Donít get me started

by Wheelnut

When the Mini was launched in August 1959, it had all sorts of heretical features to upset the traditionalists. Funny little wheels, funny little rubber springs, funny sideways engine, and even funnier front wheel drive. And thatís before you start looking at external body seams and the absence of a proper dashboard. But there was another, deeply-felt attack on the well-established order of things Ė it didnít have a starting handle Ė or even, it seemed any possibility of fitting one!

You donít have to be really old to remember how starting handles could get you out of trouble when the battery was only able to feed a dull glimmer on your ignition warning lamp. After all, in those days, when you had a battery with a yearís guarantee, on day 366 there was a very good chance that it would die on you. If there was no one around to give you a push start, then the old starting handle was a potential life-saver. The damn thing might also break your thumb or your wrist if you didnít know how to hold the handle (keep your thumb on the same side as your fingers, and be ready for kickback). It could also come in useful for doing maintenance jobs like setting your tappet clearances, enabling you to turn the engine fairly accurately to find the back of the cam for each tappet. Some people even regarded the handle as a good defensive weapon that could be legitimately carried in the car, but I digress.
    Well, what about the handle-less Mini? It seems fairly obvious that with the engine moved from its rightful, time-honoured position with the crankshaft nose facing the front of the car, then there was absolutely no possibility of the manufacturer or anybody else being able to contrive a way of connecting up a starting handle. But fear not! The Mini started off the most inventive and prolific era of accessory manufacture Britain has ever seen. Every magazine had pages and pages of advertisements for gizmos to ameliorate your Mini. Those endlessly industrious accessory guys were not about to be defeated by a sideways engine, oh no!  
Galloping to the rescue of Minis with feeble batteries came Oselli Accessories. For about a fiver, (in the mid-1960s) they offered a complete kit of handle, crankshaft dog, guide plates, and a support arm. You had to cut a hole in the wing valance, fit the crankshaft dog in place of the standard crank bolt, and bolt into place the support arm inside the wheelarch. To use the starting handle, you put the wheels on full left lock, and poked the handle through the support arm hole and the hole in the valance, engaged the dog and wound your engine into life Ė you hoped. No, Iíve never tried one, or even seen one, but what a collectorís item this must beÖ

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