1972 Morris Mini Clubman – Steve Aoyama’s Epic Estate Wagon
A 1972 Morris Mini Clubman Estate is about the farthest thing on your mind when attending a hot rod show but hear me out. While on a recent East Coast trip, I had the pleasure of attending the Goodguys East Coast Nationals in Rhinebeck, New York. It’s a spectacular area of the Northeast and the Dutchess County Fairgrounds is as charming a venue as you will ever find.
One of the reason’s this event is so cool and refreshing is that you get to see cars not normally on the national radar. Steve Aoyama’s 1972 Morris Mini Clubman Estate is one such car. I loved it the minute I saw it. You could tell it was tuned by the stance and widebody fenders not to mention the minilight wheels. It garnered a closer look.
After meeting Steve and his wife Joyce it was clear these two were incredibly passionate about their car. Steve was gracious enough to give a full tour of this magnificent Mini. The signature feature here is the engine swap – a naturally aspirated Honda B-Series 1.8 liter VTEC inline 4 making 210hp. Making the swap even more appealing is the VTEC’s different cam profiles. The mild setting is perfect for a road trip or around town while the performance setting features a bigger lift and longer duration cam profile once the car revs past 4,600rpm. It’s the best of both worlds.
Steve and Joyce’s Mini has never seen a trailer. It was driven over 250 miles to the show. Being a Morris Mini Clubman Estate there is plenty of room in the back for gear. When he acquired the car in 2009 (the pics below show the car as-purchased in ’09) the engine swap was already complete but the interior and other areas weren’t up to Steve’s “ridiculously neurotic” taste. Inside, he swapped in a healthy dose of carbon fiber trim pieces (including the carbon dash housing AutoMeter gauges) as well as two Corbeau A4 race seats with three point harnesses. He also redid the wiring, bodywork, paint, glass, interior, brakes, intake, exhaust, wheels, tires, graphics, trim, lighting and whatever else he could mod. Navigating the twists is a lot more fun now!
Suspension wise, this Mini grips the pavement like a Bimmer. Steve ditched the stock rubber springs up front for some steel coils and adjustable GAZ performance shocks while the back retains the factory springs. Adjustable ride height on all four corners allows for street or track stance. Steve has it low but not “need-to-go-see-the-chiropractor-low.” The JBW minilight style wheels are wrapped in Proxes R888 DOT competition tires (225/45-13).
About that license plate? Steve explained it while on our shoot. “This was such a cool project blending imported components from across the globe. I wanted a car that was very sporty yet a bit under the radar. ‘ZZZPR’ – indicates a Symmetry between a car that is a sleeper with a sting. What you see isn’t what you get so the license plate is a play on the word sleeper.”
With that, we waived goodbye to Steve and Joyce but not before they zoomed around the facility giving us a small glimpse of the Mini doing what Steve built it to do – carve corners. It was impressive to say the least!