MotoringFile Featured in MINI 50 Years

Back by popular demand, we’ve got more of MotoringFile feature in the new MINI 50 Years book. But first, a quick recap; Wednesday we brought you the news of a new MINI book: MINI 50 Years by long time automotive writer Rob Golding. It’s an essential addition to a MINI owner’s book collection and a great gift. But beyond that it also goes in-depth on MotoringFile thanks to an interview I did last year with Mr. Golding. And since then we’ve gotten quite a few requests for more of that material, we thought it appropriate to show-off a bit more of it.

First and foremost if you’re interested in reading more, you’ll definitely want to buy the book. It’s available around the world and in the US at all large book-sellers and online. But for those who need a little of a preview to wet their appetite, here’s more from the Chapter “Get Involved” and more about MotoringFile:

Gabe Bridger runs the most laid-back MINI website. He gave it a general motoring title and then got hooked on MINI and failed to broaden the editorial more than a smidge. Bridger is a wicked man. He tells everyone BMW’s secrets as to what the new MINI will be like long before BMW has told its own dealers or the Press.

Beneath him, in his secret organisation, is an even wickeder corps of nameless agents who break commercial confidentiality (probably) and submit both tittle and tattle to Bridger.

Bridger has a virtual presence called MotoringFile.com which has been going for three years in a comfortably unstructured manner. Bridger is an amateur in that he has a day-job to support, but he is an e-commerce creative director by trade, and has a feel for the way that a new website should develop. It seems as if the audience – and there are about 10,000 people watching on a daily basis – like the approach.

The whole point of the site is the feeling of community. Bridger writes in weblog format. So do a few of his pals. Then the 500 or so people out there who like to talk as well as watch, react with ideas of their own. All of it is about the product. The hot topic is what the new MINI should be like.

Just recently, the subject of the naming of the imminent wagon version of the MINI came up. R55 (the code-name) has been exhibited at motor shows four times, and 2008 has been given as the launch date for this new derivative. In classic Mini days, the estate car styled itself Traveller or Countryman, but in the collapse of the BMW Rover relationship maybe someone forgot to renew the rights to those names; or maybe BMW does not deem them suitable in the new age. Whatever applies, it is clear that there is no obvious name choice and something better is being sought.

Motoring File gets on the case. The subject was introduced to an attentive audience. Within minutes the answers came back from all corners of the globe. It was a brainstorm that BMW might have lavished many Euros upon in an away-day, or in a superheated think-tank. Instead, all BMW had to do was to read Motoring File and it got 150 ideas popping up in fewer minutes, plus the destruction of the bad ideas and the reasoning behind the rejections. Brits, Americans and Germans are to the fore. Australians are well involved. So are the Italians.

“It was one of those days where you realise what a powerful tool the internet is,” said Bridger. It was not the first such moment. The first occasion that he sat bolt upright while moderating the feedback e-mails after work, was when he suddenly came across the name of Frank Stephenson. Now everyone who is anyone in the MINI community knows that name. He was the laddy who sketched the shape that became the new MINI without losing touch with the heritage of the classic Mini. Even the current band of designers and stylists at BMW pay homage to Frank.

There was Frank toiling away at his new shop, Ferrari (and then subsequently toiling away at the parent company, Fiat) trying to keep the world racing car champion ahead of the game in road cars (and then trying to keep Fiat out of the hands of the auctioneers) when suddenly he pops up with an e-mail contribution for Motoring File. “He was good,” says Bridger. “He is a supporter.” This is how channel reputations are born in the new communications age.

Some of the more interesting indiscreet contributions have sources unknown. “The way of the internet is that people can just leave messages under pseudonyms,” says Bridger. “Are they BMW people? They might be. It’s hard to know. I suspect some of them are. Certainly the contributors from Germany and the UK seem the best informed.”

It is pretty obvious that there is a guiding hand from the MINI mavericks in the shadows somewhere. It is in the interests of the brand to keep focus, intrigue, and controversy stoked up. But it is all subtly done. No-one asks and no-one says. It is all down to Bridger, as moderator, who selects what shows on site and what does not, to make sure that he is not spoofed or set up. It works well.

It is interesting how people of a similar type can be drawn to one another by admiration for, or affinity with a particular car. Bridger drives MINI. His is an all black Cooper S. “I am a car enthusiast and I really enjoy driving it. It is small and nimble. I like the design. We have nothing else like it in the States. Although it is quick it is not terrible on petrol. Certain attributes are important. Some of us like not to be wasteful.”

You can buy MINI 50 Years online at Amazon.com:

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