Driving home in the MINI yesterday when it was 110 degrees, the guy ahead of me swerved at the last second and served up a chunk of cast iron pipe for me to drive into. It was a broken piece with an end-cap, perhaps eight size inches in diameter and six inches tall. My car is only 4.5 inches off the ground. Concrete center divider to my left, traffic to the right, I could only choose where to hit it, not if: Straddle it and risk puncturing the oil-pan; hit it with the wheel, cut a tire and bend a rim. I went for the most clearance -- between the wheel and the center-line of the car.
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Most of the impact was taken by the lower stress brace. The darn pipe turned up as it wedged under the car, pitched me about 20 degrees to the left (fortunately I was approaching an intersection by then with an empty turn lane on my left) lifting the right-side of the car off the ground with a big "Whump". D'oh. Not good. I pulled over expecting to see oil or brake fluid gushing from below. Everything looked good and the car still tracked straight so I headed home.
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Getting under it today I could survey the damage. The brace sacrificed itself and took most of the impact, but the sub-frame was dented as well. I know the sub-frame on these cars is pretty stout.
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So here's the question: Do I worry about the sub-frame damage if the car is otherwise still in alignment? Replace or just weld a reenforcing panel if otherwise straight? It looks like the sub-frame (Part #31106763721, "Front Axel Support") runs about $600 (and involves dis-assembly of the entire front end of the car). If I go down that route, anything I should upgrade at the time? I need a new clutch anyway and was already thinking about replacing the control arm bushings with powerflex bushings. Is it easier to replace the front swaybar if everything is out? In for a penny, in for a pound... Any other bushings which I should look at? Or can I just pull the crease and weld on a patch panel to add some strength and not worry too much about it?