Wheel Lock Removal and Anti-Roll Bar

Update by Scott Lear to the Mini Cooper S Club Racer project car
Jun 15, 2009

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The lever pivots on a larger steel pin that’s made out of the same adamantium alloy that coats Wolverine’s skeleton.

With the Hard Dog Fabrication cage installed, our MINI looked to all the world like a ready-to-go race car. However, there were several key changes that still needed to be made before we could pass a NASA tech inspection and hit the track in Performance Touring.

Before a car can pass tech at a NASA racing event, it has to meet the rules set forth by the Club Codes and Regulations. We’re addressing each of these safety and legality items on our MINI, making upgrades along the way. First up was removing the wheel lock, installing a quick-release hub, and putting in a new Ireland Engineering anti-roll bar.

First among these (in no particular order) was the removal of the steering wheel lock. When a street car’s key is removed from the ignition, the steering wheel can only be turned a tiny bit before a lock mechanism engages and prevents further steering input. For safety reasons, race cars are not allowed to have the steering wheel lock in place. Removing the lock on our MINI Cooper S would require a bit of trial and error, since we’d never dealt with a unit quite like this one before. We found the lock location on the third try—our exploratory drilling is your benefit, as thanks to our prodding you won’t have to guess.

We first removed the steering wheel to optimize our access to the ignition column. As the first photo shows, the locking lever is housed in a square section that neighbors the cylindrical ignition column. The photo is taken from the bottom of the assembly, but the interesting bits were on the top. Once we discovered its location, we used a rather menacing combination of a narrow step drill bit, an angle attachment and an 18-volt cordless drill to make short work of the little spring-steel roll pins that were holding the cover plate in place over the hidden lever. Photo three shows the panel, now free from its roll pin attachments and ready to be removed. The spring arm that’s poking out is attached to the locking lever.

With the plate out of the way, we got a look at the hardened steel lever (it’s black) in photo four. The lever pivots on a larger steel pin that’s made out of the same adamantium alloy that coats Wolverine’s skeleton. It is appropriately marked “IMPOSSIBLE TO DRILL” in photo four. We knew that removal of the pin was going to be the key to this operation, so we broke out our trusty Dremel and outfitted it with a new fiberglass cutting disc to attack the surrounding area.

At first we hoped to cut halfway and wiggle the pin out from the side (photo five), but the pin was lodged too deep into the assembly for that to work. So we opted to pick a new line and remove all the metal surrounding the pin from the top (photo six). With the pin fully exposed, a pair of Vise-Grips and a few firm tugs set the adamantium pin free. The black lever slid out from its casing easily once the pin was removed, and with it came the car’s ability to lock its own steering wheel (photo seven).

After vacuuming up all the metal dust, we decided that while the wheel was off we’d go ahead and install a quick-release hub. Since our MINI Cooper S already had an aftermarket Sparco wheel on a simple extender, installing the quick-release mount was a simple matter of attaching 12 hex-key bolts—six to the pre-installed adapter plates and six for the wheel-to-hub interface.

We did hit a minor snag along the way, however, as the quick-release hub had a trio of dome-headed bolts that were preventing the wheel from mounting flush. We marked the point of interference with a silver Sharpie and drilled the back of the wheel with a half-inch bit to make room for the bolt heads. With the interfering metal removed from the wheel, everything mounted together snugly.

While we had the car in the garage, we decided to jack up the rear end and swap out the stock 17mm anti-roll bar with a 22mm Ireland Engineering piece. The Ireland Engineering bar retails for $189; it features sliding Heim-jointed endlinks to allow for fine adjustment of the anti-roll bar’s effective torsion.

Swapping the anti-roll is a bit daunting when you look at all the stuff that’s in the way, but it’s not as bad as it seems at first. The entire rear subframe assembly has to be unbolted from the unibody, the fuel tank straps must come loose, and the lower shock absorber mounting bolts need to come free so the lower control arms can be fully extended. There are a few big bolts involved, but once the space is opened up, the anti-roll bars can slide in and out with relative ease.

The Ireland Engineering bar came with polyurethane bushings and included bushing grease, so we lubricated the bushings and bolted everything back together. To make sure that our bar was symmetrical, we used a ruler and a Sharpie to mark off the bar ends in centimeters. We then guesstimated a starting position with the forward edge of the end link at 8 centimeters in. We’ll fiddle with the setting as necessary once we start shaking down the car.

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