I have the honor of being selected as caretaker for this beautiful little Mini. Nigel is a 63 Mini Minor that was restored with a 1390 A series S motor, front disks, and other little luxuries (like seat belts)
So often I get approached by people curious and smiling, most of the time it’s innocent, but many many times they express the desire to own a classic Mini. I usually smile, let them get in, propagate the experience and let them enjoy the moment, but in the back of my head I’m thinking “do you really?”
I love my classic, but I understand the sacrifices involved, it’s not a daily driver. If you expect to get in a classic and forget about it, the experience will not be pleasant. It will start out cool when the car runs, but later when it’s raining and the distributor gets wet, when you drive over that pot hole and the lower ball joint gets blasted, when you brake an engine mount and you lose ground and your electrics start behaving Lucasly, the shine wears off quickly.
Case in point Nigel, Nigel is beautiful, an excellent example of a massaged early Mini. I’ve salivated over owning a Mini with 10” wheels, wondered what it would be like to turn one into a race car. Then I took him for a ride.
Rattles…….lots of them. I expected rattles, really I did, and you would think you could just chalk them up to Nigel being a very old car and that’s just what to expect from an old car, and you can….. Here’s the rub. I want to ENJOY driving this old car, not just drive it, but ENJOY it, and the only way I can enjoy it is if I can listen to it, and feel it. We owners of classic cars understand that at any given point that rattle could mean the steering plastic is loose (which is one of them) or it could mean the lower control arm nut is loose. They have VERY different consequences, the former is an annoyance, the latter is a “holy shit” as the car carooms off a guard rail and into a semi truck. So we understand driving a classic is a constant vigil, always listening, always refining, taking care of the annoying rattles so I can hear the critical ones, feeling the steering wheel and wondering if that wander is just the road, or is a lug nut loose? Testing the brakes, is that squeak a worn pad or a bad bearing. We drive classics differently because we have to pay constant attention to what the car is telling us. It’s easy to get into a modern car and forget about driving, engineers have done a wonderful job of fine tuning materials and design to give us that luxury. Classics bring us back to the time when there was an effort in owning them. So thank you for appreciating my classic Mini Mr. passerby, yes I understand you want to own one, but is it the idea of owning one, or the reality of owning one that you’re committed to, because they have very different consequences, the former is a poster in your den, the latter can be “holy shit” this car ate my wallet, and my marriage, and I’m left listening to the Beatles (long and winding road) and driving around the lake with the windows down in the sunshine……….what the hell was that rattle?
Vintage grids this weekend with the SCCA. I keep dipping my toe into the vintage racing scene, it’s sort of like someone who can’t swim but wants to really badly, but the water is freezing cold. I met Charlie there who races a TR6, we talked a long time and he finally fessed up to owning more than 10 British cars. I’ve said it before, one is a condition, five is commitment, over 10 needs therapy. I overheard Charlie talking about adding a fin to his brake caliper….my ears perked up. WTF? It hit me the other day when I found a youtube video of someone who had made a limited slip differential out of lego. All those years people had called me anal retentive, or ADD, or hyper vigilant when I could have been called race driver, or mechanic. I must have watched that lego vid ten times. If I had access to that kind of lego when I was a kid I would have probably inflicted a different kind of evil on my sisters. Anyway, Charlie talked about this copper fin he added to his calipers to dissipate heat. As we talked more he said he had also had his rotors cryogenically treated for better wear and performance. I put myself on the outside of this conversation, copper fin, freezing rotors, the advantages of both procedures were very very small, teeny, ……ANAL. I realized then these were my people, these were my peeps, I wanted to be a part of the world where there might not be perfection, but our common levels of fecal retention could be enjoyed and later treated with certain levels of beer.
(copper fin seen below, just behind caliper)
Oh, and on the way back I visited the Hare and Hounds pub owned by Bill who was kind enough to talk with me about his British car obsession cask conditioned ales…..yummy. If you get to Poulsbo stop by the Hare and Hounds.