THE MINI MAG. Volume 2 No.8
  August 2000

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You never forget your first Mini!

You have seen the bumper stickers. But since the Mini’s bumper is so narrow, they are usually in the rear window. It refers to that quintessential moment when you meet up with a car that, although you don’t know it yet, is going to change your life. Yeah, it is up there with the other important firsts that come along in a person’s life – first fish you caught, first “A” in maths, first date, first beer, first… Well, you get the idea. It is a moment that comes and goes with little fanfare, but isn’t it funny how many of the details you can recall when you think about it years later.

I have just rejoined the ranks of Mini owners? When other pressures of life and striving to succeed take over our brains, we become numb to the fact that we love cars. And we love one car in particular. When Alex Issigonis was scribbling those original design concepts on the cocktail napkin, how could he have possibly imagined the profound effect those sketches would have on an international culture. And to think that a car design would exist, virtually unchanged, for 40 years and still remain an economically viable entity. It puts it right up there with things like – well – peanut butter and Vegemite. But I was reacquainted with a love affair that started back in 1969, when I went to England and drove a Mini again. It is the first Mini we are talking about, though. There is always a beginning to every love story.

I was eighteen. My older brother and father had been building racing cars of all sorts in the garage ever since my brother dropped out of high school when he was sixteen. I learned how to drive in a bugeye Sprite that both my father and brother got their licenses in. Dad would throw a muffler on it, get it inspected, and we would drive around like nuts in the winter, without a top, freezing to the bone, but with smiles on our faces. Learning to drive “stick” was a rite of passage that I yearned for. After the dinner dishes were done, my Dad would look at me and say, “How about some driving lessons tonight?” I would have my coat, hat, and gloves on before the last words were out of his mouth. All the race cars that came out of our garage ended up competing in events up and down the East coast. During some of those events we went to, I saw my first Mini. I remember them tearing up the course, lifting up their rear wheels maneuvering through the tight turns, kind of like a dog taking a pee.

It was not long before I was on a search for my first car and, much to my surprise, a Mini popped up in the classified section. I went to look the car over during the day and it immediately became an emotional, irrational thing. There was no bargaining and no negotiations. I had to have the little maroon Mini 850, like now! So when my Dad came home from work, I immediately planned out his evening for him before he had a chance to sit down. I could tell he understood my attachment to the car when he told my Mom that \$800.00 was a fair price for a classic car like a Mini!

We went back to the owner’s house that night.I drove the Mini home with Dad following in his 1964 GTO. I sat down at the kitchen table with my mother, and Dad told her how maturely I had handled myself. My first Mini was with me for 5 years before the numbing process I mentioned earlier took hold. I ended up selling it to buy something more reliable, and that began the string of boring, ugly, nondescript cars that I have owned. That string was broken in March.

Instead of a Ford in my driveway, there is a 1969 Mini 1000 tucked neatly in the garage. It only comes out on nice, dry days and when it rolls out, so do the smiles. I smile, the kids in town smile, and I am sure my Dad is smiling down on me from his heavenly perch too. I am proud to be adding to the Mini memories that started back in June of 1969. I will never forget the first one, and I love my second Mini just as much.

Sound like anyone you know?