How the R53 MINI Re-Ignited Car Enthusiasm

Peter Egan – we couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Earlier today I was behind the wheel of a well cared for and well specced 2006 R53 Cooper S. I was blown away. It wasn’t perfect. And the F56 JCW I was driving before and after it destroyed it in every measurable way. But by God it was alive.

That drive reminded us of an old column the esteemed Peter Eagan wrote in a 2003 edition of Road and Track about the same car and about the same reaction.

Mike let me drive over the back hills of Wisconsin for more than an hour, and I liked the almost limitless grip of the Mini in switchbacks, and its easy, quick steer­ing. As a great fan of the old Cooper S of the 1960s, I found the whole car a little more rubbery and detached in its steering and suspension feel than the mechanically taut original, but I guess that was to be ex­pected. There is almost no car on earth as fun, direct, light and communicative as the original Mini, so it was a hard act to follow in a car that has airbags, crashworthiness and all the other modern baggage. Given those compromises, the new Mini is proba­bly about as good as it can be.

We won’t ruin the rest of the article but suffice to say Peter ends up with more than just a passing affection for the MINI. Likewise our drive today gave us a renewed love for the “new” MINI that started it all.

  • Nathan Freedenberg

    Gabe, before you become MC2 in reputation please proofread. The author is Peter Egan, not Eagan.

    And whats this carp? “well scared for”

    You can do better.

  • Nick Dawson

    BBC 2 aired the first of a two-part programme yesterday – part 2 will be aired this evening – called ‘Building Cars Live’, which featured live coverage of MINI production at Plant Oxford. The basis of the programme is to follow live production of an F55 MINI five-door literally from start to finish.

    Last night’s 90 minutes long programme – with lead presenter James May – started with the pressing of the MINI F55’s panels and platform in mild steel, from a roll of steel weighing 30 tons, and then showed how the car was put together by human monitored robots. Interestingly, F55 bodies share exactly the same production line as F56 and F54 bodies.

    None of the previous generation R-Series MINIs are built at Plant Oxford, R57 having ceased production in April this year. The new F57 Convertible will be built exclusively at the VDL Plant in Born, in the Netherlands, and goes on sale early in 2016. The R60 Countryman ceases production in Graz, in Austria, in the first half of 2016, and F60, it is said, will commence production at plant Oxford next summer.

  • Bruce Troxell

    Hi Gabe:

    Now you have gone and done it! Being an R53 owner and a BIG fan of Peter Egan, I had to go and read the whole story. Not having read Peter for a while, it was like meeting up with an old friend after a long absence – he’s that good a writer.

    Now I have to go out and buy another one (or two, or three…) of his story collections to get my Egan fix. But I don’t have to buy an R53–there is already one sitting in my garage.

    Thanks for calling this article to my attention.

    Bruce Troxell

    • Nick Dawson

      Thanks to the success of the second generation R-Series MINIs, Plant Oxford is now well established and building a thousand new MINIs a day! What many enthusiasts don’t realise, however, is how close the BMW board came to closing down MINI. The first generation MINI R50/53 made very little profit for BMW, and despite R56 being more profitable, the tipping point came with the huge success of the Countryman.

  • anchoright

    I remember my enthusiasm when I heard of and later saw the new MINI. Let’s face it, for a sequel, it certainly is able to fill the shoes. It had the wow factor that the first Minis had.