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Tuesday 6th May 2008

My First Car: Mini

PHer Kevin Ritson bought a small car that was big trouble...



My first car came and went by pure chance. I took my time passing my driving test, when I did I was the only person in my house to hold a licence and had been in my first (poorly paid) job for 3 months, so I knew I was unlikely to be on the road for a while.  Then my neighbour announced that she was about to upgrade her car, which meant I had first refusal on a Red 1977 Mini, taxed and MOT’d for £300.

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…

Oli S
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chunkymonkey71

Original Poster:

11,444 posts

83 months

[news] 
Tuesday 6th May 2008 quote quote all
Nice one! I forgot about the character building exercise that was crawling about Scrap Yards...!

MatteoB

88 posts

77 months

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Tuesday 6th May 2008 quote quote all
LOL a lot of this rings true with my first car too. A little 1990 FIAT Uno 45. Not much in the way of power but the little engine would scream all day at maximum revs and took all kinds of abuse.Caused me all kinds of grief with the clutch and box going and the coil making the thing run rough. It also leaked like a sieve but if I found "a little old lady"version today I'd probably buy it! It also had a manual choke which in 1996 was pretty quaint. It smelt like a car as well, you know the petrol and the oil smell after a run.I don't find that today.I think modern cars are so sanitised.

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!

Bobdenero

182 posts

80 months

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Tuesday 6th May 2008 quote quote all
You are right about low powered cars giving an insight into the benefits of maintaining momentum. My first taste of a proper company car, i.e. one which is bought serviced and maintained by someone else! was in fact a Mini 850 van.
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.

Pip1968

439 posts

89 months

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Tuesday 6th May 2008 quote quote all
I too had a sand/orange/yellow Mini as a first car and loved it. What with me, my girlfriend and my young son in the back, it was quite a squeeze especially as we had to squeeze a folding pushchair in (wedged behind the passenger seat - just). The only real downside was going any long distances on the motorway. We once went around the M25 with my best mate in the car too (6ft 4") who had the audacity to point out that it was illegal to go slower than 30mph on the motorway - we were going up the massive hill by junction 8/9 Reigate!!

Pip

Oddball RS

1,414 posts

103 months

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Tuesday 6th May 2008 quote quote all
"Later I realised that I’d had the full beams on, another legacy of the odd layout of the car."

Dont get it whats odd about pushing a stalk forward for main beam and pulling it back for a flash?
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gmackay2

81 posts

80 months

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Wednesday 7th May 2008 quote quote all
why do you have to put oil in the carb?? Cos i had an old volvo 360 gls as a first car and i had to do that as well! The only thing i noticed that the car ran smoother when i did top it up and that the mpg seemed to improve a bit as well?? A mate of mine had 1.0l mini mayfair bought for him by his parents for his 17th (little did they know the previous owner was a mini fanatic and it was tuned up with uprated suspension!!) it was sooooooooooooooooo much fun! He crashed it 3 times if i remember and each time it was rebuilt and back on the road. We managed to get over 70 in 2nd gear and get the speedo all the way round to the P at the bottom where it said mph. No one else at school had a car that would keep up with that silver mini (A508KCK) Would still love an old mini cooper!driving

cliffie

170 posts

103 months

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Wednesday 7th May 2008 quote quote all
The oil went in the top of the dash pot of the carb.

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

Jderh

6,213 posts

92 months

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Wednesday 7th May 2008 quote quote all
Good story- I've always wanted a classic mini.

gmk666

1,662 posts

110 months

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Wednesday 7th May 2008 quote quote all
Brings back memories. My first car was also a red Mini, an 1976 850 bought for for £300 from some bloke my dad knew.

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.
Non-functioning brakes.

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).

jamiebae

4,421 posts

96 months

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Thursday 8th May 2008 quote quote all
My first car was a '77 1275 GT in gold with a brown webasto roof. It was completely rotten so got re-shelled into a '79 1000 auto shell and resprayed blue. It was fantastic fun and taught me a lot about working on cars. Unfortunately someone went into the side of it which wrote it off and I replaced it with an '87 Nova 1.2 frown

bint

4,500 posts

109 months

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Thursday 8th May 2008 quote quote all
Growing up my parents had a succession of minis - I loved them, but didn't love being stuck in the back. Alas by the time I passed my test they had 'upgraded' to a slightly larger model of a Metro.... Ended up being my first car, and I totally agree with everyone in how it teaches you alot about cars and makes me more thankful of the more modern ones I've had since.

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.

sniff petrol

13,043 posts

97 months

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Thursday 8th May 2008 quote quote all
£300 was a lot of money for a first car back in the 80's wasn't it?

Sivraj

256 posts

76 months

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Thursday 8th May 2008 quote quote all
My first car was an 'S' plate mini with the clubman front end and the 1100 motor.
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 !!!!

gmk666

1,662 posts

110 months

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Thursday 8th May 2008 quote quote all
Sivraj said:
including cramming 8 people into it
Did your 7 mates then move violently from side to side, forcing the car to do likewise? Mine did.

biggrinbiggrinbiggrinbiggrinbiggrinbiggrinbiggrinbiggrin

r1ot

733 posts

93 months

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Thursday 8th May 2008 quote quote all
my first car was one of BL finest minis. Turd brown mini reg HDF344V (funny you can always remember your first number plate)

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......

cg360

558 posts

122 months

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Thursday 8th May 2008 quote quote all
gmackay2 said:
We managed to get over 70 in 2nd gear and get the speedo all the way round to the P at the bottom where it said mph.
Are you sure? lol

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!

gmackay2

81 posts

80 months

[news] 
Friday 9th May 2008 quote quote all
yeah cos it wasnt a standard mayfair 1.0l it was a tuned up one, plus the uprated suspension meant it could carry so much speed through corners. Also the clutch was either on or off, nothing in between, hill starts with four guys it was fun!!biggrin

Crazy Don

52 posts

94 months

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Friday 9th May 2008 quote quote all
Enjoying reading more stories of cars made of anything rather than steel like my Anglia in my story. A good friend of mine took his Morris 1100 for MOT to be told the only thing keeping the back connected to the front was the exhaust pipe and the seat belts. Those were the days!!!

PATTERNPART

471 posts

86 months

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Friday 9th May 2008 quote quote all
My first car was a sludge green Mini 1000 with a black roof and mystery brand alloy wheels. It was great. I made some accurate patches for the holes in the footwells and my dad gas welded them in. Lovely job using wet rags to stop the interior catching fire. I then lost control of it in a country lane at night and went through a hedge onto a cricket pitch. I walked home to the farm where I lived and a tractor driver took me back to the scene to recover the wreckage. Initially we couldn't find the car as the hedge had sprung back up! The next day inspection revealed that the only real casualties were the already rusty sills and rear valance. More dad welding! Found some scrap steel sheet to go behind the rear valance. It was armour plate thick (sort of) so the car was better than ever although looked worse due to welded patches here and there. This was around 1986 I think. I sold the car to a local lad known as Monkey. Two weeks later the police knocked on my door wondering why "my" Mini was wrapped round a lamp post in town. Naughty Monkey.
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.

HeavyRightFoot

239 posts

82 months

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Saturday 10th May 2008 quote quote all
Sounds strange, I know, but I really miss climbing over cars in breakers yards trying desperately to find that one obscure bit you needed and then skinning your knuckles trying to prize the bloody thing out!!

Ahh those were the days!!!!

driving

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