Why do people love this car? it’s not really fast, it’s not very reliable, it does handle like a go cart I’ll give it that, but at my most recent car shows amongst Auburns, Porsche’s, and vehicles worth many times over Lillibeth’s meager value….people flock to it. Really they do, I want to ask why, that will be one facet of this blog, why do people love this little car?
I want to find out why I love this little car too? why?
should be fun
Mini was robbed the year I was born, here’s the story.
1966: The ‘Stolen’ Monte
In 1966, Mini went for their hat trick, the four Cooper teams being acknowledged as the favourites in the race and receiving lots of public interest. From the start, the teams lived up to this commitment, Makinen, Aaltonen and Hopkirk left all the others far behind and finishing first, second and third at the end of the Rally.
But then came one of the most questionable decisions in the history of the Monte Carlo Rally. The race commissioners demanded an eight hour technical inspection after the event. As a result, the four additional headlights mounted on the radiator grille of the Mini Coopers were found to fail with French homologation rules. And proceeding from this highly debatable point, the jury disqualified the first three cars. With the Lotus Cortina finishing fourth, and being disqualified for the same reason, Citroen driver Toivonen moved up to the top of the podium as the winner.
I always knew there was a reason the mini called out to me. This Blog, is REVENGE….Agencort, the 1966 Monte Carlo, and now me…….(But I love the French too, don’t tell Lillibeth..)
I didn’t know this……….and I probably would have rather remained blissfully ignorant, but classic mini’s have names.
I would have been very content to have had just a mini cooper. It would have been fine to call it just mini. When I got it there was no preconception that it should ever have a name other than mini.
BUT! as I signed the title, and just about the last thing the previous owner said as I walked to the door was oh by the way……………
This alone should have warned me, no one says oh by the way at the end of a transaction unless something grave is about to follow, and it was……….
He explained how his ex girlfriend had named the car Lillibeth from story about the queen mum’s mispronunciation of Elizabeth.
I remember my jaw going slack…….Just as I was to embark on a journey of testicular proportion, I get slammed to earth with this……..LILLIBETH, PLEEEEEEase. Dear god no…….why why ruin my moment because of what your EX girlfriend named this beautiful machine now MY machine…..and like a boat, mountain or any thing grand enough to give a name I was stuck, I would love to take back that moment…….slap that man before he uttered another syllable, wrestle him to the ground and beg him not to speak but he just blurt it out. Maybe he was just trying to get back at me for buying HIS mini, I don’t blame him, the time and care placed in the restoration is apparent, but to castrate another man at that moment was brutal, and I still tear now thinking about it. My mini, my David, or Brutus, or even Bob………confined to Lillibeth forever, really really forever, if I attempt to change the name, If I ever speak to HER with any other monacher. She will banish me, such is the nature of a British car, possessed with a properness, a haughty pretentious value of meaningless tradition that is part of its charm, PART of the damn thing. If I try to change the name it will never run again, I might as well put water in the fuel tank, not call the hood a bonnet, stop listening to the Beatles when I’m driving her. I’m stuck, why do they have names?
I was a cub scout in the late 70’s in a suburb of Detroit. We sold programs as a fund raiser at a race track. A friend of my fathers raced a red mini cooper. It wasn’t the first time we had watched him race, previously we had helped him in the pits, or been his crew in one way or another. I had liked the car, but as a kid I really had no idea what an icon it was, and what kind of history it had….
Today he won in his class and I think maybe he came in 3rd overall? He asked my father and myself if we would like to take a victory lap. I remember my head noodling up and down, salivating at being able to ride in a real race car, I had no idea how that lap would damage my psyche for life.
I remember holding on to the roll bar squatting on the floorboards where the rear seats used to be, watching my father hold onto the checkered flag, casually at first, and eventually with all he had. Males of this species have a certain understanding, we enjoy experiencing terror together, call it adrenalin bonding, whatever, there is a wink, there is that immortal phrase “hey watch this” usually followed by medical bills, or testicular pain or whatever accompanies the act that allows the alpha male to scare the crap out of the other males present. What it comes down to is…..three males in a race car…victory lap….having to chose between a casual stately lap with dignity, or the alternative, which was driving the car in the manner with which got it there in the first place.
I had no seat-belts, I had no seat, allowing a child to ride in competition vehicle, on a sanctioned track is something that would probably be cause for disqualification, banishment, or impalement nowadays. I remember being over the rear wheels as we went into the first turn hanging on with all my 9 year old might. I remember the rear tires still radiating heat from the race, straining against pavement for traction and then finally giving way slightly, then more in a painful scream. The affront to my senses made me giddy, I kept thinking, wow that was fast, each corner faster, each shuddering entry more violent, a long straight, the victory flag my father was attempting to hold out the window went from a bass flap to a tenor buzz, and was pulled against the back door jamb. Another hard entry into another tight corner, this time so hard it felt as if my whole face was being pulled sideways. After that things slowed across the finish line, as I attempted to comprehend what had just happened to me it was apparent, after the heavy breathing, I was ruined.