Austin Mini Cooper 1967


Time for something more than a little bit different… think less modern supercar, more the Italian Job. The good news: I didn’t blow the bl**dy doors off. The bad news: Actually there wasn’t any. It took some getting used to, but a classic (49 year old) Mini Cooper was an absolute dream.

To set the scene, I’d been invited to a corporate day at Prescott Hill, and there was a certain expectation as to what I would turn up in. Being given the run of the Hill for the day along with the other guests, what to choose? I had a word with Gareth at Great Escape Cars (really helpful guy) and provided I didn’t go mad, he was happy to lend me something for the day.

Now their garage is an absolute dream for anyone who is into cars, and especially classics (which I am). But if I’d turned up in his beautiful E-Type Jaguar, the powerhouse Ford Mustang or the visceral AC Cobra, the expectations would have been sky-high. But if I turned up in a classic 50-year old Cooper, it would be so much fun. Plus, of the cars on offer, this was possibly one of the most suited to a hill climb course… possibly.

So… the car. It was a handful… and I mean it. In terms of mod-cons… well, none. We’re talking manual choke here… which some of my co-guests hadn’t even heard of. The steering was relatively poor, the suspension was… actually, considering the tiny wheels and proximity to the floor, very good. The power… well, not massive, but considering the very old brakes, that wasn’t a bad thing. Nor was the 50mph limit imposed by the hire company. Although it was quite hard to get to that limit for a lot of the day.

But… and this is a BIG but… it was so much fun – the engine sounded amazing – noisy but amazing, and considering there was no stereo, that was a plus, but the lack of modern comforts and technology just added to the amazing experience.

Yes, it got some amused looks when I parked at Prescott between a BMW i8 and a Mercedes AMG GT. And our neighbour texted us at 11pm saying we’d left one of my son’s toys on the drive. But at the same time… everyone wanted to have a ride up the hill. Including an amateur hill-climber who turned up in his custom built car.

But when all is said and done, would I buy a classic Mini?

Absolutely not. I cannot even begin to imagine the work involved in the upkeep, the struggle to find parts etc.

But at the same time, the experience of driving this part of British history? Priceless. I am already planning to hire something while we still have some semblance of nice weather and taking my wife out for a day in the Cotswolds.

I don’t think this Mini will be used in a remake of The Italian Job any time soon, but for sheer fun, you cant beat it. One word of warning… be prepared for modern brakes when you get back into your own car – you may end up head butting the steering wheel once or twice before getting used to the modern motor car once again.

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