Meanie – a wolf in sheep’s clothing

The original Mini has been brought back to life. But the legendary British icon is showing all the hallmarks of a full-blooded sports car. It answers to the name Meanie and has Swiss credentials!

It stands there looking all sweet and innocent, the original Mini, as if butter wouldn’t melt in its mouth. But it’s a classic case of British understatement, because there’s a big heart beating in this little bundle of joy.

Sweet and innocent? Nothing of the sort! Because this Mini is a wolf in sheep’s clothing

Where you would normally find the back seat, a turbo-charged two-litre mid-engine gets down to business, packing a mean 220 HP on the rear axle (340 NM of torque). With this kind of power, getting from zero to 100 km/h in less than four seconds is a breeze, and the speedometer needle doesn’t stop till it hits 200 km/h. It’s a mean machine that lives up to its new name and is perfectly capable of giving a fully-fledged sports car a run for its money.

Five of these cars will be built at Emil Frey Classics AG. A legally compliant prototype is already hitting the tarmac, with a road licence for the EU that covers Switzerland as well. And that was anything but a foregone conclusion, because there were enormous hurdles to be overcome to obtain the EU approval for small series production.

Read the exciting story of the Meanie 2.0T and its inventor Raffael Heierli here.

Or why not take a look at the little sporting superstar yourself. Contact us (details in German) for more information and to arrange a test drive.

About the project

A stroke of good fortune

It sounds like a fairy-tale: Once upon a time, in 2012, a young mechanical engineering student named Raffael Heierli was writing his bachelor’s thesis at the University of Applied Sciences in Rapperswil. It had the rather unwieldy title of “Structural analysis for the design of a mid-engine sports car with a classic car look, licensable for road use and suitable for small-scale production”. His vehicle of choice was a late 1990s model Mini with muscular wheel arches. The examiners were duly impressed and our engineering student was awarded his degree.

Support from long-standing importer of Minis

A job well done? Yes, except that Heierli actually dreamed of building the car that as yet only existed on paper. Early on, he had written a letter to entrepreneur Walter Frey asking for his support. After all, the Emil Frey Group had imported the Mini for years, and the boss himself had raced the Mini Cooper S in the past.

Even so, Heierli didn’t hold out much hope. But two days later Frey’s reply landed on his desk. The student was invited to present his project including budget – and got the go-ahead! The Zurich-based entrepreneur undertook to cover the material costs. Raffael Heierli was literally jumping for joy about this stroke of luck and got down to work immediately with his fellow students Marc Bernhard and Adrian Spindler.

The prototype is built

At the end of 2013, the small team ensconced itself in a backyard workshop. Some 17 weeks and around a thousand working hours later, the prototype, with British Racing Green bodywork, was ready to go. In the Meanie, the back seat and boot were replaced by a mid-mounted engine and a specially designed exhaust gas system.

However, die-hard Mini fans might have been concerned at the thought of an original Mini being mistreated like this. But Heierli was able to reassure them: “We did not have to sacrifice an old Mini, because we ordered a custom body-in-white from British Motor Heritage (BMH).”

Founded in 1975 in Witney, Oxfordshire, BMH had at that time acquired all the series production tools after production of the Mini ceased in the year 2000 after an amazing 5,387,862 models. The company also produces new body shells for classic cars like the MG MGB and the Triumph TR6 and exports them all over the world. This means that many a rusty old treasure wasting away in a barn can be brought back to life and saved from the shredder.

From the outside, as much a Mini as ever

The exterior of the Meanie was designed to be indistinguishable from the original Mini. Radiator grille, lights, bumper, wing mirrors, windscreens and wipers were supplied as new/old original parts. But under the stylish bodywork, just about everything else is new. The parts were sourced from all over the world or custom built. So alongside the power turbo-charged engine, they included: the tubular frame in chrome molybdenum steel to support the heritage body shell, the aluminium four piston brake assembly with perforated, internally ventilated 260 mm brake discs to ensure appropriate deceleration, the two bucket seats with racing harnesses, the cooling system and the extremely short exhaust gas system. View the Meanie datasheet here (in German).

Again and again, there were technical problems to be solved, like how to stop the engine compartment from overheating or how to reduce the interior noise to a tolerable level.

The prototype is still very much a mixed bag, and there’s still a lot of trial and error involved. “The finish on the production models will be perfect,” promises Raffael Heierli. “And very British, with fine leather and Alcantara.”

No back seat or boot

Some 17 weeks and around a thousand working hours later, the prototype was ready to hit the road. It was now a two-seater in which the boot and back seat have been replaced by a high-torque mid-mounted engine designed to propel the 847 kg lightweight to new sporting heights.

Now it was time for the Meanie to prove itself on everyday roads. Raffael Heierli stuffed it with measuring instruments and started a comprehensive programme of tests, racking up 40,000 km in the process – equivalent to a round-the-world trip. The sports car was put through its paces on motorways and racetracks, over mountain passes and in stop-and-go city traffic. It passed all the tests to the complete satisfaction of its builders. Not only did it prove to be a little racing thoroughbred, it was also perfectly well-behaved in everyday traffic. Civilised, safe and clean. One of the first test drivers was Walter Frey; the former racing driver was full of praise for the Meanie’s road handling.
In the interim, measurements of as much as 270 HP and 460 NM were recorded, while die-hard professional racing drivers managed to push the speed up to 245 km/h. For Heierli that was too much of a good thing, so the horsepower was limited to 220 and the top speed to an electronically restricted 200 km/h. Beyond this limit, the short wheelbase would make it almost impossible to control our diminutive sporting star.

