In a drag racing world filled with classic and modern muscle cars, Ken Hebert Jr.’s 2011 Mini Cooper Clubman S stands out … if you can see it. Hebert’s car is small in size but it’s a total bracket buzzsaw on the track, piling up a considerable amount of wins by being deadly consistent. This unique car provides Herbert with mountains of enjoyment and is a fan favorite anywhere he races.
Hebert, a native of Tecumseh, Ontario Canada, owns Kenny’s Performance Plus Auto Repair and spends his days wrenching on all kinds of vehicles. Drag racing is what brought him into the automotive line of work when he used to watch his father race an original 1969 F/Stock Camaro. That eventually led him to build his own clone of that Camaro and things progressed from there with his car addiction.
Over the years, Hebert has owned many different cars, but the one that garnered the most attention was his 1999 Volkswagen Beetle, the “Bowtie Bug”. The car was known for its big wheelstands and eight-second passes courtesy of the 555 cubic-inch engine that Hebert stuffed under the stock body. The Bowtie Bug’s chassis was originally built in 1989 and had nearly 5,000 passes on it, so when it came time to move to a new car Hebert wanted something that was different.
“I was looking at doing a new Fiat 500 and extending the wheelbase mid-car to keep the Fiat look, but the cost and time involved were too much. I then started looking at the Mini Cooper and saw that the Clubman model had about a 100-inch wheelbase, very similar to a Fox body Mustang. I did some work in Photoshop and that sealed the deal on what I wanted to do,” Herbert says.
Now that Hebert had a plan in mind for his build it was time to try and track a car down. He began to scour classified ads and eventually found the base for his car online; a deal was made and he was ready to start work on his Mini Cooper “SS”.
“I found this car on Craigslist in Michigan — it looked like an easily repairable wreck and the gentleman who had it had already stripped the interior, the wiring, and drivetrain from it. He had absolutely no understanding of what we were going to do with it. I told him we wanted just the blue parts and the glass. Eventually, we went back and bought the door panels, door seals and dash. The total investment in the complete shell with replacement parts was only about $3,000 dollars,” Hebert explains.
The chassis was built by Brad Gibbs at GFS Fabrication using chrome-moly round tube and a four-link rear suspension. All of the power windows still function in the car, and it even has a set of remote-operated rear doors that open after the burnout to clear the smoke out of the Mini. The entire build only took three months to complete.
If you pop the hood on Hebert’s Mini and expect to see the stock 98 cubic-inch engine be ready for a shock, it has been replaced with 565 cubic-inches of Dart Big M block goodness. Inside the engine resides a Callies crankshaft, JE pistons, and Crower connecting rods that were all assembled by Mountain Machine. A set of Dart Pro 1 heads and a Dart intake have been paired with a 1250 CFM carburetor from Pro Systems to bring air into the engine. The Mini makes around 950 horsepower and has been a best of 8.47 at 161 mph at the track.
The Mini has picked up a lot of wins in Open Comp and no-box bracket racing. In the span of one weekend, Hebert put 28 passes on the car and ended up going to two different final rounds during a two-day race. This kind of success is possible based on how competitive the car really is to race.
“As ‘cute’ as it may look this is one heck of a bracket car! Usually, on any given weekend the 60-foot times are within a few thousandths of a second, which makes for a very consistent mid eight-second racecar. It looks lazy but it isn’t and always leaves straight and hard. This car makes me look good! It also has excellent visibility to see the stripe and cars coming up on you,” Hebert says.
Spending a lot of time at the track takes support from many different individuals; Hebert is extremely thankful for those who are there to help keep is racing operation going.
“I can’t thank my crew chief and partner, Theresa St. Pierre, enough. I run her pretty hard as we’re usually running multiple cars and classes at every event. She still finds time to feed us all weekend long. I would also like to thank Dave and Maureen Vlodarchyk of Amsoil for their ongoing support. I also have to thank my employees, Velma, Eric and Dillon for taking care of the business when I’m away racing.”
It’s hard not to smile when you see Ken Hebert Jr.’s Mini Cooper roll into the water box. His car literally looks a like a Hot Wheels toy brought to life. If you happen to be in the lane next to Hebert don’t smile too much because this Mini is liable to send you home early.