This report comes from long-time MotoringFIle contributor Dave Bunting:
On June 7th, 2002 I flew from Denver to New York, purchased my 2002 MINI COOPER S, and hit the road to drive back to Denver.
But the story of my MINI induction actually begins in early 2001 when I put my name on a wait list for a car that hadn’t been sold in the U.S. in decades, and one that I wouldn’t even test drive for another year. For those that may not recall, when MINI launched in the U.S. in March of 2002, the COOPER was the only model available. The COOPER S deliveries started a couple months after that. The first COOPER and COOPER S cars to be sold were referred to as “pre-specs”, since MINI/MINIUSA had come up with a list of set specifications for each color (i.e. if you wanted a red COOPER S, you got a white roof, 17″ s-lites, leatherette, and nothing else). My MINI was “pre-spec” Dark Silver, which meant that it came with the Premium and Sport packages and the Lapis Blue leather interior. One indulgence at the time was to purchase the R90’s as a way of making my MINI a bit more unique and less of a pre-spec. With that small change, my pre-spec was pretty close to the MINI I would have custom spec’d in the 2002 MY (Black, Indi Blue, and BRG weren’t available on the S in 2002).
During that first year of MINI ownership, my MINI was at the dealership on 10 different occasions. The windshield was replaced on four different occasions and the coolant expansion tank was replaced three times. Both of those issues were common on the early build MCS. A software change in October 2002 finally fixed the cold start condition that made it difficult to start the car on the first, second, third, and sometimes not even on the fourth try. Those experiences had me questioning my decision to purchase a MINI in the first place. Having the popular car of the moment with all the attention that came with it, wasn’t all it was cracked up to be when the windshield was cracking, the coolant tank was leaking, and the car wouldn’t start properly. Happily the tide turned starting at the beginning of the second year, and my MINI has been trouble free with just scheduled service visits every 15,000 miles.
The first year wasn’t as bleak as the above might have you believe. My MINI did over 29,000 miles with of motoring, with road trips from New York to Denver, Denver to the Canadian Rockies, and Denver to California.
Since that day in 2002, a lot has come to pass. Through MINI ownership I met some new friends, helped start one of the first MINI clubs in the country (MINI5280 in Denver), and took up autocross.
As I look back on the past three years, I have enjoyed my MINI a lot. However, I have been contemplating replacing my ’02 MCS with an ’06. Much like Gabe, I’m looking to go in a different direction with a new purchase. While Gabe went from an ’02 Indi Blue MC to an ’05 Black MCS, I’m considering going in the opposite direction: ’02 Dark Silver MCS to ’06 Solar Red MC. The revisions throughout the car and particularly the new gearbox on the ’05 MC have impressed me on the occasions I have had to drive the ’05. As of late I have been using my car mostly for commuting and I have found that don’t need the additional power of the S (it’s nice, but I don’t need it). I also have always had an appreciation for the lower hood design of the COOPER compared to the S, and with the revised “high grille” MK2 coming out in 2007, I would like to get one of the lastof the low hood MINIs (all the better to clip pedestrians with. (kidding!).