Great Things Come in Small Packages
As the old saying goes, good things come in small packages. However, after my time with Andy’s Mini, I think the saying should be changed to ‘Great things come in small packages.’ The Mini has always been a car that has sparked my interest. I spent a lot of time around them as a child, even going as far to purchasing a Cooper shell with hopes of restoring one day. There is something about the Mini’s simple design and dinky stature that has people admiring them with a loving grin.
As most of you reading would know, the Mini changed the world’s view of what was possible from a small car. It was designed to be a cheap and affordable means of transport for the people of post-war Great Britain. Conceptualized on the back of a napkin in 1959 by Sir Alec Issigonis, he set to work creating what would become one of the most recognised motoring icons in modern automotive history. Little did he know the result would completely change the nature of the family car. It was the embodiment of Great Britain, with a plucky ‘can do’ attitude. Where there may be a lack of size, there is no lack of character.
Owner Andy recently purchased this particular baby blue, 1970 example built by Morris, sight unseen from South Australia, and whether it be the smiley grille or the white 10-inch saucers for wheels, the Mini has a presence about it that really draws your attention.
Getting into the tiny cabin requires a sequence of limber movements I haven't completed since year 9 gymnastics, but once squeezed in, the interior is simple, uncluttered and reflects the utilitarian values of old. The interior options are completely minimalistic. The driver's seat is basically a small bucket that has just enough cushioning to prevent your arse from kissing the cats eyes. There’s a small gauge cluster mounted in the centre and next to that is the headlight switch sitting directly above a pokey gear shifter… that's about it. But mind you, its all you need.
Starting the 1098cc engine gives you an immediate sense of the car’s character. Behind the firewall sits a 1¼ SU carburettor and with every tickle of the throttle you can hear the engine snort in air like an eight year old with the flu. The 1098cc isn't quite the full John Cooper Works 1275cc, it is more the humble man’s workhorse, but calling it that does not discredit any of its potential.
Driving through the city with its beautiful soundtrack echoing off Perth’s city structures, there is a constant smile on your face, which you can’t seem to shake off. Turning onto the freeway I prepared for a touch of “high speed” cornering, expecting a bit of resistance I turned in sharp, the immense amount of grip came as a shock and the Mini pulled in close hugging the Apex. The steering felt firm and tight but not heavy to the touch. Probably down to the fact the tyres are the same width as two twenty cent pieces stuck together.
The Mini offers a very unique drive that not many manufacturers can match or have been able to since its incarnation. It’s a disorienting feeling as if your travelling at warp speed only to glance at the tacho and find the Mini is giving it all she’s got, resulting in a hasty 65kmh.
Turning off the perils of the modern freeway, I decided to take the scenic route through the backstreets and riverside roads. I was completely content, the exhaust note, the smell of unburnt fuel, the little crackles as you give it a blip of throttle on a down shift. Driving this car almost put me in a state of driving induced euphoria. I can’t think of a time in a car that had me smiling/giggling to the same degree – aside from a 1927 Whippet – but that’s a story for another day.
To be honest, the thought of having to give the Mini back to Andy was something I wasn’t looking forward to. The original Mini is a car that I think everyone should experience. These few hours spent with the plucky blue has re-cemented my love for the brand. It's a car that makes you happy to drive, and often pass your destination just to hear the 1098cc rise through the revs again or downshift into a corner feeling like your on a Monte Carlo rally stage. Its minimalistic, uncomplicated and one of the purist drives you will ever have. As I said, great things come in small packages.