Mini Memories

25 09 2009

Issigonis' Sketch of the MiniI’ve been lucky enough to experience a few different Minis in my life so far.  During my early formative years my cousin owned a veritable fleet of them, including a couple of stripped and ‘caged race-prepped cars.  The first time he ever took me out was in a white 1275GT, whose mechanicals bore little resemblance to those of the donor car.  I was too young to fully understand what had been done to the engine, suffice to say it blew my mind when he pinned it out of the first corner.

The first time I drove a Mini was my colleague’s BRG 1.3i Cooper, a mid-nineties example with a ‘stage 2’ tuning kit, and the most striking thing I remember was the steering wheel.  Canted back at quite an angle, my six-foot-plus frame meant my knees were getting in the way of my knuckles, and it seemed perfectly natural to almost pull the wheel towards me as I slung it with carefree abandon around familiar country lanes. The instant confidence the tiny four-square car gives you is inimitable, and with increased weight and complexity being intravenously hard-wired into virtually every new car on sale, it’s unlikely we’ll ever see another car with such basic immediacy and spirit.

BMW’s modern incarnate is a wonderfully accomplished bit of kit, but it’s a very measured approach to a very different set of parameters.  Maybe we need Gordon Murray’s T25 to remind us of how clever engineering doesn’t have to mean complex engineering.




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