Road tests

New David Brown Automotive Mini Remastered Oselli Edition review

The David Brown Automotive Mini Remastered Oselli Edition is arguably the best version of the classic Mini to date – but is all that excellence worth the £98,000 price-tag?

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Verdict

David Brown Automotive’s standard issue Mini Remastered is a classic Mini in which every component has been made a little bit better, but this Oselli Edition takes that mantra to the extreme, mixing DBA’s pathological approach to build quality with sweet, grippy handling and impressive straight-line speed for a car from this era. It’s a wonderfully analogue experience that’s bursting with character, and one you can’t get from almost any other new car on sale today.

The David Brown Automotive Mini Remastered Oselli Edition might be a bit of a strange one for you. In fact, it might not really make financial sense unless the rest of the cars in your garage have either Bentley or Aston Martin badges fixed to their bonnets. 

It’s an even more expensive, limited-edition version of the already pricey Mini Remastered, which puts performance and handling ahead of styling and luxury. But the formula has worked, and this is one of the best road-going restomods (a growing trend that sees classic models restored and remastered for the modern world) on sale today - even if it is priced from £98,000.

Yes, you can buy much faster classic Minis, but many are designed for historic motorsport. Few offer the same breath of ability in the real world, and most would be far outside of their comfort zone when trying to tackle Britain’s rough roads.

We’ll start with the Oselli Edition’s engine. It’s an extensively modified version of the big-block A-Series unit the Mini was originally delivered with, which has been bored out from 1,275cc to 1,450cc and then built with many enticing performance parts – including a pair of delightfully responsive SU carburettors.

The result is 123bhp and 153Nm of torque, which is plenty when you consider the car only weighs around 700kg. A racier camshaft also means that the engine doesn’t fully get into its stride until 3,000rpm, after which the engine revs hungrily. So, unlike most old Minis, you need to keep a watchful eye on the speedo.

Thanks to all that torque, you really have the confidence to move with modern traffic. DBA’s engineers have also swapped the original Mini’s four-speed gearbox for a five-speed unit, so while the exhaust note is certainly loud, it doesn’t thrash your eardrums to pieces once you’re settled on an A-road, the extra ratio lowering the revs when cruising for just a little more refinement.

But the A-Series’ rather gruff, analogue character is part of the fun, so we’re glad DBA hasn’t totally sanitised its remastered icon with this more performance-focused Oselli model (the company became famous for tuning Mini engines).

DBA has done a good job with the chassis, too. Some tuned Minis can feel unsafe due to rock hard suspension dampers and a low ride height that causes the chassis to bump and bounce across the road. But the Oselli Edition, with its sensible ride height and still relatively conservative road-biased tyres, is superbly involving.

And it still feels properly old school. When you turn it into a corner, the nose sniffs out the apex, while the rear feels more mobile. Compared with a modern, ultra-grippy hot hatch it’s a very different style of driving, but once you start to trust the chassis you’ll realise you’ve got just the right amount of grip to have an incredible level of fun.

The car’s chassis set-up means it feels maybe a little flighty but incredibly responsive to steering inputs, and the former is only a small price to pay for the agility and cornering ability.

The car’s competence in the bends is helped out further by a mechanical limited-slip differential that aggressively hauls the tiny Mini through a corner, tightening its line as you apply power.

It even rides quite well for a classic Mini. It’s far from luxurious, but the chassis does settle down nicely on faster roads. But then, the Oselli Edition should be set up properly, considering its price-tag. We’ll admit, that’s an awful lot for an old Mini – but it’s important to look at the car in context and consider the amount of time and effort that has gone into producing it.

There’s hundreds of man-hours in every car, as the company’s engineers strive to massage out all the imperfections that usually plague British vehicles of this vintage. 

Unlike many other classic Minis, the interior doesn’t rattle and everything you touch feels high-quality. The Alcantara-trimmed steering wheel is lovely, the leather dashboard matches the fit and finish of most German brands and the switchgear is heavy and mechanical. The driving position is much better than a standard Mini’s, too, as the seat has been moved further away from the pedals on custom seat runners. 

And, while there’s a modern infotainment system in the centre of the dashboard, the Oselli hasn’t lost its period touches. There’s still a rather charming Smiths speedometer mounted ahead of the driver too, ensuring some period-correct features have been retained.

Yes, the Oselli Edition isn’t as refined, or as comfortable, or as practical as a modern car, but that isn’t the point. It was designed to offer a 1960s driving experience with none of the poor mechanical and electronic reliability and questionable build quality that normally comes with a car from this era.

And, as David Brown himself pointed out to us, the Oselli Edition (and indeed the normal Mini Remastered) is generally the cheapest car in the garages of its customers. So it might be an expensive indulgence, but it’s certainly an appealing one.

Model:David Brown Automotive Mini Remastered Oselli Edition
Price:From £98,000
Engine:Carburetted 1,450cc four-cylinder petrol
Power/torque:123bhp/153Nm
Transmission:Five-speed manual, front wheel drive
0–62mph:7.8 seconds
Top speed:>100mph

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