The Mighty Mini

I come from a family that has had many Minis throughout its tree. My mother and father owned one, and my uncle owned two. As a family of four, we had no trouble going on family days out, even with its modest boot. I sometimes wonder why families now feel the need to buy people carriers or 4x4s when the faithful Mini never let us down.

Designed by Sir Alec Issigonis, the Mini is probably the most recognised car on the planet. Since it first rolled off BMC’s (British Motor Corporation) production line in 1959, the Mini is still going as strong now as it has over the past five decades. In fact, in 1999, the little car was voted the second most influential car of the 20th century, behind the Ford Model T.

The Mk I Morris Minor-Mini 1959

Under BMC, the mini was produced under two brands until 1967. The Morris version – well known for producing the Morris Minor – was known as the Mini, or the Mini-Minor. Austin sold their identical version as the Austin SE7EN, a reminder of their popular 7 sold during the 1920s and 1930s.

From 1967 to 1970, the overall look of the car virtually remained the same regarding aesthetics and design. On the Mark II, the front grille was redesigned, and a larger rear window fitted, plus various small cosmetic upgrades.

The Mk II Morris Mini Cooper

The Mk II Morris Mini Cooper

It was during this period the Mark II became a movie star and household name when it appeared in the film The Italian Job 1969. Famous for its long car chase, the movie saw three Minis driving down staircases, through storm drains, and into the back of a moving coach. Such a success, the film was remade in 2003 using the new Mini Cooper.

There were variants of the Mini, such as the Mini Van, the Mini Moke (a utility vehicle intended for the British Army), the Clubman (a squared boxy shape), and the Mini Countryman (an estate version with wooden inserts in the rear body), but it was the famous Cooper S that was the desirable model. My father’s best friend during his youth was lucky enough to own one, although not so lucky as he crashed it going too fast!

In 1961, John Cooper, the designer of Rally and F1 cars became involved with Mini when he saw potential in the little lightweight car. His design increased the engine size, which boosted the hp from 34bhp to 55bhp. Its race-tuned engine featured twin-carbs, a closer-ratio gearbox, and disc brakes on the front wheels.

1963 saw the birth of a more powerful Cooper, the S. This version had a slightly bigger engine and improved brakes. In 1964, the S was taken a step further in engine size (1275cc) and entered into the Monte Carlo Rally. The Mighty Cooper S claimed victories in 64, 65, and 67.

1963 Mini Cooper S

1963 Mini Cooper S

1965 Monte Carlo Winner, 1964 Cooper S

1965 Monte Carlo Winner, 1964 Cooper S

The Mini was so popular among celebrities it became a symbol of the ‘Swinging London’ scene during the 1960s. Even the Queen was seen driving one, making it a ‘classless’ car. During this period and the 70s, the mini also became a fashion statement, famous coachbuilders hired by such celebs as John Lennon, Britt Ekland and Elton John were chosen to upholster their Minis. Marc Bolan famously died as a passenger in a Mini 1275GT when it hit a tree.

John Lennon sitting in George Harrison’s custom painted Mini

John Lennon sitting in George Harrison’s custom painted Mini

From the mid 70s through to the late 80s, the Mini didn’t see much change in design. To a passerby, a Mini was a Mini, only a discerning eye able to notice the slight cosmetic changes.

Mk IV Austin Mini 1976 - 1983

Mk IV Austin Mini 1976 – 1983

Mk V Mini 1984 – 1989

Mk V Mini 1984 – 1989

The 90s, right through to the end of production under the Rover Group, the Mini continued to keep the same overall body shape. The Mk VI and VII, whilst looking similar to its predecessors, had their engine mounts moved forward to house a 1275cc power unit. An injection model was also introduced in 1991.

