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2005 R50 Cooper Project

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Old 05-27-2019, 07:13 PM
Blue R50
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2005 R50 Cooper Project

I figured I should start a build thread on my 2005 MINI Cooper, so here it is! The car only has 83,000 miles on it and I bought it with a bad clutch for $1900. The previous owners were not car people and got scared away by a $1500 quote for the clutch and so decided to punt it. As for options, it has the Hyper Blue paint with Pepper white roof and mirror caps, white 16 inch wheels, Cordoba Beige leather interior, Sport seats, chrome package, Chrono pack, trip computer, big sunroof, automatic air conditioning and black headliner and pillars (believe it or not, this was $200 on the window sticker!).

Before I got it, the people I bought it from put in a new battery and starter, however, the owner before them also spent $4,000 on repairs in the previous 10k miles! So, it has a new BMW power steering pump and fan with just 4,000 miles on them, new coolant and brake fluid reservoirs, a new valve cover and gasket, new thermostat and thermostat housing, recent brake fluid flush, new belt and tensioner and a bunch of other stuff I don't remember off the top of my head. It came with both keys and the original owner's manual.

So far, I have rebuilt the transmission, replaced the rear main seal, replaced the clutch, replaced the front struts, strut mounts and bump stops, replaced the headlights with new ones I got off Craigslist for $70, replaced one cloudy tail light ($10 at a junkyard!) replaced the hood struts, replaced the fuel filter, replaced the power steering hoses, replaced the O ring on the crank angle sensor, cleaned the engine and fan from the grease left over from that leak, replaced one ball joint for a bad boot, replaced the rotors and pads on all four wheels, disassembled and cleaned the HVAC controls (they were full of a sticky substance that I like to think was soda) and replaced the hydraulic engine mount. I know it doesn't seem like I did much, but I only got the car in February and was doing my final semester of college and working 50 hours a week with 2 hours a day of commuting, so I didn't have much time. I did much of the heavier work this weekend and had to take the trans out again to try to diagnose a faint noise in it.

As for what my plans for the car are, it's going to be a mostly stock MINI with a few minor upgrades. I just finished painting the calipers blue to sort of match the car and set off the white wheels. I also need to get new struts for the back of the car to match the fronts, but they will be OK for now. I have a console with the matching anthracite trim on it, but sadly while the armrest structure is good, it has a broken black plastic console and armrest as well as one bad piece of trim. I couldn't pass it up though for $15 as most of them are silver. I also need new tires at some point as the ones on the car are from 2015 and getting dry rotted. They have 95% tread, but they do not inspire confidence. Another thing it needs is a headliner. I will probably try to do it myself with imitation Alcantara as I like the look and it isn't too much more money (I estimate $80 in materials). The visors, specifically the vanity mirrors are also in need of replacement, but I can't find them yet for a price I am willing to pay. The driver's seat too could use replacement or leather repair, so I am searching the junkyards for a nice one. I wonder if I could use the base off a passenger's seat? I am trying to plan a inexpensive stereo too since the original radio has a bad volume pot and **** and I would prefer something with more modern features and phone integration. Because I live in Florida, window tint is a necessity and is on my short list of plans for the car. The front bumper and bonnet could use a repsray too, but that will likely have to wait until fall, when the weather is more tolerable. Oh, and I have a CANBUS issue with the windows where they do not like to save their calibration. I get them to work fine only to have them not work when I come back out later. This leads to the passenger's side door not wanting to open when the window is up as it will not drop! Bad ground? I guess I'll find out when I take the seats and carpet out for a deep cleaning. For performance, I am planning a bigger rear sway bar and a cold air intake, but only when I am done with everything else.


2005 Mini Cooper in Hyper Blue



4 year old tire with rotten inner sidewall. Since replaced with a used one which is sketchy in other ways...

Service Mode Plus front suspension out for clutch replacement. Not as fun as it sounds...


