Red phone boxes, tea and scones and the Sunday Roast are all things that are quintessentially British. But none are arguably more iconic than the MINI. Built as a basic motorcar for the masses, this spritely little road runner is one of Britain’s most famous and most notable engineering feats. I have always loved MINI’s, be it from the humble original Morris MINI right up to the almighty BMW made Cooper and the world has held it in high regard too. Paul McCartney of Beatles fame owned one. Supercar company founder, Enzo Ferrari had one. Steve McQueen possessed the tiny car too. Three of them hurtled and screeched through the streets of Turin loaded with gold in the 1960’s car chase epic, The Italian Job. Mr. Bean was noted for owning a lime green one with a black bonnet. It was the offspring for many variants that included race cars, rally cars, vans, estates, saloons and pick-up trucks. This highly influential little car has created a huge following and today, MINI still continue to make high quality runabouts that are adored by many.
Brayford Wharf in Lincoln hosts the annual MINI festival organised by the Trent Valley MINI Owners Club and Lincoln’s Business Improvement Group and I was lucky enough to get a chance to finally go. Every time I have seen it advertised, I have always been busy and not able to make it. This time however, I was adamant on getting over there to check it because it was long overdue. I was not disappointed.
Apparently more than two hundred different MINI’s ranging from the original right up to the brand new were on show along Brayford Wharf waterfront, just off the town centre in Lincoln. Lined up on the modern waterside, none of them looked out-of-place despite the majority of them coming from the swinging sixties. The sun was shining and the chrome gleamed and the paintwork sparkled.
Brayford Pool’s waterfront is fairly lengthy and MINI’s were stretched from the bridge at one end, to the bridge at the other. They came from all over the country with certain owners and enthusiast representing their respected clubs, showcasing their metal. We had the Lincs MINI Friends and Owners club, the Robin Hood MINI owners club, Bomber County MINI owners club and even the RAF’s own MINI club.
And because this was a free event, young and old alike could come and take in the sights as they pleased. The relaxed atmosphere of it all made it a pleasant event to witness. Take a long look under some of the hoods and revel in the finer details or simply dawdle through, the choice was yours to make.
The calibre of MINI is staggering to say the least and the event had a good number of them. Vehicles ranging from those that had been restored to their former glory right to the over-the-top customised hot rods, there was something for all manner of tastes. A lot of these motors clearly had hours of work and effort put into them and each and every one of them was different; none of them were identical with their full body kit conversions, extra foglights or simply chequered race flags, Union Jacks, and sports stripes. It was an amazing spectacle to see all these cars in one place at one time. 850’s, Coopers, Riley’s, Moke’s, Clubmans, Wosleley’s, Park Lane’s, a Marcos Mini, Metro’s – you name it – it was probably there. But not all of them had to be exuberant to be noticed. The MINI’s that had been well looked after were indeed just as eye-catching in their own right, slinked up next to ones that had chopped roofs or thick dragster tyres. Without sounding too poncy, there is something elegant about a MINI with smart aftermarket wheels, a white interior and a complete engine overhaul. It makes you think ‘wow. A car of this age can still hold its own to this day.’ It looks like a MINI in every detail but with some of the modern-day mod-cons splashed here and there; it verifies that this retro car can go on for what seems like, ever!
But of course, there was room for the purists complete with original fittings and fixtures from the engine to the interior were an impressive insight on how much people hold these cars to high acclaim. Keeping each one to a near-mint condition for any number of years is an arduous task in itself and to these owners, I doff my bowler hat. Owners and Lincoln’s own ‘Soper’ dealership showed off their newer MINI’s such as their John Cooper Works and Cooper Coupé powerhouses up to the not-so-mini Countryman to show that even though the MINI has moved into the 21st Century; the original cars are just as influential and the heritage (albeit covered in Germanic overtones) is still buried deep inside the heart of each of these cars. They send out a clear message; they are still just as fun and as vibrant as they used to be; something that I don’t see changing anytime soon.
I have always liked MINI’s and I don’t really know why. Perhaps it’s the fact that they’re small and cute yet have that quirky British charm. Or maybe it’s the fact that each one can be tailored to anyone’s personal preference because they were cheap, affordable cars and bits and pieces could be added and taken away when the mood seemed right. It could even be that they are just great little cars that are fondly remembered in the same league as great Aston Martin’s or great Lotus’ of the era. It could be that the MINI is ageless and that it will never grow ‘old’ per se. It will age but it won’t become old-fashioned. Or possibly (with the exception of maybe the Fiat 500 or the younger Volkswagen MK1 Golf) it’s that there hasn’t really been another car like it. Maybe it’s all the above, but what’s more, it proves that no matter how small or simple things can be, they can rub shoulders with the big boys and be just as incredible!
Post by Jimmi
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