My First Car: Mini
PHer Kevin Ritson bought a small car that was big trouble...
With a hasty loan arranged from my brother (whose job at AA insurance sorted the other thing I was lacking), I picked up the keys on a Friday evening, just over a week since being given my wings. My neighbour’s dad showed me round the car - explaining the oddities of Mini ownership, such as topping up the carburettor with oil and finding the battery in the boot – before we got in for a drive. Looking back it seems odd that two six-footers were able to get in and drive such a small car, but it wasn’t a problem then.
We went around the block before I got in for my first drive of my new car. The strangest thing about this was going from a new Toyota learner car to an ageing budget product of seventies Britain – no creature comforts, weather-beaten panels, rust and unreliability. Actually, to be fair it ran pretty well – but a worn choke mechanism and a dying alternator meant it could be reluctant to start on occasion. Once I took it round to a mate for some fettling and after filling the carb with Redex we smoked out the neighbourhood for half an hour.
But back to that first drive. I stalled the engine. Twice. Then kangaroo’d down the road before getting the hang of the worn pedals. Even so I stalled a couple more times and as my neighbour got out of the car the look of horror on his face as I announced I was off to show the car off to a few friends was clear. He needn’t have worried, though. Once I pulled away on my own and with no immediate pressure, I felt like I’d been driving for years. As it was getting late I put the headlights on and wondered why everyone was flashing me. Later I realised that I’d had the full beams on, another legacy of the odd layout of the car.
I had some good times with that Mini, low power but great handling taught me lots about driving and its age increased my mechanical knowledge. I did all the usual first car things, fitted a stereo, tidied up the rust and even brought the shine back to the roof with some T-Cut. I discovered the joys of crawling over old cars at breaker’s yards, plundering them for parts, the drawback with small cars being that they were always at the top of the pile. I suspect Health and Safety would have a thing or two to say about that these days.But it wasn’t all great – after a bill for new brake cylinders, a faulty slave cylinder and the need to replace the alternator, compounded by a steering rack with too much play, I was beginning to wonder if it was worth spending so much money on it.
In the end the decision was rather rudely made for me. Waking up one morning to find the car missing from its usual spot, I became another victim of the early nineties joy-riding epidemic. The car was never found, which is a shame as I’d hoped the scoundrels had found out about the steering rack the hard way. Bloody typical that it managed to start that night, though…
I'm a big fan of small cars in general, looking forward to the 500 Abarth! It s also an ambition to own an orginal Mini one day!
In equal measure, fond and frightening memories of thrashing that poor little van down narrow track roads, upsetting all those sports car owners who couldnt shake me off.
The Mini had an SU carb which works on a rising piston with a tapered needle on the bottom thus when it rose it would let more air and fuel through to the inlet manifold. The damping method used was an oil filled barrel and plunger which ensured the piston rose and fell smoothly minimising sudden changes in fuel/air mix.
It was crude but effective, the only downside was that the oil would work it's way out in time and would therefore need topping up
Period modifications included:
A Paddy Hopkirk 3 spoke steering wheel that wasn't tightened properly.
'Rostyle' wheels rescued from a scrapyard, shotblasted and then handpainted with black and silver Hammerite.
Removal of bumpers.
Within six months it failed its MOT due to a badly rusted rear subframe and I sold it for a knockdown £190. I was gutted, as my new set of wheels was the shared ownership of my mum's bronze Fiat Strada (which I promptly crashed into a field).
After I left home my mother went back to the mini fold - she somehow managed to obtain a Mini Mayfair - AUTOMATIC! (she has had a shoulder operation and finds manual cars awkward) I was sceptical, but OMG, it's so much fun. You think of old mini's as being like go-karts - well Auto's are a bit like that - give it some welly for the kick down to work and it's so good for cornering etc. Alas she couldn't afford to keep it (rust work etc) and had to sell as I couldn't afford it either at the time.
Spent ages stripping it fitting new panels and generally making it ready for the road only to have it broken by a drink/drug driver. (moron !!)
Got up to the usual hooligan games including cramming 8 people into it, getting 6 points for various indiscretions that I won't go into (got off lightly !!) and it was final written off the day a friend bought his own mini with a knackered engine so we transplanted the motor to his. The shell was left with a member of the family to go banger racing with.
Loads of fun !!!!
I'm 6'4" so getting in was easy getting out was hard after a while I tended to just fall out and then get on the hands and knees and when the feeling had come back into my legs stand up and walk away.
always let me down everything broke on it and I learnt that hitting bits of cars with hammers was the only way to get things off (much to my dads dismay). I especially hated that little hose between the water pump and the block that failed and those poxy bellow style hoses that were easy to fit but lasted five minutes.
The previous owner was a bit of a skinflint so I found out. The clutch used to shudder when it was hot, this was due to him cutting the clutch slave cylinder shaft and welding in a section to compensate for clutch wear. Took a new clutch and a lot of swearing and a old mechanic that new all the tricks to find out what the problem was.
Final straw when it broke down in the middle of nowhere and in a fit of anger I kicked the wing and my foot went through and I ended up on my back. Filler and news paper, something I thought I only saw on only fools and horses. The date on the paper was about 12 months before I bought the car. The only thing holding it together was the paint.
New wing was fitted and the rear subframe was plated for the next mot and then I sold it for the same amount of money I bought it for. I sold it to my bosses daughter and she seemed happy and her dad knew nothing about cars which made lying easier.
Next car was a Volvo 340 mmmm heated seats......
Had a 1983 Mini Mayfair as my first car (in 1995). Like everyone else who's driven a mini, I loved it and i would have another in a minute. Yes, it was rusty, unreliable, noisy and uncomfy but who cares? I never sat in the seat long enough to get fed up, what with all the bouncing around!
Price between £200 and £300. I am ashamed to say I can't remember for the life of me where I got the car from. While I was still at school a friend bought his brother's black 1275GT. As far as I was concerned this was the peak of motoring.