Day 1 concourse day where we park and talk and visit vendors. Don at Mini Mania said mini owners were frugal and he was right I’ve not purchased the items I so desire. Kad hubs would be nice. Show price on fallen tires is amazing I may get a set cause I know they won’t get any cheaper.
99 bucks ea not bad…
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.
Kids are gone, no need for the ol wagon any more, what’s a middle aged man to do to kindle those happy childish monkey bar swinging smiles again. Get another Mini of course. After months of searching, destiny again came a calling and I found my track ready 2008 Cooper S. So I’m cool with the new Mini dudes, and the old Mini dudes. Yes it brings smiles, but lemme tell you another story.
My classic Mini was in mothballs for the winter, and this winter sucked, it rained forever, and to date it is still below freezing at night. (I vote for global warming please bring on the carbons) Sunday it was brilliant and I noticed a TR 4 poking around, so It was time to strip the cover off the classic and bomb around town. After my 5 month classic driving hiatus, it was a rebirth of sorts and I was able to experience my old Mini anew. Given the updated suspension, and supremely quick Cooper S now in my garage, and the fact that I had been driving the new Mini around for months made this a very unfair comparison. Old Mini wins…………
Just getting into the classic is a different experience entirely, real leather, real wood, the Alpine radio that controls my iphone was a snap to install, and was waiting there for me, and as stiff as the old suspension is the classic seems to ride a bit better than the new. It also smelled like a British car, I could almost taste the fish and chips. Everything about the classic I enjoyed enough to overlook the minor rattles or bits of road noise, In the new Mini I notice the imperfections, they seem really out of place. New Mini feels like most other cars on the inside, plastic and a bit blingy. I drove a lot of new Mini’s these last 6 months, looking for a car with the old Mini feel. Post 2006 Minis are much closer to the old, weight loss in the front end with the Peugeot motor is felt everywhere. Performance gains after 2006 yes, interior losses after 2007 Yes. New Mini’s after 2007 felt cheaper rattled more and lost some authenticity.
For example, I found out the new Mini has a sound generator, like something that makes motor noise that’s not the motor. This is a little like clipping that playing card to my bike frame so it makes motorcycle noises, fun but useless. Luckily the Alta intake in my Mini deletes the sound generator and a cat back Alta exhaust makes real noise like the car should.
In my classic there is a left turn up an entry ramp to my bank that always lifts my left rear tire, lack of body flex makes them somewhat tippy on uneven terrain. Yesterday in the new Mini it sort of took me by surprise, I dove into the bank parking lot and there it was like a Terrier lifting it’s leg to pee. Rear tire up in the air and me all smiles…..
There it is, if I had to choose I would pick the classic for all its failings it feels like the legend it is, it’s more than the sum of its parts somehow. New Mini is damn good, fast, reliable and the best commuter car I have ever owned, I’m not afraid to drive it in the rain, and it gives me the giggles in the corners too, but in more of an oh SH!# kind of way, instead of a holy crap how can an old car do this kind of way.
New Mini has huge shoes to fill still…. it need some refinement, richer and tighter fitting interior materials, lose the sound generator, add a better exhaust make it easy for me to add an aftermarket radio, be authentic and let the legend sell itself. One last thing, In a pervious post I was a little worried about the Fiat 500 kicking Mini in the fun. My brother in law had a chance to drive the S hard, he’s Catholic and I don’t think he was praying at 5500 rpm’s when he kept saying “Jesus”
Mini is going to bury Fiat on the track, and keep the fun trophy too If we can just teach folks that there’s still some of that little car that changed the world just under the surface of the new one. I think all new Mini owners should have a lap in an old one, tires smoking hair on fire listening to Thunderclap Newman’s Something in the air. There would be more new Mini’s sold…..really.
I saw the new Fiat 500 this weekend, and coincidentally I ran into a couple at a show that had a classic fiat 600. The couple claimed old fiat owners and clubs are embracing the new Fiat like it’s the second coming. They said the club folks are buying the car in droves and are wrapping the new 500 in all the history and heritage they can. Contrast this approach with the new Mini. Distance…………….
