David Brown Automotive has sourced original 1,330cc Mini engine blocks and four-speed gearboxes but for the Monte Carlo edition has had its engine bored out and upgraded the performance to 94bhp. It has also fitted disc brakes front and rear, whereas the “standard” version gets drums at the rear. Various parts have been tinkered with for a smoother ride and handling more suited to the taste of someone parting with just shy of £100,000, so there are, for example, new crankshaft bearings and the best iteration of the front suspension bushes designed by Alex Molton.
Inside, the perforated leather seats are “beluga” black and “poppy” red with black carpeted foot mats embroidered with the DBA logo, an Alcantara roof lining and speedo and rev dials that are digitally controlled to avoid too much vibration. Most significantly, the dashboard now contains a touchscreen display from Pioneer for satnav, DAB radio, and iPhone connection. There is also air-conditioning – the car we drove was a pre-production model and the ventilation was fierce but will be dialled down. All this takes some engineering to fit it into such a small car behind that slim dash and is no small feat. The speakers and door handles bulge out from the slim door panels but again, we were assured these details would be trimmed back on the production cars. As is de rigeur these days for luxury models, there is a lot of aluminium knurling on the indicator and window switches.
A remote-control key fob unlocks the car, and the starter button sits on the floor by the gearstick, as the mechanically operated one did in the original. Push it into life, engage first gear – David Brown chose to stick with the original gear knob which is a lovely touch – and you’re off. It’s very noisy on the go, with lots of fizz through the steering wheel and pedals, until you hit about 4,000rpm, when the engine smooths out significantly. David Brown assured us that there will be some rejigging of the engine mapping before the first customer deliveries take place early next year. It’ll need it. The brake pedal also seemed to have a bit of extraneous travel on the move before those discs slow. But the short wheelbase remains a thing of great joy and the ride is still full of jiggling character.
Is it worth £90,000, or should you just buy an old Mini? Or indeed a new one from BMW? It’s a thing of great aesthetic pleasure, that’s certain. Our pre-prod car was still a bit rough around the edges on the move, but if they dial out some of the noise, harshness and vibration, it’ll look just right on the cobbles of a Kensington Mews. Sneer away, but in the end, wasn’t that the resting place of so many of the originals?
Price as tested: £82,500 plus local taxes