THE MINI MAG. Volume 2 No.10
  October 2000

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You NEVER Forget Your First Mini!

It sat in the back of the Uscinski Workshop at Coorparoo, quite filthy, having just been traded in on one of the new Coopers hitting the market back in the summer of ’64.

It was a 1962 ‘850’, but to me it was the greatest “little” thing I had ever seen. My Dad didn’t think so, particularly as he had to go guarantor for the 450 quid he was about to sign his life away on for this 17 year old irresponsible teenager.

The days of instant finance and no deposits were light years away, but thankfully, a few days later, I drove a sparkling Platinum Blue ‘850’ out of the workshop to commence a love affair with the Mini that endures to this day. Dad has since passed on, but has been replaced by my wife, with the same “bad” attitude to a pristine Mk 2 red and white Cooper ‘S’ that takes over most of the garage at our place, as my Dad had to with my first car.

A sedate introduction to a laconic ‘850’ to hone my immature driving skills was anticipated in the first few weeks, but even I couldn’t help but notice the extraordinary power of this little car, and I thought I ( Dad ) was buying a learner’s vehicle to make me a responsible road citizen. This machine turned out to be one of Uscinski’s specials, and was “worked” to fill a void for special clients who couldn’t quite afford the new Coopers.

The engine capacity was increased to 1000 cc with a Cooper cam, Cooper extractors, 1 + SU’s and RC-40 exhaust completing the package – oh! and don’t forget the factory emblem of the Australian flag in metal being placed on the left hand side guard, denoting a special edition. A walnut dash with appropriate instrumentation and some impact padding along the parcel tray rims completed a very professional fitout from new. Of course it was a wolf in sheep’s clothing for that era, and I would have countless duels with Coopers along the Bilinga straight near the old Coolangatta Airport, with astonished looks from genuine Cooper guys trying to shake this “light blue thing”. The only thing that let the car down was the porridge stick shift and the abysmal brakes – but mere details in the scheme of things.

The surfboard craze was alive and well in the early ‘60s, and a good complement of 5 waxheads and surfboards was about all the little car could handle, but it was great when you had a flat battery or the fuel pump packed it in.

My girlfriend of the time, Sue Clarke, (being a Pommie), loved the car, as the appeal and interest in the Minis then was no different to today. Sue returned to England and became a successful Carnaby St model showcasing all the latest fashions of that tremendous era. No wonder we look back with affection on the 60’s, and the wonderful little car that made it all worthwhile.

The car got a British Racing Green repaint a few years later, but I kept the platinum turret. I traded it in, along with the AWA valve wireless for the new Fiat 124’s that hit the market in 1966. I know which one I should have kept.

Anonymous ( To protect me from “Dad”.)