Episode 111. Morris Mini Pick Up. JVE 890F.

I hate Minis...

Actually, thats not strictly true, but I just dont see the fascination for them that other people have, that being said, I could never understand the fascination that people have for the Beetle either... Until I bought one! After I had owned my own aircooled Beetle I understood completely, and so I decided that it was time to have a go at Mini ownership to help me better understand. The thing is though, although I didn't understand why people loved the Beetle so much, I did kinda like them, and I liked how they look, however with the Mini... Not so much! I look at them, and they just do absolutely nothing for me, I have no feelings for them whatsoever! But, having said that I have always quite liked the Riley Elf, and Wolseley Hornet, but although they are clearly Mini based, they're not Minis. One of the things that I have always thought is that if you are a car guy (or girl) from Europe, or just off the coast of Europe as the case May be, then there are several cars that should be in your automotive back catalogue, the original Beetle is one of them, and so is the Mini. Therefore the Riley Elf, and Wolseley Hornet wouldn't cut the mustard... It has to be a Mini... And not a Clubman either! So then, which Mini? I mean theres a few versions to choose from, the trouble is that they all look like a Mini, theres the saloon body style to choose from, which is the most common, but apart from that theres the estate, and maybe a van if you could find one that has managed to survive a lifetime of abuse as a work vehicle. Well I didn't really fancy any of those if I'm honest, for me if I was going to have a Mini there was only one type that would cut it for me...

A pick up, or to be more precise a ute! So thats what I went searching for. It took a while, but eventually one showed up, and as you can see it was quite a special one. It had clearly been looked after, and had also had a bit of restoration work, and some modifying, but essentially it was still a Mini, even though, it was a Mini ute. Of course, buying one in such good shape meant paying a premium, but as I didn't plan on buying another I figured that I would buy the best one I could find, drive it, figure out what all the fuss was about, then sell it.

This, incase you havn't figured it out yet was a fair while ago. When I bought this car I had just sold my red '77 Pontiac Firebird, and for me, a fat bloke, going from a car like the Firebird to this little Mini was quite a culture shock! But Mrs Clint loves Minis, and our eldest monster is also quite the Mini fan, and so I had told them both that after the Firebird was sold, then I would buy a Mini to cruise about in. When I arrived home in it Mrs Clint wasn't impressed, this was not a proper Mini she said. With the two of us sat in the Mini the cockpit was snug to say the very least. I'll be honest, even changing gears was a problem. But the 1275cc engine did propel it along very nicely indeed, even with two lardy ass adults in it! Mrs Clint however felt that what I should've bought was an estate, as thats what her Dad had when she was a kid, and thats what the six of them would go on holiday in, driving all the way down to the south of France! I can't help feeling that the six of them in a Mini estate with all the luggage, and camping gear on the roof rack the non-stop apparently drive down to the south of France in the Summer holidays couldn't have been much fun! My own Dad used to take my Mum and my two Brothers and Me non stop about 800 miles to Innsbruck, in Austria! But there were only five of us, we didn't have camping gear strapped to the roof, and we were in a mk2 Granada estate, and that was bad enough!

But as much as Mrs Clint wasn't a fan, despite claiming to being a fan of Minis! My eldest Monster thought it was fantastic, and why wouldn't she, it was the right size for her. Before too long it was pretty evident that it would only be my eldest Monster and me that rode in it.

We gave it a good polishing, and spent the summer of 2012 going to various cars shows. The problem for me though was that if the car show was close, it was fine, but anything over about half an hour of driving meant that I would be a some discomfort with my back for the remainder of the day at the very least. None of this mattered to the eldest Monster, who was just seven at the time. She would just open the door and spring out fresh as when we'd left home! I'll be honest, this discomfort when I drove it didn't help me to love it any more at all, but atleast I do kinda like how the Mini pick up looked!