That’s the kindest word I can come up with as far as Mini’s are concerned, and I don’t know why. there are plenty of classic Mini owners like myself that honor and respect the new Mini, many own both. Honestly though when talking with the classic Fiat owners I was really jealous. It seemed like from the top down Fiat was embracing the history of their little car, and supporting clubs and loyal Fiat fans. Love was oozing out of the classic Fiat owner like I wish it was oozing out of me for the new Mini.
It’s debatable, but I believe the Mini has a deeper racing heritage, and is a better design, what scares me is the fun factor. For years I’ve said the Mini gets more fun per mile than any other car on the road. Now I’m not so sure. This new Fiat is in Mini territory for fun, the Mini tickles me sometimes, deep into a turn where most cars get loose the Mini just keeps asking for more until you start to giggle. Mini’s new countryman may be very capable, but it’s not a tickely car. Stand the new 500 next to a Countryman and you’ll see two very different directions. Add in the Fiat love fest for their classic history, embracing their clubs and I actually heard the words “we’re all Fiat” I’ve never heard the words “we’re all Mini”
BMW did a dangerous thing distancing themselves from classic owners and clubs. We’re the folks that can communicate fun to new customers, we’re word of mouth forever. We’ll NEVER stop loving our Mini’s and can teach your new customers about Mini and give them something they won’t want to lose……….family.
It wouldn’t be hard to embrace us. Special parking for classics at dealerships (just one or two places for classics only) Use of facilities for club events, Classic/new owner days where we get to let new Mini customers sit in and get to know classics. Right of first refusal to buy new models, ask us if we would like first dibs on the new version, let us drive it and offer it to us first so we can share in the fun of new shiny things.
Send someone to a club event once a year and give us an update on what’s happening internationally.
Talk to us, let us in, let’s share the fun again, because if you don’t………….. Fiat is.
Rear set to negative one or one and a half, I ask “why not zero” he says “you want it more aggressive” I ask isn’t zero good enough? He says “I tried that It was better more aggressive”. About this time three years ago my eyes would have rolled back in my head and I would have either tried to change the conversation or go hide in a corner to finish my beer. It’s like that used romance novel that you pick up because it has a sexy cover with cleavage and maybe a little nipple except the title reads “Passions of Mini suspension geometry” it gets refiled on the book shelf and like me you probably do that one two look over your shoulder to make sure no one saw you.
My task at Group two this weekend was to track down someone who could help me align the Mini. My local alignment guru is fantastic. Don Grimsley at Strait Alignment and Brake works magic, after he’s done with a vehicle it glides on fairy dust. Unfortunately he doesn’t have clamps small enough for my wheels so I’m forced to look for another magician to align me. That’s where I should have understood, looking for another solution felt like cheating, but after bending my tie bars last summer I needed a solution, I needed to dip a toe into the dark world of suspension geometry, I needed an affair.
If aerodynamics are the angels wings, then wheel geometry is the other end of the angel. Asking someone about wheel geometry feels like asking them who they voted for, or if they look at internet porn. Reactions are mixed and everyone has a different opinion of what “ideal” is.
At the Mini meeting this weekend I was fortunate to track down Chris who eventually pulled me aside where we had the conversation, you know the one that felt vaguely like a crack deal. He says “what do you have that’s adjustable” me “I slotted my rear brackets” him “hmm you’ll need adjustable rear brackets, look for KAD” me “I have adjustable front lower control arms” him “are they the center adjustable or is there a side nut to adjust them on the car” me “they’re the side kind” him “you’ll want to install those, and then we’ll start by setting the rear to negative one and a half” me…………………. “you want to get a beer?”
It’s been a harsh winter in Mini Land. Haven’t had the Mini out in months now due to a foot of snow. I’m busy scheduling the summer, wondering if I have time to go to Mini Meet West, Van Duesen, and maybe Mini meet North. Schedule and tinker, that’s a Mini winter I guess.