My First Car: Mini

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…

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  • littlebasher 10 Sep 2011

    Oh how things have changed!

    First Mini i bought in 1990 (78 Clubman) cost me £40

    Second in 1991 (another 78 Clubman) cost me £70

    Mini estate also 1991 - £25

    To see the price that some right rusty shyte goes for these days is mind boggling

  • quattrophenia 10 Sep 2011

    Yep, been in this club too! 1980 beige mini 1.0 bought in 1992 for £500 with 45k on that nice round clock.
    Loved the little thing to bits and was truely gutted when it needed £600 worth of work to pass it's MOT in 1994. A mate offered me £100 to take it off my hands so I accepted, boy I wish I still had it under wraps tucked away in some barn, I would love to get my hands dirty and see 'MFA 201V' running again.
    The feeling when she rumbled in to life on a cold winters morning and thus saving me having to walk to college was a satisfaction you just dont get with todays ultra reliable turn key cars. I should have called her Christine!
    Did manage to get 5 x 6 foot blokes in her + cricket bags!

  • davenorman555 30 Mar 2010

    had 2 Minis as my first 2 cars - fond memories indeed! The 1st was a standard 1000cc in Beige/Sand colour, the 2nd was yellow with white weller wheels! This one started off as a standard 1000cc which I then swapped the engine for an Austin 1300 1275cc motor but keeping the 1000cc gearbox - took some grinding out to clear the crankshaft & had to be specialist welded when I got it wrong & went through the side! From memory it had a single 1 3/4 SU Carb with pancake filter & a Janspeed exhaust - sounded great! Acceleration was great but by about 60mph it was hopeless - you could pull away in 3rd gear because of the gearing! Sold it to a young lad who blew the engine before writing the car off by hitting a Cortina head on! Like most of you I would love an original Cooper, just about to start hillclimbing/sprinting & would love to find a suitable mini to use but they seem to fetch top money now...

  • phat_phil1987 25 Nov 2008

    I think mini's are the best first cars. Cheap and fun to drive. I had a 1992 Rover Mini City as my first car bought for £400 in 2004. It was silver, had a huge hole from rust in the drivers front wing and another above the windscreen. I did al sorts of crazy stuff in that car (including an italian job style drive down the pavement to beat traffic biggrin). Unfortantly she got to a point where she was so rusted tht it didn't make finaciacl sense to fix her. My biggest regret was selling her so if anyone knows of her where abouts i'd love to know where she is. Reg No. J758 LKK

  • chrisls 19 Nov 2008

    My first car is a mini.

    1982 X plate mini city. I've put on front disc brakes, new wheels, yoko tyres, new engine and gearbox, loads and loads of welding, resprayed it twice, fitted a custom loom with a DIY computer controlled ignition system.

    It's not got a great deal of power,(55 at the crank!) but it's a brilliant laugh to drive and everyone at uni things it's great. Actually everyone anywhere thinks it's great! I do.

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