Road licence and small series production

An official one-off acceptance inspection or special approval would have sufficed to be able to drive the Meanie on public roads. But once you have had a taste of success you start to get more ambitious. So one car wasn’t enough. Entrepreneur Walter Frey offered his help for the next step: the production of a limited edition, licenced as a new car in all of Europe. To this end the two Safenwil-based companies Emil Frey Classics AG and Roos Engineering Ltd. were brought into the project as manufacturers.

Certification in Switzerland to VTS (Regulation on Technical Requirements for Road Vehicles) standard would have been too expensive and, in the light of the unrealistic requirements, would probably have been pointless anyway. So it was decided to apply for a road licence and small series type approval in an EU country.

Demolition-ripe Mini for crash test

The undertaking turned out to be a real Herculean task and dragged out over a period of 18 months. “I ploughed through 17,000 pages of regulations,” says Raffael Heierli. He produced a hefty pile of documents describing the Meanie and its production process down to the smallest detail. This necessitated a large number of tests to satisfy exhaust gas, noise and safety regulations. For the crash test, a demolition-ripe Mini was converted and driven against a wall. More elaborate tests on electromagnetic compatibility and evaporative emissions were also necessary.

“We had to find new solutions for some components,” explains Heierli. But finally, the desired outcome was achieved. In the autumn of 2016 the proud Meanie creators obtained both the road licence for the EU – which automatically applies to Switzerland as well – and approval for small series production.

Production

Limited edition of five

The EU Small Series Type Approval allows the manufacture of up to a thousand vehicles a year. But production of the Meanie will cease after five. This particular bundle of fun cannot be produced profitably in Switzerland due to its complex construction and high material and labour costs. But this isn’t what the Meanie project is all about: the point is to prove that even now, it is possible to get approval to build and run a new car in Switzerland. And this challenge has been passed with flying colours, thanks to an ambitious group of students and the expertise of the Emil Frey Group.

The result is that the future owners of the Meanie will form an exclusive group of five, a unique privilege in this age of mass production.

Have we sparked your interest? Find out more about the Meanie here. And why not also take the opportunity for a test drive.

Sophisticated engineering down to the last detail

The Meanie comes with a two-year warranty and needs a service every 30,000 km. Generally, servicing cars with mid-mounted engines is a fairly complicated job because of insufficient access. But this is not the case with the Meanie. Service hatches allow you to work on the engine while still installed, and the complete drive train including attachments and chassis are mounted on a sub-frame, which can be quickly unbolted to remove it from the car from below. All of which makes our diminutive hot rod extremely easy to maintain.

 

Have we whetted your appetite?
We will be happy to answer your questions and provide you with a personalised quotation. Why not take the opportunity to arrange a no-obligation test drive in our prototype?

Wagon

Fact and Figures

Engine Directly injected straight four-cylinder engine with turbocharger and two-litre displacement
Torque  340 Nm at 3,700 rpm
Performance 167 kW (220 hp) at 5,800 rpm
Fuel Unleaded petrol
Usage Urban: 8.03 | Rural: 5.26 | Total: 6.29 |
Emissions Euro 6b
Transmission Manual 6-speed with an H shift pattern
Chassis Front: double wishbone configuration with a directly controlled and configurable coil over shock absorber; adjustable body work camber, caster and toe; Rear: trailing arms with a directly controlled and configurable coil over shock absorber; adjustable body work camber and toe
Brakes Front: four-piston, aluminium brake calipers; perforated and ventilated 260 mm brake discs; Rear: Floating single-piston brake calipers with 260 mm brake discs
Mass  
Empty weight 847 kg (without the driver)
Distribution Front axle 40% / Rear axle 60%
Body work British Motor Heritage Mini body work, reinforced with a specially developed space frame made of chrome molybdenum steel
Seating capacity two
Performance  
Acceleration 0 – 100 km/h in under four seconds
Vmax 200 km/h (electronically restricted)

Options and Accessories

Tailor your car to you*

  • Choice of colours
  • Interior upholstery (Alcantara, synthetic or genuine leather)
  • Steering wheel (wood, suede or leather)
  • Dashboard (walnut burl wood, engine-turned finish,
    suede or leather)
  • Heated seats and power seat adjustment
  • High-quality limited slip differential
  • Stabilisers on the front and rear axles

Accessories

  • Roof rack with a classic chrome finish
  • Illustrated workshop manual for vehicle maintenance
    and repair

* only if ordered by 15 May 2017

Contact

Have we whetted your appetite?
We will be happy to answer your questions and provide you with a personalised quotation. Why not take the opportunity to arrange a no-obligation test drive in our prototype?

 

Sales Manager
Philip Ringier
Tel. +41 (0)62 788 79 22
philip.ringier@emilfreyclassics.ch
Bahnhofplatz 2
CH-5745 Safenwil

Media

Contact for journalists:

Rebekka Schnyder
rebekka.schnyder@emilfreyclassics.ch
+41 (0)62 788 79 37