Eighteen years ago MINI USA debuted the MC40. The very first special edition of the new MINI, the MC40 celebrated the 40th anniversary of legendary rally driver Paddy Hopkirk’s Monte Carlo victory. It was a polarizing car at the time but one that has aged Well in our eyes. Now MINI is back for its follow-up with the Paddy Hopkirk Edition. And this past week the very first cars were delivered in the US. And not just to any customer but to Simon Tildesley, a MINI owner with who’s worked with some of the most iconic automakers in the world (as well as being president of NORCAL MINIs). But before we get to Simon let’s talk about this car.
Like the MC40, the outside of the Paddy Hopkirk Edition is finished in Chili Red/White along with various unique exterior additions (black Track Spoke wheels, black trim, hood scoop, badging and door handles). Perhaps most noticeable will be the giant 37 decal (paying homage to the famous rally car) and badging. Although unlike the MC40, this version is a bit more subtle.
While the first delivery of a special edition is always notable, it’s made even more so by who’s getting it. Arranged with the help of MINI USA, Simon took delivery of his Paddy Hopkirk Edition last week at East Bay MINI alongside his son who (as luck would have it) owns an original MC40. Simon is no stranger to the brand having owned numerous classic and modern MINIs. Perhaps more interesting, Simon was on the original team at Rover doing quality assurance on the R50 as it went through final engineering.
As you can imagine he has plenty of stories from that time period. We spoke over video chat about one in particular involving the transition of the new MINI project from Rover to BMW control. “What a lot of people don’t realize is the R50 and R53 were mostly done in England. Those cars were special.” However the transition from Rover to BMW control was sudden and a bit shocking. “I got a call one morning tell me that everyone’s been laid off. And if you want your job there’s a one-way ticket to Munich for you. I took it and ended up working with Frank Stephenson and all the designers closely as we finalized the design into production. But the most incredible thing was that the move from Longbridge to Oxford was done in two weeks. The speed and efficiency of that sudden change shocked us all.”
After leaving MINI, Simon went onto work for everyone from Bentley to Tata and even helped with the interior of the absolutely insane Aston Martin Cygnet. He then ended up at Tesla helping to sort out the early Model S quality issues before eventually leaving for Lucid Motors where he’s at today.
Through it all he’s remained a massive MINI fan and the history of the brand.
“When I read about the UK launch, I immediately called Eastaby MINI and got the early word that they’re coming to the US. I told them I don’t care about cost or timing, I want one,” he explained.
“Honestly I wasn’t a huge fan of the newer F cars until now. The Gen 1 had its issues but that engine was so great. The gen 1 has more links to the original. I also have the R59 Roadster and I love it but it’s such a different car. I’ve modded my R53 so much that I decided to go the other direction with the R59 because I wanted it as more of a daily driver.”
As much as he’s a fan of the classic and the R53, this new Paddy Hopkirk Edition will be special. “I’m really looking forward to the new one. The performance and quality is on another level and I love the look of this edition.”