Ever wonder what it’s like to drive an original Mini? Automobile Magazine’s Joe DeMatio went to the UK headquarters of The John Cooper Works to find out. Here’s a excerpt:

Italian Job

“In the tiny cabin, you and your passenger are on even more intimate terms than in the new Mini, and it’s easy to accidentally grab your passenger’s kneecap when you’re reaching for the gearshifter. You hunch over the fixed steering wheel, which, oddly, is canted up and back. Your shoulders are easily six inches above the glass line of the thin doors, which in this particular car are outfitted with smart, drilled-aluminum handles with “John Cooper” engraving.

There are clear sight lines, with only the thinnest of A-pillars to block vision, through the small but broad windshield. Peer out the side windows, and your head seemingly is closer to the ground than the running boards of many modern SUVs. Three round gauges-speedo, fuel & temperature, and tach-are set into a flat pod half hidden by the steering wheel, and a flat, upright, machined-aluminum dash spans the cockpit. Our car had a tuned 90-hp engine, up from the 63 horsepower that was stock in the last years of the original Mini, and a four-speed manual transmission.

Releasing the clutch, we’re off, and the tuned Mini feels anything but slow. The puny tires and the John Cooper Works sport suspension make for a pretty rough ride, but as soon as you turn a corner, you understand why this car’s handling was such a revolution in its day and why it has commanded such a loyal following for four decades. There’s a bit of body roll, but turn-in is still crisp, precise, and certainly flatter than anything that came out of Detroit in the Sixties or Seventies.

Our drive on the city streets surrounding John Cooper Works in West Sussex, England, was enough to confirm that the steering feel, chuckability, and overall demeanor of the old Mini clearly portend the new car’s: BMW did a great job of transferring the Mini DNA into a modern platform.”

[ Driving the Original MINI Cooper ] Autmobile Magazine

Does anyone have their own experiences to relate?