Video: Mid-engined, WRX-powered 1961 Mini

Steve Holland of Dutchy's Garage built a car that's the very definition of fun, whether on the street or the track: a 1961 Mini that goes like a WRX!

Photographers: Ellen Dewar

Steve Holland of Dutchy’s Garage is a bona fide automotive mad scientist. This gorgeous – and ferocious – Mini is testament to that, although his journey to this project started out the same way many do.

First published in the July 2023 issue of Street Machine

“My first car was an EB S XR6, and I did all the usual mods to it,” Steve says. “Then I bought a GC8 WRX – being from a Ford family, I was lucky I didn’t get kicked out of home! I loved the sound, the power and how it drove like it was on rails. My brother Clint had a Mini and I thought it was so much fun to drive, so I finally bought my first one in 2009.”

Steve had a lot of fun restoring and modding the red 1988 Mini, and by the time it was sold to make way for this car, its guts had been swapped out for a Honda B16A.

While the VTEC Mini was fun, Steve found himself wanting more. “I thought, what can I do that’s different? Can I stick a Subaru in a Mini?” The answer is evidently “yes”! If you have a look past the NACA ducts in the rear windows, you’ll find an EJ255 ripped from a 2011 WRX instead of a rear seat. Yep, this is a fully engineered and registered mid-engined 1961 Mini.

There’s nothing left of the Mini’s original underpinnings bar the front floor and firewall. Steve used some of the Subaru engine cradle as a base, then fabricated the rear subframe so that the entire engine, gearbox and rear suspension could be dropped out of the car as one. Hefty chassis rails and crossbars maintain the car’s rigidity, but the back seat is a mere memory. The rear half of the car is filled with 2.5L of Subaru’s finest flat-four. Although 255rwhp and stock internals might sound a bit lame, this rig tips the scales at a featherlight 920kg, so you can be assured that it goes like a cat after four coffees.

Exhaust gases exit the standard VF52 turbo and escape through a one-in, two-out Powerflow muffler with a surprisingly quiet throb. Cooling is handled by the factory WRX radiator and thermo fans mounted behind the front grille, although temps are controlled by the Haltech ECU via a Davies Craig electric water pump.

The WRX five-speed cog-swapper is also as it left the factory, though it’s fitted with a Subarugears rear cover to do away with the tailshaft, and a same-brand LSD to keep both wheels spinning at the same speed when Steve’s hurling it through the twisties. Since he was already so deep down the rabbit hole with the driveline conversion, Steve figured everything else underneath might as well cop some upgrades as well.

None of the suspension is 60s Morris anymore; the control arms, uprights, brakes and geometry were all borrowed from a Mazda MX-5 Turbo. When the Viking coil-overs wouldn’t clear the front top arms, Steve simply whipped up his own. Steering is handled by a stock Mini manual rack.

As he was already rebuilding the majority of the car, Steve decided to tackle the bodywork, too. “It’s all a learning process – if it doesn’t work, you just have another go,” he laughs. “It had just had a respray when I bought it, but it was full of bog; I was scraping chunks off with a heat gun.” There are body mods on almost every panel, like the massive ducts in the bonnet to remove heat from the radiator, and the factory electric sunroof pinched from a 2000s BMW Mini. Steve and his youngest brother Juzza even sprayed the car in the garage, covering the panels in luscious Audi Sepang Blue metallic.

The cabin of this little rocket feels very ‘race car’, with its visible cable runs, lack of armrests, flatbottomed NRG twirler and the exposed guts of the modified Toyota MR2 shifter mechanism proudly on display. Conversely, every available surface has been deadened with Car Builders materials, and there’s the beginnings of a really tidy sound system consisting of an eight-inch Hertz sub and Pioneer double-DIN in the dash, with a Hertz amp hidden behind the passenger seat.

The Haltech ECU manages the boxer mill with the help of a matching wideband and boost controller and a pair of Haltech fuse boxes. In a delightfully extreme case of Steve’s penchant for recycling Subaru parts, the wiring loom was lifted from the WRX, stripped of anything that wasn’t useful and used to wire the Mini from tip to tail.

Steve’s justifiably proud of his hard work; the entire car was built by him in his garage, bar retrimming the seats and the trick custom fuel tank from Motorsport Engineering Services. The Mini’s been terrorising the streets since last October and has even been around the Phillip Island circuit a few times, with the speedo passing 200km/h with ease.

It’s also a crowd favourite at any car show Steve attends, with people flocking to gawp at the engineering. “People always ask me about how the hell I fitted an EJ in there and tell me about how they or someone they know had a Mini when they were growing up,” he says. “It’s just the definition of a fun car!”


Paint: PPG Sepang Blue

Type:2.5L Subaru EJ255 flat-four
Turbo:IHI VF52
Engine management:Haltech Elite 2500
Fuel pump:Walbro 255 in-tank
Exhaust:2.5in stainless, Powerflow muffler
Gearbox:WRX five-speed
Clutch:Clutch Industries
Driveshafts:Subaru inner CVs, custom axles, Mazda outer CVs
Diff:Subadiff torque-sensing LSD
Front:Viking coil-overs, Mini steering rack
Rear:Viking coil-overs
Brakes:MX-5 Turbo discs (f & r)
Master cylinder:Wilwood
Rims:OX 15×6.5 (f & r)
Rubber:Nankang NS-2 Ultra Sport 195/45R15 (f & r)

My friend John Heckrath at Heckrath Engineering for the advice during the build; Derek at Motorsport Engineering Services for the fuel tank and help with the suspension set-up; my brother Justin for his help painting both of my Minis; Trent and Cat at Chequered Tuning; my wife Merin for all her support – she’s been absolutely amazing