Mk VI Mini 1990 - 1985

Mk VI Mini 1990 – 1985

Mk VII 1996 – 2000 Mini Cooper

Mk VII 1996 – 2000 Mini Cooper

Rebirth

 In 2001, a new generation of Mini went on sale and was an immediate success. With the original design kept in mind, the new breed offered a more modern look.  The models available were the ONE, a standard 1.4L model, a Cooper, and a Cooper S 1.6L. These new generation Minis were powered by BMW technology, but the diesel versions used a Toyota-built engine.

Mini One 2002

Mini One 2002

In 2005 BMW invested £100M in the Mini Oxford plant, enabling a 20% rise in production. Keeping up with demand, in 2011 BMW invested a further £500M in the UK, extending their ranges.

Mini Cooper S Special Edition 2012

Mini Cooper S Special Edition 2012

A Cooper S John Cooper GP Works

A Cooper S John Cooper GP Works

This Mini is the newest interpretation of the Cooper S John Cooper.

This Cooper S JCW GP was seen just outside of the infamous Nürburgring circuit.

The original Cooper S JCW GP boasted just 215 horsepower, but shed an impressive amount of weight to stay quick. This new model is expected to bring around 220 hp to the track with significant weight reductions of its own.

This little car has more than lasted the test of time, and although it continues to thrive, you can still JUST about see the similarities between the first photograph and the last. Very impressive since over half a century has passed since Sir Alec Issigonis sat at his drawing board with an idea in his head and a pencil in his hand.

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Video

A Fish Out Of Water At The Nurburgring

I only needed to see the video preview picture to gasp and frantically click the link and wait an unbearable 30 seconds of advert before it would begin.

This video features David Coulthard teaming up with Chris Harris to race a classic Mercedes 220 Fintail around the Nurburgring.

The car is pretty standard apart from upgraded suspension, and with 140-bhp to shift its 1400KG mass, I was a little surprised to see Chris Harris’ disappointment when Coulthard said it was useless going up the hill – what the hell were they expecting?

I think it looks amazing, and with those black wheels it conveys a look of menace, something very street car. I’d love to cruise around town in one – I adore old school Mercs, having owned an E220, a 260E and a 190E.

Perhaps they should fix a light to the Fintail’s roof and use it as recovery car. If I crashed out, I’d like nothing better than to cruise back in such an old luxurious classic.

This glorious car also ticks all the boxs in the modern era for modification. Because of its classic looks and fintails, it works very well as a lowrider.

I can also see a beaten up example partly restored and turned into a rat. The old girl would also make a great sleeper. There is room for a big engine up front, and with a few modern tweaks, it could handle pretty well. After all, 1400KG is pretty light in comparison to the Mercedes sedans we see today. In fact, the latest E220 weighs 378KG more – that’s a lot. With coil over suspension and an engine/drivetrain capable of 230+ BHP, it would wipe the smile off many a face. To keep it all Merc, perhaps shoehorn the 190E Cosworth unit into it? Now that would be fun lining up against a boy racer at the lights 🙂

Wagons Are Cool

I’ve recently decided wagons are cool, and despite owning a WRX wagon, I’ve never really thought about them before. I have fond memories of lifting the rear door so my dogs could easily just hop in and have loads of room to fight whilst I tried to drive. The fact it was a WRX meant it didn’t even feel big; it effectively matches the saloon WRX in performance.

This all came about after I caught up with season 4 of Fast N’ Loud and watched an episode featuring a wagon made especially for NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt Jr. Although fairly rare now, Richard Rawlings found a decent 56 Chevy Nomad for Earnhardt Jr and let his bearded genius, Aaron Kaufman go to town it.

The colours were specifically chosen as a kind of homage to his sponsor Mountain Dew (energy drink). I think it looks fantastic, almost as good as their Sleeper wagon below.

Now this is undoubtedly cool. Gas Monkey Garage did an amazing job of keeping the car’s battle-scarred and weather-worn looks by treating the metal and simply clear-coating it. Stick on some wheels, slam it and insert a big engine and voilà!

