A team of Kiwi car enthusiasts have converted a 48-year-old old Mini Cooper into a racing machine and are trying to break a speed record at the Bonneville racing salt flats in Utah.

The seven-member Project 64 team, who are based in Nelson, began working on the 1964 British original two years ago.

"It basically arrived as a rusty old Mini shell, but with a very special engine," said spokesman Mike Wilson.

They have managed to clock one run on the salt flats which exceeded the 205km/h record - set in 2004 - for its 1000cc competition category. But for the speed to officially register, the compact racer must be able repeat its performance. It has until the end of Friday (US time) to do so.


Wilson said the Project 64 mini, driven by 26-year-old dirt car racer Nelson Hartley, clocked a speed of 223km/h last Saturday but had yet to do it again.

"The way it works is that when you break a record, your car is impounded until the next day, then you have to try to do it again."

Wilson, a Nelson photographer, said the team - led by Garry Orton and Guy Griffiths - are constantly tweaking their car to ensure it runs smoothly.