solenoid. The upshot is I am going to have to redo a fair bit of it. It's no big deal, it should only take me a few hours to do the lot.


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