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A Mini Obsession: Two Generations and Counting
“It all started for me seeing Minis winning Monte Carlo Rallies in the sixties,” Malcolm tells me. He goes on “It was the rally success combined with the glamourous people who owned them that captured my imagination.”
They call him ‘Mini’ Malcolm, in this corner of Somerset, where with his son Alex he runs one of the busiest little garages this side of the Avon. “we’re busier than we’ve ever been. And we have been turning away work, and have more business to keep us going for the next ten years.”
The rise and rise of designer Alec Issigonis’s revolutionary automotive vision is easily understandable, especially in this, the year of its fiftieth birthday. Built to make a car accessible for everyman and convenient for a newly affluent generation of post war baby boomers, the Mini was popularised not only by its phenomenal early success in Rallying, but also by the much hyped psychodrama of the swinging sixties. Britain was for the first time branded with the language of cool and the Mini was right from the start associated with that newly hip, metropolitan attitude.
The burgeoning media in the sixties provided the context for celebrities like Peter Sellers, James Garner, Spike Milligan, Lennon & McCartney, and perhaps most crucially, skeletal waif Twiggy – to be photographed in their cars. It wasn’t long until the Mini was associated with all that was dynamic, progressive in sixties Britain.
Malcolm and Alex preside over an interesting collection of cars and cater for a new generation of Mini obsessives, as well as men and women who recognize that not only is the Mini’s design a classic, it’s practical application in these days of pain-in-the neck parking and high fuel prices, is second to none.
Perhaps the most crowd pleasing of the collection is this flip-painted roadster, which was designed by Kit Car guru of the seventies Paul Banham. “If I put her out in the front of the workshop, it’s unbelievable the amount of people, especially young girls, who stop to take a look. Minis have always appealed to women, there’s just something that’s cute and accessible about them I suppose.”
Malcolm’s pride and joy, though, is this Mk 2 Cooper S Crayford Cabriolet conversion, a car which he coveted for years. “I’d ride past the car on the bus when it was parked on a street corner in Bristol, and always dreamt of owning it. I eventually tracked down the last owner through a traffic warden friend of mine. ”
What is it about Minis, I wonder, that creates that sort of generation-breaching devotion? “Mini’s are just simple, beautiful and easy to maintain and so were always classic. My real concern is this ridiculous scrappage scheme that the government is running. When that happened in Italy a few years back, thousands of brilliant Innocenti minis were destroyed. It’s be a crime if that happened here.”
Alex, who picked up the art of Mini maintenance and restoration at his father’s elbow was given his pickup truck by dad for his eighteenth birthday. And he has spent the last four years lovingly creating the ice white beauty that exists today. “ So many of my friends have these dull boring, modern motors. My pickup is everything but that, but it’s super-practical too.”
“The thing that always sticks out in my mind,” says Alex, “is that little kids, I mean babies, point to you and say “Mini car”. That’s pretty unique. You don’t get kids pointing to Ford Fiestas, do you?”
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