More pics to come. Some of these are fairly old and I took it further apart this weekend for round two!



 
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  #2  
Old 05-28-2019, 07:58 PM
Blue R50
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A small update: The car is still in service mode as I finished the trans and put it in yesterday, but ran out of time. Some of the parts previously listed are still being installed this week and I hope to be driving it this weekend. Today I installed the new front Bilstein struts (stock replacement black ones) as well as the new front bump stops and strut mounts. I also got the front suspension cradle back in the car and hooked up the steering as well as replaced one CV boot that tore due to dry rot (never had a chance to leak or get dirt in it!) before I installed the axles. I would have done that yesterday, but my Harbor Freight press' bottle jack died and I had to wait until after work today to get one. I also picked up a gallon of the official MINI coolant from the dealer for when I get the cooling system back in. I still have to do the front brakes, sway bar links ( they come in tomorrow) and have to try and find some replacements for the torque to yield bolts for the LCA mounts. I will try to source the metric equivalent to grade 8 as I hate TTY bolts! They are so wasteful! Plus, if I break down, I want to be able to put the car back together without having to buy new fasteners. Believe it or not, that all took 3 hours, mostly because it was 95 degrees out today and I had to keep running inside to cool off- even at 7PM.

I probably won't be working on it tomorrow as I promised a friend I would help him change out the water filled trans fluid in his mud Jeep. He helped me get the trans in and out of the MINI and move it to my bench ( I am nursing a ruptured Achilles tendon), so it's the least I can do.
 
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Old 05-30-2019, 09:22 PM
Blue R50
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It runs! It drives! It still has that transmission noise! However, I am going to drive it till it either breaks or sorts itself out (it's a new idler gear that I think needs to wear in with the other gears.) Anyhow, tonight was my first real drive ever in a MINI Cooper and OMG! I knew they were good, but WOW! This thing is incredible around corners! I think I'm in love. I just have to learn how to drive it without barking second (well... maybe I shouldn't wind it out in first...) It's not fast, but it feels quick and the car gives just enough auditory feedback to give a great sensation of speed. The steering feel is wonderful too and I didn't test the limits of the brakes because they are brand new and need to bed in. I also encountered a problem (it wouldn't be MINI ownership if I didn't!) Someone overtightened the valve stem cap on a tire that is going flat so much that it will not come loose. Even trying to hold the valve stem with needle nose pliers and the cap with regular pliers does nothing. I guess it's a trip to the tire store for me tomorrow...
 
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Old 05-31-2019, 07:34 AM
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That's a nice color combo and a great looking Mini. You've done an amazing amount of work in a short time. Well done!
 
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Old 05-31-2019, 07:02 PM
Blue R50
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Originally Posted by cooper48 View Post
That's a nice color combo and a great looking Mini. You've done an amazing amount of work in a short time. Well done!
Thanks!
 
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Old 05-31-2019, 07:20 PM
Blue R50
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Anyhow, here's today's update. I have driven it about 80 miles so far and it has been less than 24 hours since I got it going. I didn't use it to commute as I don't know how reliable it will be, so for now I am trying to do a few hundred miles of shake down driving before the end of the weekend. While I don't plan to use it for my 60 miles of daily commuting, I may use it for a few days next week to see how it handles the brutal stop and go traffic. I did the same with my 408,000 mile Nissan Frontier after I went through the trans earlier this year and found I was a bit "spirited" in the way I used it. There's just something about driving a manual transmission with a reasonable clutch... I also noted that despite idling it for about an hour last night to purge the cooling system and driving it in a "spirited" manner for 80+ miles, I still managed to get about 27 MPG. Anyhow, I also washed it and drove it to a local park where I did a bit of detailing and took some photos. I'll post a few here for anyone who wants to see them.


Brakes installed, just 4 more hours until it drives!

A quick wash, some Meguiars black trim stuff and a good location made for a reasonably good picture, if I do say so myself.
 
