What makes the Mini so marvellous? You tell us!

| 26 Aug 2019
Classic & Sports Car – What makes the Mini so marvellous? You tell us!

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On this day, 60 years ago, the public got its first glimpse of the Mini, a car that’s gone on to charm the world, spawn a host of derivatives, star in films, become a fashion icon and so much more.

But its real success came by stealing the hearts of motorists the world over, becoming an integral part of people’s lives and creating lifelong memories.

So to mark Mini’s 60th birthday, we took to our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram channels to ask you, the brilliant Classic & Sports Car community, why you so love the Mini, and to share your memories with us.

Thank you to everyone who responded – we were inundated with replies! Read on for a snapshot of why the Mini is so special to so many of you.

Classic & Sports Car – What makes the Mini so marvellous? You tell us!
Chris Hak has fond memories of his Mini Cooper

Reader Chris Hak from Dorset tweeted us to tell us about the 998 Cooper he drove in his youth in Essex. He remembers: “A friend of mine couldn’t shake me off round the twisty bits in his Elan. The very next day, pulling into the car park at work, the clamp connecting the steering column to the pinion shaft rounded off, leaving me with no steering! A quick visit to a breakers and it was sorted at lunchtime – phew!”

But the simple mechanicals aren’t why Adrian Smith from Manchester will always have a soft spot for the Mini: “I dated a young lady and she got into my filing-cabinet grey 1966 Mini. Before I could say, ‘don't slam the door,’ she did and the window fell out onto her lap! Cue an embarrassing moment or two. Obviously this did not put her off as we eventually got married and 37 years later we still are.”

Maybe Minis and love stories go hand-in-hand, because the white 1966 Austin Mini with a red interior – ERS 634D – isn’t just the only brand-new car Bill Morrison has ever bought, but it also entered his life the same year he got married. “The car is long gone,” he says, “but my wife still putting up with me!"

Classic & Sports Car – What makes the Mini so marvellous? You tell us!
Daryl Gordon and his sister enjoyed their family’s Mini – especially if Dad was driving!

Family fun was another thread that ran through your replies. 

Daryl Gordon from Perth, Western Australia, remembers enjoying the ultimate game of ‘corners’ with his sister in the back of his dad’s Mini: “He would throw it into corners and we would slide violently into one another on the vinyl back seat, having the times of our lives.” He adds that they’d get their father into trouble with their mother asking him to do this: “Mum was never in the car when the fast corners took place!”

For Italian Paolo Roviera it was also his dad’s Mini – an Innocenti MkIII – that stirs great memories. “We went skiing with that small thing, nothing could stop us, snow, ice. It trumped so many ‘fancier’ cars, I loved it,” he tells us. “At the time, to me it was the most sporty, exotic car and I was so proud of it, but those (fake leather) seats were a nightmare in the summer – I’ve never found anything hotter and stickier!” He hopes one day to become an owner.

Bill Torrance messaged us on Facebook to say that on university holidays he’d help his aunt do ‘Meals on wheels’ deliveries in a Mini van: “I used to forget about the food as I screamed about town in it, which was fine, until one day we had a five-gallon container of soup in the back. You can guess the rest... I have no photos, but I can recall the smell!”

Classic & Sports Car – What makes the Mini so marvellous? You tell us!
Arturo Aletti recalls holidaying in his family’s Mini

There were more fun memories for Arturo Aletti, who shared stories of touring Spain when he was young in the late ’60s in a Mini Innocenti. “We had one of the first AirCamping tents mounted on the roof,” he says. “Those were good times.”

While Brian Baty, who now lives in Ohio, has an amusing recollection: “As a young boy, in England, in 1968, I remember watching my 6ft-tall Uncle Peter get out of his Mini!”

And a Mini played a seminal part in Ray Polley’s motoring life – he passed his driving test in a 1275 GT. “I also owned a Mini Clubman and transplanted a 1275 engine into it, and had two more 1000cc Minis, too.”

Classic & Sports Car – What makes the Mini so marvellous? You tell us!
Classic & Sports Car – What makes the Mini so marvellous? You tell us!
Classic & Sports Car – What makes the Mini so marvellous? You tell us!
Clockwise from top: memories from Meaghan Lucas; Katharina Chalupa’s grandfather; Ian Hunt loved racing his Mini

Minis in motorsport was, unsurprisingly, another theme among respondents. Katharina Chalupa from Vienna kept it short and sweet – her love of Minis is best illustrated by “a picture of my grandfather and his racing pocket rocket.” Perfect.

Ian Hunt from north Wales told us a Mini is “the most fun you could have with your clothes on!” – and shared a photo from when he was sand racing at Southport in Merseyside.

Meanwhile, Australian Meaghan Lucas is keeping it in the family: “the best memories are of club sprints with my dad in our twin GTs – the best days ever that can never be replicated.”