Over in Europe, we have our own cool wagons (estates). Take this BMW 325i Touring above, for example. It’s a pretty sought after vehicle now, and back in the day was considered a different breed. Now you could fit a large family and the kitchen sink in the back of your car and still have plenty of performance at your disposal.

This concept obviously worked and other manufacturers caught on. Its success was down to practicality and the ability to maintain a “cool” status like the W124 above.

One of my favourite modern estates would have to be the Audi RS4. Around the turn of the century, this model gave the estate/performance concept a further kick in the pants with a 0-60 time of 4.8 seconds!

Not only that, but it’s a real looker too. If I should happen to have kids (God forbid) and the wife demands a spacious means of transport, it’s this beast above I’ll come home with – I’ll look like the practical husband out shopping for the family, and at the same time I’ll be happy in the knowledge I could out drag a Porsche.

Customise (But for the love of God) Don’t Change Her Character

Gargling Gas truly believes that cars have feelings… which means a car has a character just like you and I. With that said, how many poor and distraught cars do you see trundling around town where its owner has decided against its innate character and forced a styling that compromises the car’s true personality?

There are many characters within the automotive world, from cute to angry, sensible to sporty, and to badly customise a car to the point of trying to make it something it isn’t should be punishable by law.

Take this Rolls Royce Phantom below, for example. It fell into the hands of a celebrity sports person (NFL), therefore was in imminent danger of being meddled with in all the wrong ways from the start. The Lambo just about gets away with it, as it is a menacing, sleek and aggressive supercar.

And then there’s this two tone effort below, which I am too distressed to talk about.

A Rolls Royce is a regal and proud machine, its heritage brimming with words like quality, opulence, comfort, perfection etc… It is the best of the best made from the earth’s finest materials. A Rolls Royce was designed to go from A to B silently, on a magic carpet, accelerating smoothly as though cutting through a cloud of silk. Hours should be spent polishing her, not hours of praying birds don’t defecate on her and ruin the matte finish.

“Murdering Out” a Roller is like forcing the Queen into leather and white stilettos – it doesn’t work, although I’d like to see that.

Wow, I may have to take all that back now… never mind.

£250,000 Time Machine

You might be wondering why you could buy 10 DeLoreans for the price of the above – you’d be right to do so as you can buy a perfectly decent example for £25,000 – but don’t worry, there’s a perfectly good reason… actually there are quite a few reasons…

First off, this DMC-12 was put into creation by a former NASA electrical engineer, and contractee for Universal Studios in Florida. Many many hours of research concerning electrics, materials, aesthetics etc were put into the build.

To put it into perspective:  30 fuses and 22 relays control the car’s electronics that all feed the props just as seen in the Back To The Future movies. The time drive handle activates all of the cars props – unlike other replicas, the special effects actually come from the individual  props themselves. Even the time circuits are fully programmable, and all the other memorable props have been created with extreme accuracy including the Flux Capacitor, Status Indicator, Mr Fusion and the Plutonium Gauges. To create atmosphere at events, there is a fog machine under the bonnet, with pipes running underneath the car to the rear vents with two exhaust vent lights.

I think the most unique trick up this DeLorean’s sleeve is it’s 2015 hover illusion. When put into action, custom wheels make the car look like it is hovering.

dmc4
The DeLorean also features a 12 channel wireless remote control, allowing you to activate many of those memorable theme tunes and sound clips from the key characters of the movies. They link to 2 discreet external speakers hidden under the bonnet and the engine bay or the car, as well as an internal speaker so that you can drive along to your favourite Huey Lewis tracks and provide entertainment with many quotes.

It’s a superb build and I adore the effort, dedication and craftmanship put into this labour of love.

Growing up in the 80s, I thought this car was great, although it had nothing on the General Lee – The Good Ole Boys were (and still are) my heroes.

If I could travel back in time, I’d go back to the time when the DMC-12 was actually considered fast…