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Old 06-01-2019, 11:56 AM
Tigger2011
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Outstanding work. Good looking find and theres just something so satisfying about doing the work yourself. The R50's can be very reliable and are great fun to drive. Happy Motoring
 
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Old 06-06-2019, 06:18 PM
Blue R50
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It's been about a week since I put the MINI together enough to drive it. It's still missing a few things, like fender liners, the bumper cover isn't fully attached and the interior is not all there. However, I have managed to put almost 500 miles on it. So far, this is what I have noticed. It seems to have used a little oil and a little coolant. Because of how far apart it was, I am not really sure where it went. It could be something as simple as air bubbles coming out of the cooling system as it is just a slight change in the level of maybe a quarter of an inch to a centimeter in the overflow bottle. No leaks are evident under the car, but I will know more when I put it up on ramps this weekend. It also has a slight variation of maybe 100 to 150 RPM at idle when it sits in traffic. Fuel economy has been good, ranging from 30 to 32 MPG. It's just too bad I have to spring for premium! The transmission noise is not going away and I find that a bit concerning. It is also difficult to shift smoothly and the shifter can be more than a bit balky, making it difficult to shift smoothly, let alone quickly! However, the A/C and automatic climate control work flawlessly as do the windows, sunroof and the cruise control. In fact, It only has one electronic flaw and I will get back to that in a moment. I didn't take pictures, but I installed a new driver's door woofer. In fact, I bought an inexpensive set of speakers from JBL called their Stage 600, which came with a 6.5 in woofer and a small, cheap tweeter. I figured the stock tweeter was of better quality, so I just left it. The speakers were only $37 and are better than nothing. However, the spacers I bought (1 " Metra brand), did not have a large enough hole in the center for these speakers. I ended up making a ugly looking spacer to put under the speakers out of 1/4 in plywood with a slightly larger hole, and that did the trick.

As for what needs to be done, well, the passenger's door needs to come apart. The latch is bad and will need to be either repaired or replaced. I will do the door speaker at the same time so as to minimize the amount of time the door will be apart. Now to find another latch! New is out of the question because the poorly designed POS isn't worth $15, let alone the $150 BMW wants for it. I'll wait to find one in a you pull it yard so I can get it for under $10. Once I do, I will go through the replacement and clean and lubricate everything so it should just drop in and minimize downtime. I also need to do the headliner, find a driver's seat, replace the rear shocks (not bad, but I want them to match the front) repaint the bonnet and front bumper, and find some new performance tires in 205 50 16 to replace the 4 year old all season radials with the beginnings of dry rot setting in. I also need to replace a missing TPMS sensor that I forgot to get from the used tire guy I got that one tire from! Damnit! I also need a front lower grill for the bumper as mine is cracked. I may just see if I can find another bumper cover assembly in better condition in the Hyper Blue as it will be cheaper than doing paint work. I also want to replace the factory radio, but do not want to lose the steering wheel controls. I got used to them in my Prius and don't want to do without them. Plus, I don't want to have switches that do nothing. I also found that the steering column is a little loose and moves from side to side under hard cornering. I guess I'll have to look into that this weekend. It also has some wear on the shifter base where the pivot pin goes through the black plastic part, so I will have to work on a solution for that too.

