Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Mini - Then and Now

It is a different country, different manufacturer and obviously a different place in time, but one thing is for sure, I believe the Mini Cooper is here to stay.
My love affair with the Mini has lasted 40+ years. I grew up, married, raised three handsome sons, now have three beautiful daughters-in-law, and eight fantastic grandchildren, but recently, a new love has crept into my life - my Mini Cooper!

Living in England in the early 60s, my fiancĂ©e, soon to be husband, drove speedily around in his bright red Austin Mini sometimes to the annoyance of other drivers. I remember one incident when a driver, who had been beaten to a parking spot, yelled out “…bloody little thing…I could stamp on it….” Although we loved our old Austin Mini with a passion, a growing family dictated a larger vehicle.

Now, 40 years later, having lived in America for almost 30 years, this grandmother has gone full circle and is now the proud owner of a Mini Cooper. The buying process is of course completely different than it was all those years ago. With the help of a sales associate, one sits at a computer and literally builds the car on screen. Model, style, interior and exterior colors are chosen and then, one of the biggest choices of all for me, whether to choose an automatic gearbox rather than a stick shift. I chose the automatic and wondered later if I would be disappointed, I was not. After three months of “incubation”, which I was able to track on-line, my baby made its debut at Ralph Schomp Mini in Littleton, Colorado, polished and shining from its origin in Cowley, Oxford, England. As the proud owner, I was not sure whether to break open a bottle of champagne or give out cigars!

Evidence of BMWs fantastic engineering in the present day Mini Cooper is everywhere from the sports car like gearbox to the steering and braking capability. The car feels “as one” with the road providing a similar but much better feel than the old Austin model. Having once owned a Porsche 356B and a Mercedes 420 SEL, it was pleasure to discover again the thrill of driving a beautifully engineered car.

My Mini makes me smile – I actually smile at a car!! What’s wrong with me? But I secretly know the answer. For years I have wanted a Mini of my own, but raising a family, having a career and just the responsibilities of life meant I had to purchase a car suitable for my lifestyle. In 2006, with the encouragement of my husband, I chose a car just for myself, and I chose a Mini Cooper. Needless to say, my car is always parked in the nether regions of a parking lot to avoid the inevitable dings that will surely come. But the distance gives me the opportunity to walk slowly towards my car, appraise the workmanship and style to the extent that I always find myself smiling!