I was one of the thousands of folks who got a car crush on the MINI Cooper back in 2003 after The Italian Job movie came out and blew so many of us away. The car’s popularity was so great at the time that there was a six month wait for delivery if you ordered one new.
This is from the 2003 release of The Italian Job starring Charlize Theron and Mark Wahlberg
As I wrote in The MINI Kayaker, I didn’t own a car from 1977 to 2004. I live in downtown Chicago and can walk most places. There is also serviceable public transportation. I could ride my bike sometimes, take cabs or rent a car. One of the reasons I was able to retire at 60 is that I had not spent all that money on cars for so many years.
The movie poster was so much fun that PlayStation2 used it for their Italian Job game.
Getting back to my car crush, the first one I bought was a used 2003 Cooper. It was dark blue, like one of the Italian Job cars.
Here is the first car I owned in over 20 years. My first MINI.
Over the next seven years, I would own one of each, a red and a white also, the other colors in the film. I bought the turbo-charged MINI Countryman SUV model in 2012.
I shot this at the dealer in 2012. The car on the left is my new Countryman while the car on the right is the Cooper I traded in. I called the new black Countryman my Badmobile.
Sorry for that long lead in, but I have a peculiar history when it comes to cars and I thought that background necessary.
Now to my new MINI! It is also pepper white, but this time around I went for black racing stripes on the hood. I thought they looked cool, but also I am the guy who drives at 55 MPH in the right lane who everybody passes. I thought it was funny to have racing stripes on that car chugging along in the right hand lane.
My New MINI on the left and the MINI SUV I traded in on the right in the dealer lot.
My new MINI is a revelation to me. I love it because it looks and drives like a toy. In the past six years, the company has increased the size of the car so that it is now as big as the six-year-old SUV model that I traded in.
The innovations are amazing. I have a built-in Navigation system with a female voice talking to me with a British accent. What could be cooler than that? There are all kinds of neat tweaks like if I hit the turn signal lightly it blinks three times to signal a lane change. It doesn’t keep flashing. But the biggest change is that I have downsized the engine. That is, I didn’t get the model with the turbo charger like I had in my last one. This is relevant in that I can now burn regular gas so I save at least 50 cents a gallon every time I fill up. I got 32 miles to a gallon on my MINI SUV, so far, in two weeks it looks like over 40 mpg. I will know with more accuracy as I add miles.
Last but not least is the joy of driving a MINI. It is famed for its bulldog grip on the road. I always the fact that I can accelerate through turns while other drivers are hitting their brakes.
The lack of a turbo charger means a less powerful engine. For a guy like me who drives stick shift that means a lot more fun driving as there is a real reason to change gears. With the more powerful engine, it covered a multitude of sins so I could change gears pretty much any time I felt like it. Not so with this one. I need to change gears much more carefully .
I have to include one last picture because while it is silly and superficial, I find it exciting and fun.
Above is a shot of my car in my garage. See the MINI logo on the ground? That is light projected from my door whenever I open it. I think that is the coolest thing I have ever seen.