How is it to drive? Fantastic! Aside from the shifting woes it's a great little car to drive. It doesn't feel slow, despite the low power engine. The handling is simply the best I have ever experienced in any car I have ever driven. I run out of nerve before I run out of car. This may change as I get used to it and work the bugs out of it, but for now I find the car shockingly good. The steering is crisp and tight with a very fast ratio that takes a little getting used to. Every little twitch of your hand makes the car respond, no matter how small. I am very happy the car has the Chrono Pack as I like having the speedo and tach in front of me and not off to one side. The sunroof is something many people complain about, especially in Florida. However, even on 90+ degree days it isn't a concern for me as long as the shade is pulled and the A/C is on. I get far more heat from the side windows than the sunroof (they will soon be tinted). The biggest disappointment are the sport seats. The shape is not that comfortable, which I could live with if they were supportive in the turns. They aren't. They seem to have been a half hearted effort since the bolstering on the top has a gradual slope that just lets you slide off of it when it needs a 90 degree corner to hold your torso in place. Overall though, it's fun. It's like a frenetic little pitbull puppy that just wants to be played with. No matter how rough you are, it always wants more! I find myself driving it every day when I get home from work, and even used it to commute one day this week. There is only so much I can take of driving Toyota's ECVT transmission without wanting to run away screaming from the damn thing. It's reliable (unlike the MINI CVT) and efficient, but it is also an awful, flaccid mess to live with. If the MINI is like a pitbull puppy then the ECVT is like motivating a bratty teenager to clean their room. It will get done eventually, but not without a bad attitude and a slow start.


Obligatory Florida Beach Photo!
 

Last edited by Blue R50; 06-06-2019 at 06:29 PM.
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  #9  
Old 06-06-2019, 07:52 PM
Tigger2011
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Good to see it saved and you enjoying it so much. I had a 2006 R50 in Nightfire Red with the Crono Pak as well and I loved it. Been keeping an eye out for another 1st gen with that instrumentation but they seem kinda rare, at least in South Florida. If you think the handling is awesome now wait till you put a rear sway bar on it. Careful though, once you start modding Mini's it's a slippery slope lol. The erratic idle is probably a vacuum leak somewhere. The cars obviously in good hands though so I'm sure you'll find it.

The sloppy shifting seems to usually be the result of several things but the biggest contributor is the rubber bushings behind the exhaust heat shield that the bolts go thru that secure the shifter box from below. Cravenspeed makes aluminum bushings as part of their box assembly that removes a lot of it. Not sure if they sell them separately though.

There is however one important Mini tradition I haven't seen you touch on yet. Sounds like it still needs a proper name. Sometimes you have to drive them for a few weeks though before it lets you know what it is
 
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Old 06-08-2019, 06:35 PM
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It was a very rainy day today, but I did manage to get enough of a break to put it up on ramps and have a look. I couldn't find where the coolant was going, so that's not good. I did manage to overheat it when I first drove it due to leaving the coolant cap loose. It was only a 3 mile drive so I hope the head gasket is OK. It has no water in the oil ( no mayonnaise on the cap or dipstick) and no water in the exhaust, and it runs fine so I hope I'm good. It's a very small leak, so it is probably just steaming off wherever it comes out of as soon as it leaks. I may never find the leak because of how hard it is to spot. I also found no oil leaks, so where a quarter quart of oil went is anyone's guess. Perhaps it needs to be topped off because I had the filter housing off? Finally, there is the new CV boot I installed. It came with the wrong size clamp and I had to get inventive to reuse the original. It also came with two packets of grease and I used both. Well, the boot has held and is still on the axle, but it has lost a bit of grease. I think it squeezed out due to being overfilled, but if not, I will let it fail and replace it if and when I find a good six speed. Even if I find one though, that will not happen until October when the weather gets better. It is just too hot right now to do a big project outside. I am hoping to go to the flea market after church tomorrow to find a 36mm wrench for the oil change. I just need to find out how to reset the service interval in the tach.
 
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Old 06-08-2019, 07:12 PM
Blue R50
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Originally Posted by Tigger2011 View Post
Good to see it saved and you enjoying it so much. I had a 2006 R50 in Nightfire Red with the Crono Pak as well and I loved it. Been keeping an eye out for another 1st gen with that instrumentation but they seem kinda rare, at least in South Florida. If you think the handling is awesome now wait till you put a rear sway bar on it. Careful though, once you start modding Mini's it's a slippery slope lol. The erratic idle is probably a vacuum leak somewhere. The cars obviously in good hands though so I'm sure you'll find it.

