Sunday, July 31, 2011
Importing British Rust
That's what my colleague rather unkindly referred to my car buying habits as. And here we are again, barely 6 months after buying a Jaguar XJ-SC, yours truly is the proud owner of a 1999 Mini.
That's right, THE Mini. Not the (admittedly very nice, albeit the spoils of a treacherous asset-stripping operation) BMW imitation Mini, no sir - the real deal. It's an end-of-the-line standard Mini with the 1275cc block. It's an MPi engine, which means fuel injected, and internally it has all mod cons like driver air-bag and seatbelt pre-tensioners (as if that'll save you if you hit anything of any moment in a Mini!) a radio/cassette with actually quite decent factory speakers in the parcel shelf, alarm and engine immobiliser, a rather attractive walnut dash, "pepper pot" alloy wheels, even a rev counter!
I must confess, this was a bit of a gamble. I've never driven a Mini before, though I remember mates having them when I was at school. I even remember once being forced to sit in the back of one (thanks Pat) and surviving to tell the tale (just). Which meant it was quite cute when I took it round to Pat's house, whose wife also used to have a Mini, and now have photos of their little daughter leaping all over the inside of mine...
Anyway, I digress, never driven a Mini, knew little about them, just had a sense they'd be fun, soulful little cars and of some value for their cute looks and head-turning abilities alone. And this is a late one with about as big an engine as a Mini can have, so I figured it'll start first time in the morning, behave itself reasonably well on the motorway and be a genuinely viable second car.
So I bought the Mini. In Liverpool. (That's right, 1,000 miles from home.) And flew over to fetch it. And drove it back to the south of France. This was approximately my route.
I have rarely had so much fun. The Mini is a *fabulous* car. I am still grinning from ear to ear. It's noisy, it's bouncy, it leaks oil all over the driveway, but all is forgiven when you hear that exhaust note. Driving it through the Peak District National Park, in Derbyshire at dusk, was just amazing fun. This car is every bit as much fun as my Lotus used to be, and I sincerely mean that! That's right, the Mini has the soul of the Lotus Elan! Wonderful handling, glued to the road, gutsy 1275cc engine, just bags and bags of fun.
I'm so happy I've got this car. I've a feeling it will be a pain in the ass to maintain, but who cares?! I am loving driving it, and that's what really counts.
Another win for the old British car in my book - yeh, it might rust, but I can live with that.