R&CC Fleet: Bringing back a British Icon

Back in May I made the decision. Hard to say whether or not it was right one or if it would lead to more expensive consequences. Yes, I bought a car. A 1994 Rover Mini Sprite that puts a smile on my face every time I drive it.

It was after a visit to the Cornbury Rally Show that I came to realise the charm of the iconic Mini is hard to ignore.  I’ve heard friends say how good they were, although some Minis spent more time on the AA recovery truck than hammering b-roads.  So as far as I was concerned, it was a balanced case for the Mini. Sure, it could breakdown and rust in all the usual places but given it was the norm for that period, I wasn’t overly bothered.

This led to a significant increase on the twittering front, questions via Facebook and lot of hunting for a local car that didn’t need too much work to get it mint. The obvious issues were identified so I knew what to look out for and I had sorted out how I could get hold of money quickly should I find that gem.

My rough guide for finding a solid Mini:

  • Check the sills for rust
  • Look over the sub frames – potentially expensive if need replacing
  • Check the filler cap for signs of creamy moist (water and oil) filler cap – gasket maybe on its way out.
  • Always make sure the car has genuine history, and carry out a MyCarCheck
  • Make sure all the switches work

I had managed to extract the best of what Autotrader could offer, along with CarandClassic and Pistonheads, but still felt too light on expertise. It was time to consider the obviously option I previously ignored: the Mini Forum. Although much like any other forum, knowledge abounds and the chances of finding a Mini increased. I felt confident my luck was to be had here. I came across a black Rover Mini 30 that appeared quite sound, at least from the original pictures and description. I asked if the owner could email me more photos, which he offered to another potential buyer. After they arrived I decided to email them to a friend in the know. Thanks to Kieren Goldup for carrying out the digging to see that the car wasn’t as solid as it looked.

While glancing Thanet Classics forum I spotted a Rover Mini Sprite that hadn’t been sold after a good month on sale. It looked like an enthusiast’s dream. The car seemed very clean, came with twelve months’ MoT and had been previously serviced. Given my nervousness on the previous Mini, I took some advice from my brother: “You need to make a firm decision and be decisive”. I updated the parents on what I had found, and went about discovering more on the Mini. The more I was told, I was determined to make it mine.

But as I didn’t commit to any money on the forum it was advertised on Ebay. Usually I wouldn’t mind a car being placed on such a site, but the experience was cringeworthy as I felt this should have been mine. Every day I checked that no one had bid on it, and emailed the owner to convince him I was the right customer. Granted, it might have seemed desperate but needs must.

As the seconds ticked by I became increasingly edgy about losing the car. A day before the end of the auction that I plucked up the courage to make the owner an offer and persuaded him to remove it from Ebay . To my surprise the owner did and agreed to an offer below what was stated on the ad on Thanet Classics. I knew it would be mine.

I drew out the money in the morning of my planned afternoon viewing. For the first time in a while I was genuinely nervous about taking money out of my account. I’ve done it many time before but this was different. Within hours I could have my very own Mini. The hours became minutes and it was time to head off to view ‘Herman the Mini’.

I asked my mum to take me to the car. She’d see my reasoning and wouldn’t start an argument over the small things. Although the Mini was only 45 minutes away from home, it felt like the longest journey to a car viewing. It’s never quite the same when you go to a used car dealership down the road. My mum took charge after my navigation skills had temporarily deserted me, but it was by accident we ended up on the right road and at where Herman was located.

I was delighted to see he was being polished and cleaned by the owner. We headed over a few minutes before our appointment time, and I almost struggled to get my words out, such was my excitement at the sight before me. This was really as clean as it was advertised. Rare given the stories you hear from the dread Ebay.

I looked over the sills, and carefully searched for the rust spots on the scuttle panel and panels where he described and he was an honest Mini. The sills had been fairly well maintained, and the scuttle panel would in time need re-doing. I was expecting the A panel to be on the rough side, but it was only beginning to rust in places.

I established the car’s history was genuine and I wasn’t being flogged a cut ‘n’ shut and I allowed the owner to take me out for a drive. This gave me the opportunity to listen out for squeals and rattles and to make sure it all worked. As we drove round the block to give me the gist of gears we discussed cars.  I wasn’t expecting to have so much in common with the owner, but hey it’s hard not get involved with automotive chat at the best of times.

After the quick blast we talked money. I was so eager to buy the car that I agreed to the figure on opening the door on his driveway. I may have been a little excited about the Mini. We soon headed inside to find my mother and his other half chatting about work. I was sure I didn’t come to meet a couple to discuss similarities? Still, the chat quieted down and the money changed hands.

After the discussions had finished between the two, the car keys changed hands and the remaining money was handed over and Herman was to be mine. I was once again nervous as the car I had spent time previously imaging to be my own, was.

The time had come to say goodbye to the previous owners, it was somewhat touching as the lady began to the cry. You can tell when a Mini loved when the owners will miss it. As I hadn’t driven for over a year previously I left my mother in control of ‘Herman’, which saw nostalgia relived.

Dad headed back in his Nissan Qashqai and we followed slowly behind in convoy. He was soon off in the distance, but we ploughed on bumping around from Ramsgate to the quiet part of Canterbury. Mum seemed to be as anxious as I was as we discovered the main roads and opened him up, it was an absolute laugh.

It wasn’t long till we noticed; he was apparently out of fuel. By out of fuel, the gauge didn’t seem to work properly so it looked like we were going to come to grinding halt, when in fact there was actually half a tank left. Mini charm eh? You’ve got to love it.

Darkness soon fell on us and remembering where the ‘light switch’ was became a hunt. One major little niggle I should have investigated was in-car lights….well there is one, but it only works on opening the door. Another charm that makes classic car ownership all the more fun! Ten minutes later the switch was found which pleased my mum, but knowing as to what to flick and move forward for the headlights and sidelights was another quest.

Half an hour later we could see where we were heading and feeling every crease and hole that the road had. This was a proper Mini.

We soon arrived home and left Herman to relax for the evening. My Mini was home.  Say hello to a newly named ‘Atomic’ everyone:



One response to “R&CC Fleet: Bringing back a British Icon

  1. After seeing my bro-inlaws cooper today i remebered Charlie talking about his mini, well im impressed, this is very very nice. Being 6ft and 17st ive found it hard to ‘buy’ one, saying that i think if the right one at the right time came along im sure i would,

    Great car, great write up

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