The sloppy shifting seems to usually be the result of several things but the biggest contributor is the rubber bushings behind the exhaust heat shield that the bolts go thru that secure the shifter box from below. Cravenspeed makes aluminum bushings as part of their box assembly that removes a lot of it. Not sure if they sell them separately though.

There is however one important Mini tradition I haven't seen you touch on yet. Sounds like it still needs a proper name. Sometimes you have to drive them for a few weeks though before it lets you know what it is
Thanks. It was a basically solid, well cared for example that just needed a little love to make it perfect again. It needed to be from someone who would take it on as a personal project because the cost of repair would exceed the value of the vehicle if it was taken to a competent professional mechanic. I was originally thinking of an S, but for what I had to spend they all had 2-3x as many miles on them and were really neglected. This one came along in the color I wanted, the wheels I wanted and the options I would have chosen if I was buying it new in 2005. It spoke to me and I had to have it! Everything but the clutch and passenger's door worked on the test drive and so I figured it was the car for me. As for a name, I don't know. The previous owners had one for it, but after I have done so much work I feel that it needs a new one to celebrate it's rebirth. All the previous owners paid other people to do the work, so I feel the car is much more mine than it ever was theirs. I feel you can't really bond with a vehicle until you have been through the pain and tribulations of doing your own major repairs. There is still more to come as I seek to return it to it's former beauty, with a few tasteful changes of my own.
 
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Old 06-09-2019, 11:57 AM
Blue R50
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Last night, I got bored around 9 pm and went to the gas station to check my tire pressures. They were all over the place, so I set them all to 30 PSI. After I took a drive, I got home and disassembled the part of the dash in the middle with the gauge in it, cleaned it and reassembled it. I also repaired the power mirror switch and polished some of the interior chrome. By the time I was done, it was 1 AM and time to go to bed.

This afternoon I went to the flea market looking for a 1 7/16 wrench for the oil filter and struck out. I wound up buying one from Northern Tool for $22 so I could do the oil change. I cleaned up the grease that had leaked past the new CV boot, and changed the oil with Mobil 1 high mileage synthetic in 5W-30 and used a MANN filter. The coolant level had no appreciable change today, so maybe I am just being paranoid about it. It stays just above or just below the Full line. I still need to install the inner fender liners and fully attach the front bumper cover, but I broke a few clips during disassembly and need to try to get new ones. Right now, the wires for the ABS and pad wear sensors are just zip tied to the subframe and I would like to put it back to the proper way it should be.
 
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Old 06-11-2019, 06:59 PM
Blue R50
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Well, we didn't have a lot to do at the shop I work at today, so I got off early and only worked 8 hours. When I got home of course I started working on the MINI! It was another day of baby steps and I tackled the issues with the passenger's side door. I got very lucky and found that the issues with the latch did not require any more parts than a zip tie! What had happened was that the Bowden cable from the inside door handle had come loose from the latch assembly where the sheath is clipped in. Sadly, this is just held in with a place molded into the plastic rather than a metal clip, so I had to be a little inventive. I took the cover off the latch assembly and drilled two holes at the base of where the cable attaches. I actually drilled 4 holes, with them being linked to make a wider slot without having to add height and further weaken it . I then threaded a zip tie through the hole and then through the lid and snapped the lid back on. After that, I installed the cable and cinched the zip ties as tight as I felt comfortable. It doesn't have to be super tight, just tight enough to not let the cable come out of it's seat. I tried it and it works! The issue with the outside handle turned out not to be an issue at all, but a feature of the car. You have to hit the unlock button twice to open the passenger's door. When I did that, it worked fine. I did have an issue with the pop up lock pin in the door panel though. It had come unclipped from the latch and got a little bent. I bent it back as best I could but it now is off by about 1/8 of an inch as compared to the driver's side. I am not happy about it, but I will live with it until I can find another one that is more perfect.

