THE MINI MAG. Volume 2 No.11 / 12
  November / December 2000

Vol.2 Home Page | Index Page

Collectively Coopers.
With Stephen Dalton.

Foreign Correspondent.

Through the accessibility of technology this tale is already old news, as our editorial guru borrowed some press material from the web to put together last month’s "Mini News" story. Using old technology… no not quite a carrier pigeon… but the combined efforts of the British & Australian postal services we bring you another view.

One of the advantages of being a Mini enthusiast is that because the Mini is a global thing there are Mini enthusiasts everywhere and as such gives one a common theme when meeting fellow enthusiasts. With this in mind, I have been fortunate over the years to have met fellow Mini enthusiasts from much of Australia and several other countries to boot. This coming in rather handy when one visits the mother country to have somewhere to base one’s self.
This is where I introduce Roger Wall - aka "Rog the hat" - Mini enthusiast, part-time correspondent to MiniWorld magazine and just recently made Public Relations Officer for England’s Mini Cooper Register.

Armed with this and a slightly gung-ho style Roger will get himself and fellow enthusiasts just about anywhere. Trust me I’ve seen him do it. Oh yes and one of his Minis is the Radford / Wood & Pickett coachbuilt Mini Cooper S that featured in The Mini Mag’s July "Keeping the legend alive". So keeping this in mind it was hardly surprising that just a week or so after the Mini Classic - as it has become, completed its 41 year milestone of Longbridge production on October 4th a parcel arrived from "the hat". Well knowing I collect trivia, opening the parcel revealed several items of interest he had acquired for me in his recent sojourns around England. A couple of pieces from John Cooper Garages and a press pack. One very special press pack from the October 4th Longbridge Mini wind down. Likely to be highly sort by fellow Mini enthusiasts across the globe, whom seek out this literature. As if the number on the back cover is taken notice of it was published as a limited edition press pack of just 500 - as Roger wrote in his covering letter to me, "they were like gold dust". Also in the parcel was around 40 photos from the last day of Longbridge Mini production, the funeral procession the Mini enthusiasts put on around London’s Pall Mall and Trafalgar Square and BMW’s Club day in Oxford showing off the new MINI - now accentuated with upper case by BMW.

Roger’s fortunate in that he doesn’t let work get in the way of his Mini enthusiasm - being a self-employed painter & decorator - if he wants to play Mini just about anywhere around England or the globe for that matter, he does. At this stage I guess we are all envious. Anyway it was through Monty Watkins, editor of MiniWorld that he heard there was a bit of a shindig being put on by MG Rover Group to celebrate the final day’s production. So some smooth talking began to make sure he was there to soak up the occasion. But first let me let Roger describe his Mini week, that week.

Sunday October 1st - 41st birthday show at Gaydon (Heritage museum), a great show.

Monday, drive to Worthing to take my mother on holiday, so popped into John Cooper Garages at East Preston. Having a talk it seems that they may be having a refit in the garage and selling tuned BMW MINI Coopers, we will wait and see.

Tuesday, if you talk to the right people you find out about the last Mini off the line at Longbridge.

Wednesday, with Martin Garrad (fellow Mini enthusiast) as my cameraman, off we went to Longbridge and talked our way into the reception area where there were loads of TV and press crews.

We were given a press pack with our new Italian Job CD. Then we went onto the display area where there was a host of Minis - Monte cars, Mini 25, Paul Smith Mini, Time machine Mini and lots more. The Mini team of the 60s - Jack Daniels, John Sheppard, Tony Ball, Stuart Turner and of course Paddy Hopkirk were all there (John Cooper was not well enough to attend, we send him our best wishes). It’s now 10.30am and time to see the last Mini roll off the production line. There were at least 30 camera crews and at least as many photographers. To the tune of The Italian Job the last Mini comes down the line with Lulu helping it on its way. All in all a very good send off, it makes you proud to be British.

After all that it is a drive down to London to meet the Southern Mini Owners Club and join in their funeral procession down Pall Mall and then round Trafalgar Square. There was about 100 Minis and it was a wonderful send off, it ended with all the Minis in the square itself. What a day to remember.

Thursday, get my breath back.

Friday, it is BMW Club Day at Oxford for Club launch of the new MINI. BMW has asked Jack Daniels, Stuart Turner, Mike Cooper and Paddy Hopkirk out from the woodwork again, clubs from all over the UK including Ireland and Scotland, most of them friends that I have met over the years and it seems that everybody is a bit apprehensive about the event.

The introduction was by Trevor Houghton-Berry, General Manager for MINI, he was very apologetic about the policy protecting the MINI brand name. The strongly worded letters are just legal documents and so far no one has been taken to court (we will see if it stays that way!!!) They wish to take the softly, softly approach, lets hope they do. He complimented the old Mini and its heritage and said that the time had come to move on and with a flash the cover was pulled to reveal the new MINI. The photos do not do it justice, it looks fantastic. I cannot wait for mine to arrive, I ordered in 1997 when it was first mentioned and hopefully my name is on the list. It has been passed through 2 Rover dealers and is currently with BMW in Enfield. Why not get your order in now???

It looks a strong gutsy car, comfortable inside with lots of room for 4 people. The instruments will take some getting used to, but I think I can cope with that. Talking to Paddy, who drove one earlier in the week, he believes that it drives like a modern version of the old Mini and it is a worthy partner for it. I think all Mini enthusiasts would love to own one. "Rog the Hat"

Although Roger only briefly eludes to it, by the photos he sent me many of the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust’s Gaydon collection (the former Rover museum) of significant Minis were on hand at the Longbridge farewell - including 2 of the Monte Rally-winning Cooper S trio and Mini #1. What I find a pity from what I can work out went on though, is that a major and truly one off occasion was lost for all prosperity - when they didn’t have 621 AOK, aka Mini #1 sitting right there at the end of the Longbridge line awaiting as the last Mini came off. "First and Last" right there as production came to an end, it would have been an emotional "lump in the throat" moment and one would consider major publicity if photographers could have got this image. Admittedly 621 AOK was suppose to be nearby within the production complex with ‘one of the last’ Minis and a Rover 75 but its not quite the same. I guess it all comes down to logistics. Maybe someone will get the 2 Minis together for images in a magazine article, but its significance will not be the same as if it were taken on the fateful day of Wednesday October 4, 2000 sitting at the end of the line.

We must also consider what the late, great Sir Alec Issigonis, creator of the original Mini thought of it all and the fact that BMW have been trying to re-invent the wheel with their interpretation of his masterpiece. Probably a quiet chuckle with his wry sense of humour one could ponder - firstly due to the fact that ‘his’ Mini lasted 41 years of production and that someone would attempt to use the nostalgic memories of it to create a modern version. Somehow I doubt that a further 41 years will accrue before BMW’s version will be replaced by the retro, retro version.

So as you have just read Roger gets around a bit - even meeting a Mini Owners Club Queensland member on one of his travels, who gave him a copy of the June 00 edition of The Mini Mag. This in turn let Roger know I was back writing waffle about Minis. The fact is though as Mini enthusiasts it would have been fantastic to have been able to take part in both the main occasions mentioned by Roger. I think perhaps he should also be retained by BMW on a commission basis to continue promotion of MINI!!

And it is through enthusiasts like Roger and ourselves that the Mini - old or new will continue to be enjoyed for all its cheeky character.