Classic & Sports Car – What makes the Mini so marvellous? You tell us!
Classic & Sports Car – What makes the Mini so marvellous? You tell us!
The Albon brothers’ European rally (left) and a class win for Minassian/Bayliss

Of course, Minis are also renowned for their rallying prowess, which two readers celebrated.

Stewart Albon from Guernsey replied to our Instagram Story to tell us about competing with his brother Steve on the 1999 Monte Carlo Challenge in a Mini Cooper 998 which he describes as the “best choice of car for us”. He adds: “it was exhilarating, tiring, exciting and great fun, meeting so many fabulous people and having such wonderful memories to share.” In more recent years, the pair have road-tripped to Monaco in his (BMW) Mini Cooper GP.

And it was another red Mini for Paul Minassian and friend John Bayliss when they won their class on the Classic Malts rally some years ago: “There was a pertinent comment from one of my mates, ‘How does this work? The sum of your collective arses is wider than the car!’”

Classic & Sports Car – What makes the Mini so marvellous? You tell us!
Alan Haydock’s Mini van

It also seems like many of you had Minis as your first cars.

That was the case for Dave Stevenson: “I bought it from a person at my first job in 1974/’75 for £25. I paid for it weekly as I was on £20 a week. Within days it was parked outside a friend’s house when the doorbell rang. There was a smart man standing there who said, ‘Whose is the Mini?’ That got me worried. But he wanted to buy the numberplate, BLC 203!”

It’s the same story for Alan Haydock, too: “RRN 972 was my first car. It was a rear-seat conversion, with no rear windows to avoid tax – great fun!”

A Mini was also Jean-Philippe Perret’s first car in 1986: “It was a 1977 Mini 1100 Special with only one previous owner. I paid 8000 Francs.”

And for another Frenchman, François Larini, his first car, a Mini, when he was 18, was the start of a lifelong affection: “I've still got one today at 44. I am on my fourth – well, the fifth if I take into account a rusty Mini van I tried to refurbish when I was 30; that was a total disaster! My Mini is a tuned 998 from 1987 with an Avonbar Racing cylinder head and Piper cam.”

Classic & Sports Car – What makes the Mini so marvellous? You tell us!
François Larini is now a serial Mini owner and serious enthusiast

A Mini wasn’t David Middleton’s first car, but it was what he describes as his “first ‘fast car’”, a 1967 1275 Cooper S. “I bought it in 1971 when I was 18. I had it fitted with a 731 road cam and a Weber carb and bored out to 1293cc – it handled like a go-kart! This is the only photo I have of it, taken when I was just 20, including the five horns on the front grille which played La Marseillaise.” Check it out below.

David Todd from South Australia was an early convert, too, buying his “little grey brick” just before his 20th birthday in 1972. “It was a factory-standard Morris Mini Deluxe with a low mileage, bought for the princely sum of A$800 (£447). I drove it at an insane pace for a year until the engine decided to die miserably. This photograph was taken during the Easter 1973 running-in trip of the brand-new 1098cc Australian Mini K engine,” he recalls. “It was so much fun to drive. I am quite confident in saying that of all of the vehicles I have had in the last 47 years, my Mini is the one I miss the most.”

Classic & Sports Car – What makes the Mini so marvellous? You tell us!
Classic & Sports Car – What makes the Mini so marvellous? You tell us!
The Minis of Davids Middleton (left) and Todd

We’ve another Mini-addict...

Reader Friedhelm Maur is on his third Mini and he loves it: “It's a Silverbullet, which was a limited-edition in Germany – only 400 were produced in 1995. Silver is my favourite Mini colour!”

And we couldn’t not include a Moke  – and for Australian Wayne Witcombe, wife Julie, Hayden (20) and Joel (18) it is and always has been a family affair. “My parents met in the Mini Car Club of NSW and I was brought up around Minis buying my first car, this Moke, when I was 14 to start competing in motorkhanas,” he tells us. “I then met my wife through the Mini Club and we have brought our boys up doing the same thing – we are a very competitive family! We also now have a business specialising in Minis, Mini Works Australia.” 

Classic & Sports Car – What makes the Mini so marvellous? You tell us!
Classic & Sports Car – What makes the Mini so marvellous? You tell us!
This is Friedhelm Maur’s special-edition Mini (left) and the Witcombe Moke

And, finally, Inverness resident Duncan Finlayson proves that you don’t have to have owned a Mini to be a fan.

“I’ve never owned one,” he admits, “but our neighbour had a Tartan Red pre-’64 Austin model that Dad used to sometimes borrow. I was fascinated by the floor-mounted started button, but was left in confusion when he used the button on the floor on other vehicles to operate the windscreen washers!”


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