• Jack O'Connell

How we got to where we are now and Micra prep

Our obsession with the Mongol rally began in 2013 while googling Toyota Yaris Rally cars… We stumbled upon a video of a Yaris doing the Mongol rally on YouTube! Like all good videos on YouTube, it led to another video about the Mongol Rally, then another and another…

What was not to love about the concept of the Mongol Rally? A cheap car, a bunch of lads, no mechanical experience and no big expenses…. Why not do it!

Determined to get in on the action I (Jack) was determined to do it! We were hoping to do it in 2018 in the hope that my brother (Gerard) got a job to raise some money for the visa process and spending money! We also needed a third teammate, just to be sure! MJ Doyle stepped up to the plate! Eager not to be known as a little bitch for pulling out of something he committed to! We had our team, but the year didn’t suit. Fast forward to 2020… Again, the year the World decided it didn’t want anyone going on trips we have finally settled and registered for the 2021 Rally.

Next, we needed the car! Gerard is an avid Yaris and Starlet fan, me not so much, MJ is passive to anything! Having looked at the prices for cars for sale between a Yaris, Starlet and Micra, we settled on the Micra based on price more than anything as all 3 seem to have a high level of reliability and are relatively easy to work on and the further East you go the supply of parts for Japanese cars doesn’t change!

So our car is set to be a Micra… How cliché for the Mongol Rally! On that note, we do salute the bravery of any team taking less common cars and in particular FIATs… you have bigger balls than us and wish you the best for the trip!

Sourcing the car was relatively easy… It’s a Nissan Micra! The ideal car for the first-time driver, the OAP just going to the shops, hot-rodding and of course, the chicken coop! Working at home in April gave me plenty time to be searching online! We wanted one that was close enough that we didn’t really waste any time going to look at it! As if by chance, the first time we looked a Micra came up on (Irish Classified ads site) literally 3 miles from my house! Ideal! Went to have a look, the 2000 plate steed had been owned by a lady from new, has 48k miles, few carpark bumps and scrapes and at 92 years old she no longer had a need for the car! Bargain at €300 (roughly £260), didn’t even bother test driving it!

Mechanically perfect but may need a clutch as old ladies have a unique talent for frying a clutch on any car! Some of its characteristics include: mismatch wing mirrors, mismatch rear doors, central locking not working and serious welding done to the front and back… the ideal motor to drive across 1/3 of the planet!

First things first, google what people have done to prep their Micra for the rally… To which we found there is very little in the way of a guide for prepping a Micra for this task! What next? Stickers! Lots of pointless stickers! Primarily with the team name to get people to follow our Instagram and Facebook page and hopefully donate to us!

I found threads on the Micra Sports Club forum very helpful for some of the more unusual issues with Micra. Nissan have a great anti-theft system known as NATS, I read that if it gives up, your car becomes a very big paper weight! Not ideal if you’re in the middle of s desert somewhere. On my first long drive (30 miles) in the Micra, NATS gave up… trailered home! Luckily people use the trusty Micra for hot-rodding and this is a problem they can avoid happening! Ed in Fusion Motorsport in Surrey thankfully specialises in plug and play ECUs that have NATs wiped out, so that is an issue we don’t need to worry about again and we can drive on with piece of mind. (We hope… We haven’t actually tried the new ECU yet, so we hope it works)

Joining a page on Facebook called Micramafia, was another great help for advice on the smaller parts to bring along as a just in case! 1 issue is that people who modify Micra’s lower them and make them look nice… we wanted to go the opposite way. Shout out to Simon Campion (@Micra_Simon on Instagram) who has build his daily road car as a little Micra Monster truck!

Next step - buy lights lots of pointless but mad looking lights! LED light bar, LED spot lamps, straight to eBay got them all for roughly £60 from some dodgy Chinese seller who claimed to be based in the UK but with a 3 week shipping time 100% was not in the UK! They didn’t arrive as stated on the confirmation so I emailed them just to check in! instead of dealing with what could have been a complaint they just sent a full refund and the lights arrived by courier 3 days later… new cost for the lights = free!

Switch panel for the lights but had to have an extra 12V socket and a USB plug to keep the phones/Sat nav charged, again eBay for like £12… Finding a place to fit it in the car however was a different story, big and bulky, didn’t sit on the dash nicely, so we decided to chop out a part of the console where the radio sits, make a neat facia from some plywood, spray it black and screw it in! (looks stock bro!)

The we thought about camping and what would make it better? Kitchen unit built into the boot with a fold out table! Built from pallet wood and left-over plywood, this sits in half the boot, has space for a gas hob, some plates and importantly toilet paper. I have no carpentry skills so some basic videos on YouTube helped with making the sliding table. Ideal for desert dining!

Roof racks – regular universal Micra roof racks on eBay for £48 brand new.

Roof cage was a concoction of an old IBC tank cage and a sheet of plywood… total cost €0/£0! Simply chop down the cage, screw it to the wood and using some bolts and old chequered plate make a bracket to secure it to the racks! It took a bit of measuring and tweaking but worked out well! Wrapped some old foam around the rim so we didn’t have razor sharp edges on the cage! We were genuinely surprised by the amount of space it has! We plan on taking 2 jerry cans of petrol, 3 spare wheels (2 gravel tyres and 1 normal spare), camping gear, a few spares and some basic tools. And we have space for more!

Mounting the light bar was a lot more difficult than it needed to be! The bonnet is not square or level so trying to get the light bar perfectly aligned was a pain in the hole! 3 snapped drill bits, a few nuts and bolts lost in the humble abyss of the Micra engine bay it finally went on and luckily, they stress of the job was worth it! Our only concern is how the German Police feel about it on the bonnet, but we can worry about that when we are there!

Next up was the snorkel! Is it necessary? Will we need it? Probably not, but now we have it we will 100% be testing the limits of the car. Simon Campion was a great help here! Simply by relocating the expansion bottle behind the battery the Micra has the perfect gap in the wing to have a pipe go through it! Total cost for the Snorkel was £0, thanks to OB heating and plumbing for giving us an off cut of some 2” pipe along with 3 45degree and 1 90degree PVC angles and Hosetech in Cork for the flexi heat resistant pipe for in the engine bay and clips! The job was super easy! Cut a neat hole in the side of the wing, screw in the clips and your done!

What is next for the car?

The Micra has its NCT (Irish version of the MOT) in January 2021, once that is done, we plan to lift the car by 3 inches! We already have our lifting blocks for the front which will sit on top of the shocks and we will be getting Lexus is200 front springs to replace the back springs in the Micra as they fit in the same spot and will give it a mad lift!

We will slap on some extended arches, for no other reason than they were sitting in the shed and will look crap and mad at the same time!

Our buddy who is a fabricator has offered to make us a sump guard out of an old one from an off-road Datsun pickup which we can take on and off as we need. This will probably be the most essential modification we will do to the car in reality!

Then all that is left to do is to drive the car across the globe to Mongolia and Russia and then attempt to drive it back to Ireland again. Watch this space…

Also the car is yet to be named and we really feel it needs one! Any suggestions?

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