(insert funky 60’s/70’s movie score here)
It all started as a young lad. I saw The Italian Job, Gone in 60 seconds (yes the original one, how many times did I see that on the big screen?) Cannonball Run.. Steve McQueen, James Dean, all those car chase movies of the 70s.. must have had a dramatic effect on my budding little head 🙂
My first car was a 1961 Mercury Comet (aka “the batmobile” since it had these wild fins in the back), police edition. It was red, because an old fire cheif had it several owners before me, open the hood and see that american muscle engine, not much else. Comfortable seating for 12. The trunk had enough room to hold 2 spare tires and still have plenty of room for a bicycle. It even had an AM radio. I drove that poor car like it was stolen, what a blast! Living on the coast, it eventually rusted away and I couldn’t get parts for it at the time, so off it went to the smasher. They started making aftermarket parts for it 2 months later — lesson learned is to hold on to your classic cars! And if you do sell them, make sure they are going to someone who is going to take care of it.
Next, I got into Motorcycles. Had a 1977 Yamaha RD400 (“the rat bike”) then a 1992 Suzuki GS500E (“Shiva/Shakti”). Along the way I picked up a 1993 Saturn SL2 sedan (“Nellie”, it was aqua blue, uh, and I am Scotish, and “Nessie” was already taken, so that’s all I will say..)
(insert sound of vinyl record scratching here)
..ok, in the early days, Saturn was a new car company and everyone waved at each other or flashed their lights, it was a family thing. I don’t know what happened, I guess eventually GM swallowed the offshoot back up. People don’t wave like they used to. Maybe the new Saturn Sky owners do 😉
(continue funky music..)
During the 90’s/00’s boom time, one of my coworkers showed me the (classic) Mini. We both wanted one. We heard that BMW had bought the rights from Rover and were planning on importing them back into the US, woo hoo! I couldn’t wait though, I wanted one like right now. At the time, MiniGuy Michael Lewis (in Ventura, California) was one of the leading importers of classic Mini, so I talked back and forth with him, and he did his best to talk me out of getting one while at the same time telling me how fun they were to drive..
The dotcom bubble burst, I again found myself doing IT work on the side, jumping from job to job, in the back of my mind still wanting a Mini. I was working for a video game company, and my boss drove a BRG sportpack look-a-like that I totally loved. My girlfriend said I should wait until the BMW ones come out, because they will be safer, modern cars. Airbags, A/C, radios, lush interiors, that sort of thing. So I waited.. and finally MINIs hit the USA with a fervor not seen since, oh probably 1959 when Mini first came out 😉
I remember walking into the MINI dealership, looking at the massive hatchbacks, checking out the toggle switches and playing with the dual sun roof. I turned to the sales person and said, ‘wow, these new cars are pretty cool, but where are the Minis?’ “You’re sitting in one” she said. Guess they gained some weight coming to America! 😉
Sure, the new car had some problems, as most new cars do.. (remember the Saturn? I thought to myself..) but my desire for all things MINI took ahold of me and by June 2003 I had ordered “Mindi”, a beautiful big custom-built Indi Blue Cooper S! She has the factory sport package, clear lenses, xenons w/washers, auto dim mirror, rain sensing wipers, multi-function steering wheel, cassette, ipod, lapis blue leather, anthracite dash, white bonnet stripes and a white roof. She was born early August in Oxford, England, then went on a 21-day party cruise across the pond. I took delivery of her in September from MINI of Mountain View. Life hasn’t been the same since! “Mindi” and I have been through some great roads together, and have met a lot of friends along the way. I belonged to MOMVM, MOASF, NorCal MINIs, REME, MM, and MCM (UK). I found myself still wanting a classic though..
When the opportunity arose, I purchased “Guinness”, a black 1964 Austin Mini, in 2005. While the new MINI is relatively stock, let’s just say the classic is heavily modified. Gone are the sliding windows, small tail lights and external hinges. It has a Mk3 shell with internal hinges, and roll-down windows. The bigger tail-lights with reverse have been added, along with side markers and a radio antenna. At one point we tried adding an internal bonnet release (that didn’t really fit or workout so good). If it ever had hydrolastic, it’s long gone now. She has dry suspension with Hi-Lo’s, Gaz shocks, sway bar, bump stomps, adjustable camber. The original 889 has been replaced with a 1275 A+ engine, ported head, SU carb, HF44, Oil catch can, titanium rocker bolts, stainless LCB head, DTM exhaust, and all sorts of other goodies under the hood. I added modern convienences like a 12v socket and 4 speaker stereo, with 6×9’s in the back. If you think the radio is loud, just wait until I start her up. Earplugs, anyone? All that power needs good brakes, so she has Cooper S discs in the front with EBC green stuff pads, still has drums in the back though. The simple metal wheels have been upgraded to anthracite 10×4.5″ minator wheels with Yokohama A008’s all around. Many of the cheaper pot-metal and plastic bits have been replaced by new stainless steel (still a work in progress..)
Well, I enjoy talking about and driving both Minis so much that I thought I’d start a podcast (vodcast..) to share with others. You will see many of the REME regulars in these episodes, called ‘StarLord Mini Podcast’ — now, after 20 odd episodes, I created a new website and podcast (and vodcast..) with Rob ‘Califzeph’ (Alice ‘lwr’ tells the tale in another thread), Rich (owner of a 73 red Innocenti 1001, who currently resides in Washington DC area) , and a slew of other voluntary correspondent “Miniologists” 😉 This is starting to turn into a shameless plug so I will stop there 😉