Next, I tackled the blown speaker. Now, this speaker was not blown when I got the car, only the driver's was. However, I tested a Pioneer in dash CD player out in the car and the built in amp absolutely destroyed that speaker! It blew the voice coil clear out of the magnet. Fortunately, I already had it's replacement. I bought a cheap set of JBL 6.5 component speakers just to have something to use. For less than $40 delivered to my door, and from a name brand, it was hard to beat. They may not be the forever speakers, but they'll do for now. Anyhow, I only used the woofers as I felt the tweeters were crap and the originals sounded better. I wound up using my set of Metra 1 inch spacers, even though they barely didn't fit. I came up with a crude but effective solution. I had a scrap of 1/4 in plywood and so I cut the proper size hole in it and mounted the speaker on top of it which then attached to the Metra adapters. It looks awful because I made them quickly as a way to break in my new rotary tool (like a Roto Zip, but Ryobi). It isn't pretty, but it's invisible behind the speaker grilles.

This leaves me with very few functional issues with the car. I still have to fix the driver's seat bottom tilt feature that doesn't work as well as reseal the trunk handle and steering column hole. The fender well liners also still need installation as does the console. The only thing really annoying to me though is the lack of volume control with the volume **** on the radio. The steering wheel controls work fine, but that **** is a source of irritation! Oh, and the squeaky door armrests annoy me, probably because the rest of the car is completely squeak and rattle free! (aside from that damn noisy transmission gear...)
 

Last edited by Blue R50; 06-11-2019 at 07:07 PM.
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Old 06-12-2019, 05:29 AM
Tigger2011
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The double tap to unlock is a safety feature. It prevents unlocking the other side automatically if someone is hiding on the other side of the car. That "Feature" annoyed me as well and was the first code change I made. Its actually quite easy to code one touch unlock. There's a ton of other things that can be coded with nothing other than a $20 cable and free software. Take a stroll thru the electrical modifications sections and look for coding in the stickies.
 
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Old 06-12-2019, 08:41 AM
Blue R50
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Originally Posted by Tigger2011 View Post
The double tap to unlock is a safety feature. It prevents unlocking the other side automatically if someone is hiding on the other side of the car. That "Feature" annoyed me as well and was the first code change I made. Its actually quite easy to code one touch unlock. There's a ton of other things that can be coded with nothing other than a $20 cable and free software. Take a stroll thru the electrical modifications sections and look for coding in the stickies.
I have read a few of the posts but am unsure about what cable to buy. I really want to code it for auto up on the windows and auto close everything from the key. I will keep the double tap unlock on the passenger side door though as I like the safety of it. I was just unaware of it until yesterday and thought it was more broken than it actually was. My Toyota is set up to unlock everything from the key fob and that was what I was expecting.
 
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Old Yesterday, 02:19 PM
Blue R50
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I went on a junkyard trip today and found more goodies. I finally got another armrest console, and this time it is complete and has all but the actual armrest in good condition. It is silver though, so the other one I got, in anthracite, will come in handy since it better matches the interior. I also got another factory CD player and hope this one has a usable volume pot. If it does, I may just convert it to Bluetooth instead of buying a new one. The donor car had a good passenger's side vinyl armrest. I took it to match the vinyl one I put on the driver's side of my car since the leather was badly damaged on mine. I still want to find a proper leather one, but at least this way I have a set that looks good until I do. I am planning to get a cheap, Chinese replacement for the center armrest off eBay for around $15. I will then see if I can swap the upholstery from one of the two broken originals I have to the Chinese one so I can have everything match. An original is well over $100 so it is not something I can financially justify for a $1900 car. While I was in there, I also grabbed a passenger's side lock rod so that it sticks up the same amount as the driver's side. I think my total was $59 out the door, which seems a little steep but I guess that's the times we live in.
 
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