A Mini in name only

Leyland Mini 1275E and Morris Mini 850
The 1275E and the Morris Mini 850 side-by-side

You get family cars and you get car families. Specifically x-car families. Like some families are Merc-families. Others are BMW-families. My husband’s family is a Mini-family. And they are a large family too.

The first Mini that came into the family was a 1964 mustard yellow Morris Mini 850. It cost R50 and had windows that slid across rather than down. It belonged to my husband’s older brother. It did not have an alternator – it had a generator!  The gears were scratchy and the suspension hard and bouncy, a real kidney-rattler.

When I came on the scene many years later it was still in the family. This was the car that my then boyfriend, now husband and I used to go out on weekends. Naturally, because of its age, it behaved a little erratically. I remember the night it just decided to stop in the middle of Wolmarans Street in the CBD.  Nonetheless it was repaired and continued to give good service.

I still remember how proud my brother-in-law was when he got a speeding fine with this Mini – he was driving above 60, but did not know for sure because the speedometer was in miles per hour…

The next Mini in the family belonged to my sister-in-law. It was a 1980 azure blue one, with 2 black stripes across each side. This was brand-new, the gears slid smoothly and the ride was infinitely more comfortable. It was later rear-ended by a guy in a bakkie whose brakes failed. It was repaired and eventually sold.

Years later my brother-in-law bought himself a 1980 Leyland Mini 1273E. He no longer needed the mustard yellow Mini, so with a heavy heart he sold it to a guy who was looking for his first car. My brother-in-law drove the 1980 Leyland Mini for a few years before relocating to Portugal. He did not have the heart to sell it, so it is now in our possession. Much to my husband’s delight :-). It is diamond black with 2 silver stripes on the bonnet and a thinner one across the doors. It is a beauty! Wherever it goes, people, quite rightly stare. It attracts a lot of attention and people are always asking if we want to sell it. The answer is always and I suspect, always will be “No”.

This is a noisy car on account of its free-flow exhaust. When my brother-in-law visited us we were able to hear it when it was still 2 kms away. And when he went home we could still hear it much further on.

In between my Yellow Submarine (see post) and my Elantra, this is the car I drove. It was so much fun! It has so much torque that you have to believe me when I say that it left bigger cars in the lurch on hills. Off course when it got to the straights, it was left in the lurch.

Nonetheless it has a very distinctive sound. Driving in the parkade of my then workplace, its free-flow exhaust echoed off the walls, deafeningly as I went round and round to the roof. People knew when I arrived at work. It was embarrassing at first, and then I just enjoyed it.

One rainy afternoon I screeched to a halt in alarm on Booysens Road when I saw a large water-filled trench across the middle of the road. I was seriously worried that the Mini would get stuck trying to get across, or maybe just disappear into it. I got across that trench very slowly much to the disgust of the driver of the much larger car behind me.

Now there is the BMW Mini, very different and still uniquely beautiful, just like the earlier ones. These are Minis in name only because the amount of fun and enjoyment we get from them is huge! I have never driven the new Mini but the Cooper Coupe looks very exciting! I will keep you posted when I test drive it.

**Photo courtesy of the baby of the Mini family, my husband. Taken at one of the Zwartkops Mini days.

Social Entrepreneur, chief wide eyed in wanderer, wonderer and bottlewasher

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