The Best Modifications on an R56 MINI Cooper

Written by john willis
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The Best Modifications on an R56 MINI Cooper
The MINI Cooper R56's go-kart-like handling can be made even better. (yellow mini cooper headlight image by MAXFX from

A MINI Cooper R56 is about as close as you can get to driving a go-kart on the street. They accelerate quickly. They turn quickly. They stop quickly. But stopping is boring, so here are a few of the very best ways to make it go quicker and turn even faster. While they make not be cheap, these are all bolt-on upgrades -- no machine shop necessary.

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Coilover, Adjustable Suspension

If you hang around a racetrack -- the kind with left and right turns -- you'll hear names like Koni, Bilstein and Monroe because they all help cars go really fast around corners. Whether you upgrade other suspension components on your MINI Cooper, adjustable coilover shocks from these makers or a host of others will give you handling that, when matched with great tires, will surprise a lot of Porsche owners. Once you're in a corner, power doesn't matter; traction does. And coilover suspension will help your MINI hold the road.

Cold Air Intake

Cold air makes a bigger explosion than warm air. And that's what powers cars: explosions. So the more of them you make and the bigger they are, the faster you'll go. You can't change the weather, but you can increase horsepower through a cold air intake system. This is a large duct that replaces the stock air box. The duct runs to the front of the car, just inside the grille -- usually right in front of one of the tires, where fresh, cold air is hitting it. The alternative is drawing air, superheated and trapped in the engine bay. The cold air intake will breathe fresh, cold air into your MINI.

Headers and Full Exhaust

If you really want to take advantage of the high-flow, cold air intake, you can help your engine get rid of spent exhaust gases more quickly through racing headers. The headers are the exhaust pipes that exit the exhaust ports. They funnel from four exhaust pipes (or headers) into a single exhaust, plumbed to the rear of the car. Building engine performance is all about flow: get new gas/air into the engine and old, spent exhaust out as quickly as possible. Flow is only as good as the most restricted portion. So, once you've opened up the flow with the intake (and captured cooler air), you need to match the flow in the rest of the motor. Without going to a machine shop, that means bolting on high-flow headers; and while you're at it, the rest of a high-flow exhaust system, ensuring you've bolted on all the high-flow power-building products you can.

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