Monday, January 10, 2011

"WHAT??" she screamed: the Mini Chronicles part 1

                     When I lived in London the original pint-sized 1960s Mini Cooper 
was the ultimate urban car.  

Paul McCartney had a Mini too. 
            You could park it anywhere and go through holes in the traffic that other cars could not see. 

             In real life, the Mini Cooper I had was pleasant, (a 1972 1275 S with all mod cons) but dull.  Nippy, but I have never been thrilled by nippy.  So I sold my real one to buy a replica of a full race Paddy Hokirk Mini.  The motor was shot so I had British Tuner, Oselli bore out the engine to the max 1375 cc, with all the other solid lifter polished and balanced Kent Cam stuff just like a real a full race rally engine. It would blow the doors off anything this side of a Ferarri but you weren't risking the national heritage by parking it in the street.

            So the little car (we called it Bogus) and I were happy for a while.  Except for the yowl of the straight cut gears in the transmission.  I was driving up to Silverstone with Pippa,l the beautiful  blonde PR exec from my publisher, Pan/Macmillan to sell some of my books at the British Grand Prix.  It was a hot July day and we were bounding along on a back road on full whack, following a big Lancia.

Lancia Fulvia (click to enlarge)
     "Look at them." I said. "They've got their windows rolled up, the air-conditioning on, the stereo is probably playing some wall to wall fabric softener.  They don't even know they're going fast."

    "What?" she screamed.

    The straight cut gears had to go.  After I had it's screaming teeth pulled it was a little sweetie around town.  It rode like a brick falling down stairs and spin it's wheels in almost any gear and it had soul and 130 hp at 7,000 rpm.  Which may not sound like much but it only weighed an ounce more than as your left shoe.

        On the downside ,the racing stripes, roll cage and no back seat, were a dead giveaway.  It looked like a case of arrested adolescent development and I couldn't get anybody to ride with me.  When I went to dinner with my friend Fay Maschler, (London's restaurant Diva in The Evening Standard,), she made me park it out of sight so nobody would know she knew the owner of the little monster.

         Still, I forgave it its foibles like ripping out it's super trick exhaust from time to time, and having to give its little black box a cuddle before it would start on a cold morning.  But they all have their little foibles don't they?      
        Anyway I waited too long to sell it. I needed wheels until I left for the land of fruits and nuts in a few days.   But I couldn't take it to California with me.  So I had, absolutely had to sell it.  And the first ad I put in Autosport for £6,500 brought in just  one reply who lost interest as soon as he found out it wasn’t a real Mini-Cooper.

          A little rise in anxiety here; I was moving to California in a week.  I already had more luggage than I could carry.  Besides, the California Highway Patrol would take it behind an abandoned cop house and ventilate the little car with their 357 Magnums for no crash tests, no pollution control and eating Porsches.  

         So I ran another ad in Auto Sport, dropping the price down to £4,500, showing a beauty pic and, yes, oh yes, the phone rang.  Nigel Fryatt the editor of CARS & CAR CONVERSIONS said they wanted to do a feature on it.  Put it on the cover of their new Quarterly magazine, MINI WORLD.  Buy it.  Oh JOY!!!!   (to be continued, with pain and violence)

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