Captain Misery's Miserable Mishaps

It's all a load of bollocks, quite frankly

It’s not a Mini adventure, it’s a gargantuan pile of horse manure

A proper Mini

Literally millions of years ago, the British Motor Corporation launched the Mini. It was launched as the Austin Seven Mini and the Morris Mini Minor. Later versions would be launched such as the badge engineered Riley Elf and Wolseley Hornet, which were Minis with a hideous grille and a shoebox blue-tacked to the rear. Later we would see Cooper versions. In the late sixties BMC became British Leyland and the Mini Clubman was launched to replace the existing Mini. It failed.

In the early 80’s, BL launched the Metro to replace the Mini. It failed as the Mini outlived it. Nothing, it seemed, could capture the magic of the original. However, whilst the Mini (and especially the old Clubman and 1275GT) remains a firm favourite car of mine, we must remember the fact that the Mini lived on well past its sell-by date. True, it was technically a brilliantly packaged car. Front wheel drive and a transverse mounted engine it was far ahead of its time. It handled like nothing else and took on corners with consummate ease.

However, it was cramped, cold, noisy, bumpy, rusty and unreliable. In a few words, a little bit rubbish. And yet I still love the Mini so. About five years ago I managed to borrow a mid-sixties Cooper S, and it was without a doubt about the best fun I’ve had with my clothes on. Certainly one of my favourite drives, it was across the North Cliffs Portreath to Hayle road in Cornwall. Its steering, suspension and sheer eagerness gelled and this thing came alive. Certainly my daily hack (a nearly new Punto Sporting) seemed desperately dull in comparison. I’d subsequently driven 80s Minis and I got out with the same Cheshire Cat grin I’d gotten with that Cooper. To an extent I got the same sensation when having a go in an MG Metro.

I urge you to take an old Mini out, if you can get the bloody thing started that is. Chances are, when you eventually do, something will then break, the headgasket will go and the clutch will implode. But once all of these things are fixed and you’ve reattached the rotten subframes that fell off in the night, you will think why hadn’t I done this before?

All this preamble is supposed to get to a point, though as is my want, have managed to avoid it like an Anthony Gerrard penalty. I love the old Mini to bits. I even love the much-maligned Clubman. Hell, I’m even quite liking the early Metros these days. All of their flaws I’m prepared to overlook for the grin on my face I get when I drive one. The new BMW Minis though?

I’d like to drop a Top Gear piano on those, as much as I would a Marina. I drove a Works Cooper, and couldn’t understand the fuss. Sure, it handles nicely. Sure it goes around corners nicely, but there are lots of other cars that do so better, the old Mini being one of them. Sure it’s popular, but then so is the Clap and I’m not suggesting that’s good. It’s not a packaging miracle, like the old one. My Punto is smaller on the outside and bigger on the inside. It’s more comfortable too. The switches in my 12 year old Fiat feel more substantial and less flimsy than in the new Mini.

There are a few similarities to the old Mini, namesake apart. Size isn’t one of them, they’re bloody huge. Being cramped inside, however, is. The one thing BMW have managed to engineer in to the new Mini is its propensity to rust like the old one. And to burst into flames. And to break. They’ve also managed to make the supercharger sound like the whine from the sump-mounted gearbox from the old Mini. So, if I want a car that is cramped, fun, whines like a banshee and is likely to rot or fail as I’m driving along, I’ll either have an old Mini or stick with my Italian stuff.

Look at the size of that fucking thing compared with the original. This is the Mini "Cuntryman"

Just don’t get me started on these Mini spin-off models, the Clubfoot and the Cuntryman (sic). Oh bollocks, I got myself started. Oh well. Why make the already big Mini bigger? And uglier? The Clubfoot is a new interpretation of the old Countryman Mini estate, which essentially was a Minivan with windows and seats. It’s dreadful. Then there’s the current Countryman which is the modern interpretation of a bucket of sick. It’s bigger than bloody Redruth and it looks so bad it could scare children and scar them mentally for life.

BMW have launched a “Coupe” version of the Mini, which basically looks like someone stole The Stig’s helmet, melted it in the oven and the remnants poured over the car to create the roof. Now they’ve launched a van version, called the, erm, Clubvan. I wonder if they can do a GPO special edition finished in grey?

I’m just wondering how low BMW will now stoop, as they’ve passed scraping the bottom of the barrel, gone through the tarmac and are located somewhere within the Earth’s core. It smacks to me as they are in a situation where they’ve run out of ideas. There’s only so far you can go with retro design, and BMW have gone above and beyond the realms. Perhaps they’re now thinking of a reboot of the Mini pickup? Perhaps a Mini MiniMetro that will look a bit like the old Metro but will be the size of an articulated lorry. Every week there seems to be a new model in the line-up, a new concept. What’s next, the Mini NCC1701? It has to stop!

But it’s not just the car that I’m pushed away from. The owners, or at least those I’ve met, all have this air of superiority about them. Arrogance and smugness. People who seriously need to get over themselves, and their Mini. Estate agent types.

So, this was the story of one of my favourite cars and one of my least favourite cars. For me, the old “proper” Mini will always be a legend. Whereas the new, cheap (actually fucking dear) knock-off Mini will always be a bit of a leg-end.

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.


March 9, 2012 - Posted by | Motoring, Rants | , , , , , , ,

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