Every year there’s always one car and one drive that stands out. While it’s hard to overlook our time in our new JCW Clubman on the Tail of the Dragon, there’s one moment and one that is etched in our memories.


The car was MINIUSA’s own 1965 Cooper S. An incredible example of a classic Mini in factory hot rod form. The immediacy and simplicity of the car completely blew our minds as we started left from Laguna Seca. Our drive took us up and over the famed Laureles Grade where it took every last horse from the Mini’s 54 year old power plant to keep the pace as the altitude increased. By the time we got to the top we had to pull over as it was in danger of overheating.

This is motoring I thought as I climbed out to cool down from the hot cabin. No there’s no air conditioning in a 1965 Mini And yes it gets quite hot in a 90 degree day.

Ten minutes should do it I thought as I folded all 6’2” of me back into and cabin and around the upright steering column. I’ve always fit better in RHD classic Minis due to the peddle placement but who’s complaining with a car and a road like this.

Heading down was where the Mini came alive. The chassis dynamics of this car are unlike anything before or after.


For anyone who has never driven a classic Mini you’re probably assuming (like I did for years) that it’s a fun little car like today’s MINIs but smaller. That is wrong. The classic Mini is nothing short of joy on wheels and feels like a large go-kart in a way that no modern car ever will.

Once I hit the bottom it was time to turn right and head to the Quail Motorsports Gathering. But I turned left because this is a vintage Cooper S and I had the famous Carmel Valley Rd in front of me. The sound of the engine, the golden California hills and the winding road made for the kind of driving experience that seems impossible in our daily lives.

Pulling into the exotic Quail parking area the Mini had every bit the crowd draw that the McLaren Sennas and LaFerraris had. And that’s exactly why it’s been such an amazing car for all these years.

This car. These roads. It was a combination that I’ll never forget.

Now it’s your turn. What’s your favorite drive of the year?