DBA Mini Remastered: Driven

Yes, it's a hundred grand Mini. Let's get the guffawing out of the way. Ninety-nine thousand of your British pounds, plus delivery. For a classic Mini, with original gearbox and engine. Oh, except the engine of the Monte Carlo edition, limited to 25 examples, which we drove, is bored out for an extra 16hp. So there is that, I guess.

Course it's still good at scooting around the city
Course it's still good at scooting around the city
But let's get serious, because quite a lot of rich people are going to buy this car, whether you and I approve or not. So what's it all about?

Well, firstly, it's about the growing trend for bespoke car commissions, allied to the increasing taste for continuation or replica models of iconic classics - see Jaguar XKSS, Aston DB4 GT or Lister Knobbly for examples.

David Brown Automotive has been building the Speedback GT for the past three years, a car based on a Jaguar XK and trying to look like an Aston DB5; it puts the price of the Mini in the shade at £600,000. But 11 people have bought one so far, the model is on its second iteration and the company has just moved to sparkly new premises at Silverstone where the second model, the Mini Remastered, will be built.

Using original donor Mini shells and original engine blocks, but new components in places, DBA has set about its coach-building operation. The bodies have been de-seamed, which doesn't sound like a huge design change but introduces a softer, more playful, more crafted silhouette. The workmen have done away with the massive panel gaps of old.

We'll call 95hp and 750kg 'peppy'
We'll call 95hp and 750kg 'peppy'
At the rear there are triple tail lights in a chrome surround, while at the front the large headlamps are LEDs. The Monte Carlo specification gets triple rally lights mounted on the bumper, as well as twin exhausts, carbon fibre wheel arches and disc brakes front and rear instead of the standard drums at the rear.

The racing wing mirrors have puddle lamps for swish night-time illumination and the Monte Carlo edition is painted in 'Rascasse Red' with a white roof, white painted door square and matching white fuel tank in the boot. There's also a Cafe Racer version, also limited to 25 examples from launch, and the 'standard' Mini, although seeing as the point of a coachbuilder is to offer customers pretty much whatever they want, 'standard' is anything but.

Inside, it is indeed a thing of joy. The comfy seats are encased in perforated black and red British-sourced leather front and rear, and there are footwell carpets with the logo embroidered. As with so many luxury models these days, the switchgear such as the electric window toggles and indicator stalk are covered in knurled aluminium.

Well this is a rather different Mini!
Well this is a rather different Mini!
Unlike any classic Mini I've come across though, there's an eight-inch Pioneer touchscreen in the dashboard with sat-nav, DAB radio and media functions, which looks a treat and gives this tiny, utilitarian interior a wow factor. As David Brown pointed out, there are plenty of restored Minis out there, but to fit a touchscreen and air-con behind that tiny dash takes a production effort. We drove a pre-production model and there are still a few teething issues, one of which is how fierce the ventilation is, while another is how far out of the thin door panels the leather-clad speaker surrounds protrude, but Brown says both will be sorted before first deliveries commence at the beginning of next year.

As will the engine mapping, I hope, and he says. On the move, this is one fizzing Mini, the engine creating a real racket until you hit 4,000rpm when it smoothes itself out. Until that point, the pedals and leather-clad Moto-Lita steering wheel (standard spec is wooden) are abuzz with harsh vibrations and it's hard to hear yourself think.

Er, can we just have some standard ones?
Er, can we just have some standard ones?
Still the uprated engine, with new crankshaft bearings, is good fun, and Brown has cleverly used the original four-speed plastic gearknobs to give the car the authentic nod to the past it needs. There is a bit of extraneous travel in the brake pedal, which may or may not be a pre-prod issue, but boy, is that short wheelbase still an absolute laugh. Brown looked at all 29 iterations of the bushes on the rear suspension that the Mini went through, and has stuck with one of Alex Moulton's compounds, developed in the late 50s. I didn't notice a great deal of difference, I have to say, but that was probably largely due to the amount of vibration from the engine blocking all other senses.

Is this car worth £99K? Define "worth". They're going to sell some, that's for sure, because their timing is perfect: the zeitgeist for continuation cars and our love of classics is still soaring. The joy of the original Mini has never waned, and there will always be a small, cobbled parking space, surrounded by flower pots, outside a Kensington mews house that's just yearning for a leather-clad Mini to fill it.

: original 1,330cc petrol
Transmission: 4-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 95@6,100rpm
Torque (lb ft): 87@4,000rpm
0-60mph: 10.6sec
Top speed: 88mph
Weight: 750kg
MPG: 41
CO2: 184g/km
Price: £99,000 plus delivery




P.H. O'meter

Join the PH rating wars with your marks out of 10 for the article (Your ratings will be shown in your profile if you have one!)

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Rate this article

Comments (95) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Fire99 18 Jun 2017

    It looks good because the early Mini looked good, particularly in Cooper (S) trim, though the tail lights remind me of the very last Lotus Esprit's with their 'individual' lamps.. It doesn't really work.

    The difficult part is that the original car and engine etc were designed to be a cheap and functional car so the technology was low-tech but cleverly packaged. It's hard to make a Mini become worth 100 grand, by smoothing some seams, closing some gaps, and adding a bit of modern technology (which is probably cheaper than retro parts.. I.C.E, in particular).

  • Dafuq 18 Jun 2017

    Ha ha ha ha, how much?

    Fk off!

    Apologies for the involuntary Tourette's syndrome but that price expectation is enough to bring out the worst vocabulary in any one.

    Don't get me wrong, I grew up with this generation of the Mini and I adore them, but we had a few when I was a youngun and there were all massive fun, but pretty agricultural and basic. Plus, good look in a collision with anything built post 2000.

    For a hundred grand you could have an insane Caterham (a proper period styled yet up to date car), a trailer to take it to track days, a modern quality tow vehicle to take it and a big wedge of cash still in the bank.


  • ducnick 18 Jun 2017

    For half as much you could secure a mint original cooper S with history that will continue to increase in value. This thing will depreciate faster than you can blink.
    Hence potential customers need to be rich, stupid, and desperate to become poor quickly. It's a limited market but David brown appears to know how to exploit it well enough.

  • Dusty964 18 Jun 2017

    Dafuq said:
    For a hundred grand you could have an insane Caterham (a proper period styled yet up to date car), a trailer to take it to track days, a modern quality tow vehicle to take it and a big wedge of cash still in the bank.

    For a hundred grand you could have loads of alternative cars, a 'plane, a helicopter, a watch, a handbag, a holiday home.....the list is immense...but if you are looking for a limited, bespoke Mini you are as unlikely to compare it to a helicopter as you are a Caterham, trailer and track days.

  • Mercury00 18 Jun 2017

    I'd rather have something like this:

View all comments in the forums Make a comment