As the 2nd anniversery of the US introduction of the new MINI approaches we'll be devoting some time looking back and reminesing a bit. This first article in the series will deal with experiencing a new MINI after a lifetime of Classic Mini experiences.

The soul of the new MINI / by Rob Carver

I was initially intrigued the first time I saw pics of the new MINI on the Web – I thought, mistakenly, it was almost as small as the original, so the styling was right in line with the original parameters Issigonis laid down. When I found out it was a wee bit larger, it no longer mattered as much – it still looked like a Mini, modernized…

My real revelation was the test drive at Irvine Motors. I had no real intention of buying one for a few years – I had gone there in secret because my oldest son had decided that this was the car he was going to buy, and had started saving money for a down payment! I certainly wasn't going to let him buy a pig in poke, so somehow I found myself standing in the Irvine parking lot, grinning, just staring at the brand new MINIs there. As sure as little green apples give gripe, they looked like by-God Minis! None were even for sale just yet, but I wangled a test drive in one of the Coopers out on a run, and went inside to see one up close.

I have had a bunch of (Classic) Minis over the years, and they have a certain “feel”, and the view out the windshield is like no other – cut off at the top. I opened the driver's door and sat down, and looked out the front – damn me, it was cut off! Whoah, already getting vibes. Not quite low enough seating to match the original, but better in a more comfortable way – and I know from comfort in Minis.

The real deja vu' was when I reached over and popped the shifter into neutral and flicked it back and forth to get a feel for the throw. I had left the door open while doing this, and the showroom floor was nice, shiny tiles.

Now in the real old Coopers and 'S's, the vertical shifting was transferred to the gearbox by a long horizontal steel rod linkage inside a hollow aluminum housing that was about 4 or 5 inches from the road, [or lower if you shaved the trumpets on the suspension ;-)], that went to a transfer shaft affair out in the open on the upper back of the big finned tranny housing. [Jeez, how many of those did I rebuild!?!] When you flicked the shift back and forth in neutral, there was a distinctive, loud, hard clicking noise that you could hear magnified in weird way by that housing.

As I sat there flicking the shift, I was absolutely astounded to hear that sound coming from the new MINI, reflecting off the tiles! Frissons went up the back of my neck – that was the sound from all those years ago as I sat in my first Cooper. I literally leaned over and out the door looking upside down under the car, half expecting that darn housing. It was REALLY a strange feeling. I bet people thought I was teched or something if they saw me. 😉

Then came the test drive – it was like one long time warp, only it was faster, more comfortable, and stopped a helluva lot better. It really hit when I cornered – Twilight Zoned, man. To this day I can't quite explain that feeling – I was driving a Mini, only it was a MINI, but they were the the same.

Right then I KNEW I had to have one. Now. Only I was gonna have to wait! AAAHHH! Somehow, I was going to have to tell my son that I was gonna beat him to it, and I hoped he wasn't gonna be pi**ed off, but this was something I had in my soul – the Mini soul – that called me from deep inside.

Metaphysics aside, my son was OK with it – he held out for an 'S', and now he's got the MINI soul, too.

This piece was originally posted on this site in comment to an article. If you have something you'd like to share about your experiences regarding the MINI's introduction to the US please use the “Contribute” link at the top of the page to let us know!