But as promised I kept it for a year. It mostly got used on the school run, as it would only be the eldest Monster and me in it. It was our car, and for the school run it was epic! We've got a hill with several sweeping turns on it on our school run and in the mornings, we owned that hill! I did also manage to get Mrs Clint out in it several times and she even drove it, but she never liked it, and always complained that I had bought the wrong one! But, as far as I was concerned I'd bought the right one, it was the right body style with the right engine, it was the wrong colour for me, but lets face it, as far as Mini pick ups are concerned, if you want one and a good one shows up, then the colour of the thing means nothing. You just grab it and enjoy it! I guess to an extent if I had just bought a saloon, it might have been more comfortable, I might have had more leg room, but there was nothing about the saloon that I liked, for me part of the appeal of the pick up was its rarity. During the Minis forty one year reign of terror there were 5,387,862 Minis sold, of which just 58,179 were Mini pick-ups, and the majority of those have long been turned into baked bean cans due to being (at the time) a throw away work van. Like many work trucks they didn't get particularly looked after, they were just used, abused, and then once they were worn out, thrown away and replaced. As far as I was concerned I had bought the right one all right. But even so, I still wasn't a fan.

I remember that back when I had just learned to drive, all my friends went out and bought Minis, and raved about how great they were. But I couldn't see it then, and I bought myself a Hillman Imp, which in my opinion was better in every way. It seemed to handle just as well as the Minis, it was just as fast, infact I remember back in the early nineties racing my friend in his 1275 GT mini while I was in my Imp, and I beat him! Admittedly it took me nearly twelve miles to creep past him as we were both flat out along the M3, but I got there in the end, a fact that I still don't let him forget to this day! But better than that the Imp was comfortable! I'll admit that I was over twenty years younger at the time, but I don't remember finding my friends Minis that comfortable at the time either.

So the question is, after a year of ownership was I glad I'd owned it? Well, yes I was, Like I said its an iconic car, and something that I think as a car enthusiast you should own one at some point in your life. But did I ever love it? No, not in the slightest. Don't get me wrong, it was epic fun blezzing about the town in it. Short journeys for no other reason than the joy of motoring were just superb, but they didn't really want to be much longer than about 15 minute blasts! Out on the motorway I didn't enjoy it at all, and infact sometimes I found it quite frightening! When you're looking out the side window and realise that you're in a tin can that wasn't really any taller than a trucks wheels that were passing by it didn't exactly fill me with joy! But then I guess when Sir Alec Issigonis penned the Mini in the first place the roads were quieter, and the trucks were smaller, infact, all the traffic was smaller!

However I can see why the Mini is considered an icon of 1960s British popular culture, and why the Mini was voted the second most influential car of the 20th century, behind the Ford Model T, and ahead of the Citroën DS and Volkswagen Beetle. It was a unique car, it was cutting edge with its space-saving transverse engine, and front-wheel drive layout which allowed for over 80% of the car's floorpan to be used for passengers and luggage. It influenced a generation of car makers then as is still influencing them today, almost twenty years after its reign of terror came to an end. But despite all this, despite the racing and rallying prowess in the hands of the likes of Pat Moss, Paddy Hopkirk, Timo Mäkinen, and many many others, and despite the legend that the Mini became due in no small part to films like the Italian Job, I still dont get it. Yes, as a toy it is fun, great fun. But as a day to day car I would've struggled with it a lot. As a rule I don't see eye to eye with Mrs Clints Dad over a lot of things, but I honestly doff my cap to him to be able to drive from his home, 786 miles to Messanges, in France in one hit. To do that alone is impressive enough, but to do it with your wife, and four kids, plus luggage and camping gear strapped to the roof of your Mini estate, well that in my mind takes it to a whole other level! Like I said, I struggle with driving it for more than about half an hour, and I'm not as big as he is!

So why if I didn't care for it so much am I reminiscing about it now? Well, since having it I have been thinking about something else that I don't really care for, but want to own at some point just to see what all the fuss is about. But for now, that will have to wait for a future episode... Stay tuned, it will be along soon!