GALLERY: Go Behind The Scenes On Our Modified 1973 Mini Me-Pre Film Shoot
This week we’re joining Antonio Albacete outside of Madrid’s city center for some laps on the world class Circuit of Jarama. The famously narrow racetrack has hosted the world’s fastest automobile and motorcycle series in its day, but rather than the giants of motorsport that are Formula 1 machines and MotoGP bikes we’re here in the pits and on the tarmac with a classic Mini that’s even smaller than the standard shape.
Antonio’s father built this car in the 1970s to serve him as a hill climb racer and a development mule of sorts for his tuning and race prep business, and a few engines and a brief stint as a rally car under a different owner later, the modified Mini is back in the family it was born into. Beyond the sectioned bodywork, its mechanicals have been comprehensively converted to full go-kart spec with a more powerful motor to boot—in other words, it’s the perfect representation of 1970s privateer engineering gone right.
His father was a racing driver before he hung up the suit and boots to focus on Antonio’s career in motorsport, and he made a name for himself as both a professional shoe and a skilled mechanic and race engineer. He would often compete in cars that he prepared himself, but Antonio remembers one such build in particular. This “Mini Me-Pre” was built by his father in 1973 when he was operating a sports service under the Me-Pre name. Initially designed for hill climb racing, but also venturing into the occasional circuit event when it was called for. He’d seen the MiniSprint creations of Neville Trinkett during a trip to England and he liked the chopped roof and sectioned body designs of those cars, but wanted to build something that was decidedly more potent under the squashed bodywork, even if the MiniSprints were offered in a race trim of their own.
He also used it as a development mule of sorts, testing various suspension geometries and components on his sectioned racer (the windshield on his car was raked more aggressively than the MiniSprint’s, and it featured wider bodywork along with the use of aluminum to reduce weight from the doors to the rear storage panel), and he swapped engines like a nervous day-trader. That’s an exaggeration, but the current lump is at least the third that’s been featured under the hood (which has been converted to a full-on clamshell piece to make accessing it easier). It used to have a screamer that would redline near the 10k range, but the Mini 1275-sourced inline-four that lives in it today is no slouch either. Along with its double-barrel Weber 45 carb setup, it’s received an increase in displacement, larger pistons, and a host of other supporting modifications to produce more than 115hp, which is plenty for this footprint and weight level.
It’s no wonder why Antonio calls the Mini his father built “some kind of go-kart.” It’s stiff, grippy, lightweight, and though it’s not the easiest to drive, it rewards the effort with the agility of a remote-controlled toy. After his father stopped hillclimbing the car and sold it to a guy up north it was used for some rallying, a life it lived for only four or five years before it was repurchased. It’s been in the family ever since.
Though his friends urge him to do so—and it would undoubtedly be fun to take their advice—Antonio doesn’t enter the car in historic racing events because he wants to keep it in the same spec it was in when his father put it together almost five decades ago. Adding and swapping in new components to comply with regulations would make the car eligible to compete in certain classes, but it would come at the cost of losing some pieces of its identity.
Antonio still remembers joining his father for race weekends with the Mini in the 1970s, when, in an efficient use of space befitting of the car they’d brought with them, the two would unload the car from the back of their panel van in order to turn the space into a place to sleep for the night. One day he’ll pass it on to his own sons, to a new generation.