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Chris Denn's 1988 Austin Mini City E

by James Preston
1 week ago · England

There are few cars as iconic as the classic humble Mini Cooper, those trademark wide-set headlights, the MINI wings logo; it's a true British icon. It's came a long way from it's original shape back in the 1950's. Staring off as tiny car used for the bare essentials shortly after WW2, to the present day luxury family car - which many would argue aren't so 'Mini' anymore.

This article will be looking somewhere in-between those two dates. Specifically at Chris Denn's 1988 Austin Mini City E- 'The Purist' build. Chris has been around cars his entire life. His grandfather passed on his knowledge and passion for classic cars, some of Chris' earliest memories are sitting in his grandfathers '59 Austin Healy Sprite or BMW 2002.

The very first car that Chris ever purchased was actually this very Mini, over 11 years ago.

"I bought it as a bare shell project when I was 17, but at the time I was insured on my mum’s punto so I could still get around. I was hoping to have it on the road asap so I could drive it to college, but it ended up taking 3 years as I had no idea what I was doing, so this is where I really relied on my dad for knowledge. I have since stripped and rebuilt this car from a bare shell about three times now, but that’s another story."

"I can’t really say what drew me to minis, or even when I started to like them, it just sort of happened. I just always thought they were cool and had potential to be made unique. Not to mention how easy it is to get parts for them."

Chris told us that he never really had a plan for his build. He was very much just living off the rule, 'if it looks cool, go with it'. Originally he was just trying to get it on the road so that he could start using it. Under the rush to do this, he had started to cut some corners and ultimately resulted in him stripping the car completely again. From then until now, it's had 3 rebuilds and absolutely every nut and bolt has been touched.

So what about how it looks now? 

You can clearly see that inspiration has been drawn from so many different places, something that makes this build so cool. Styles such as Shakotan, Bosozuko and Kadio Racers have been combined with the likes of Hot Rods, Hill Climb Cars and Air-cooled VW's. It's a beautiful chaotic insight into Chris' brain. He's said over the years that people have thought his roots of inspiration for the build have been 'wrong' for a British car but Chris has never seen the harm in it - we certainly don't either!

Chris has never wanted to 'baby' this car. He embraces stone chips, scratches and all other problems that you'll inevitably run into when driving a car. This show season alone Chris has put almost 2,000 on the clock and has loved every minute of it.

The engine is certainly a stand out part of the car for us - just look at it for starters. It's a brand new 1380cc A-series with ported BMW K 1200RS 16v cylinder head conversion built by Specialist Components. Connor told us that he didn't once get bored of shooting the engine bay, there's so much work that has gone into it, down to every detail. From a Coca-Cola straw holder jet wash  holder to the picturesque Pulleys for the cam shafts.

You may have noticed that the body kit is not like anything you've seen before on any car, especially not on an 1988 Mini. The entire body kit is completely made from scratch, either from Fibreglass or ABS plastic. A lot of his work on the body kit screams Aero, such as that big rear diffuser and front splitter. The kit gives the car such a big presence for such a small car.

The interior is most definitely worth a mention too. You may have noticed there's a collage effect on the dash. Well that 'collage' is actually made up of 70's pub coasters that have been collected over the years by himself and his family. You'll find yourself seated on a set of Recaro LX's which are from a Suzuki Ignis Sport, sat on custom subframes - stunning from top to bottom.

We could honestly go on for hours about every spec of Chris's truly awesome Mini. It's lovely to see what passion, talent and hard work can make of a 1988 Mini over his 11 years of ownership. Chris plans to give Lace Painting a go on the roof, and he also plans to fit a Rayvern Hydraulic Suspension Kit on it too. Choosing Hydros over an Airride kit is a no-brainer for an old Mini owner due to there not being enough room for the air suspension setup under those tiny arches.

Chris wanted to thank his Father and friends for all the help over the many years of ownership. It's lovely to see builds like this, hats off to Chris and all that have been a part of this epic 1988 Austin Mini.

Words & Photos by: Connor Flanigan