R50 Project: Introduction

Posted by L P on

We’ve had this R50 project in the shop for a while now, so we decided to start documenting some of what we’re doing with the car.

The R50 in it's temporary home on the lift.

First, some background on the car and some general R50 info. Most of you reading this will know, but chassis code R50 is the 2002-2006 hatchback with non-supercharged engine (W10). R53 is the “S” with a supercharged version of the engine (W11). R52 is the convertible and is available with either engine. Other than the supercharged engine and different transmissions, the R50 and R53 are the same chassis and most parts are shared or interchangeable. The main exceptions to that would be the John Cooper Works (JCW) package cars with larger front brakes, and the limited production R53 GP model with larger front brakes and several other unique parts.

Some of us, or at least 1 of us, have always had a thing for the R50s. Specifically the non-sunroof, no options, 2002-2004 cars. There’s not a huge difference between models, but these R50s are the lightest and simplest of the modern MINIs. They also have the cleanest exterior styling with less aggressive bumpers, no hood scoop, no chrome scuttles, no (or smaller) rear spoiler, 15” wheels, etc. Of course the R50 W10 engine also makes a lot less power than the supercharged engines. The stock W10 is 115 hp, the W11 makes anywhere from 160 to 215 depending on year and model. There was an ultra-rare JCW Tuning Kit for the R50 which included a lightly ported cylinder head, cat-back exhaust, air filter, and ECU re-map. That was good for a claimed 126 hp.


W10 and W11 engines.


The main weak point of the R50 is the transmission. The CVT automatic and the 5-speed manual both have a high failure rate. Maybe we will do a separate post about those transmissions one day. A common upgrade, or repair, is to install the R53 6-speed in place of the 5-speed. Here at ALLMAG, we put together a kit of all the parts needed to do the swap. We also usually have good R53 6-speeds in stock, sometimes with LSD. That’s a lot better than scrapping the car or installing another questionable 5-speed, if you can find one. Swapping from the CVT automatic to 6-speed is possible, but of course requires some more parts. We can can put together that kit for you too, but be advised it's not a simple "bolt in" swap like the 5 to 6 speed.


The infamous ZF CVT.


R53 Getrag 6-speed.

Over the years, we’ve seen quite a few R50s for sale at the auctions or on Facebook marketplace for low prices. Generally we don’t buy them to part out, because there just isn’t a demand for R50 specific parts, other than the transmissions. In November, we saw this 2004 R50 automatic (without sunroof) come up for auction locally. The damage was listed as water/flood. We had recently added a second lift to our shop area, and were in the process of selling our shop car at the time, so it seemed like a good time to start another project. You never know what you will get with “water” cars. We won the auction for a fair price and soon the car was on it's way to ALLMAG.

Auction photos.

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