Jay Leno’s Garage: Bonneville Mini Cooper


Everything can be fast if you’re brave enough, especially a Mini constructed to take on the salt flats, as Jay Leno demonstrates.

Now, next to it there was also an amazingly-restored regular Mini (with just a few, tasteful changes brought to it), but everything there is to know about the classic Mini has already been written, so we’re going to cut to the chase and focus on the Bonneville-dedicated variant.

Like Burt Munro, the small vehicle, dubbed Project 64, came from New Zealand to conquer the salt flats. It started life as an original 970 Cooper S with ~55 hp under its belt, but it was sacrificed by a team of New Zealanders for two greater causes: to break world records at Bonneville, and to prove wrong every skeptic that said it couldn’t be done.

Believe it or not, the car uses a heavily modified classic Cooper S engine, with special pistons, rods and crankshaft, as well as a turbo strapped to it, and a twin-cam BMW motorcycle head. Moreover, since it was built on a budget, the Mini still retains a lot of original parts, including the rear drum brakes, and the glass windows all around – not at all scary in a 370 hp Mini, right?

Project 63 secured two land speed records to its name, reaching 267 km/h. Impressive, especially as the machine raced on a salt pan.

Based in Brisbane, Australia, Sean has loved cars his entire life. At 21 he launched the popular 80’s Falcon forum xFalcon.com, then at 24 created TopGearbox.com, one of the most popular Top Gear fansites in the world.