Mini Stories by Geoff Wheatley & Franklin Cunningham (Editor)
Morris Miner Mini; Rick Feibusch photo
Mini Story by Geoff Wheatley
A amateur collector of cars with an interest in the automobile world obtained a early Mini that had been sold off for scrap. Originally it had been a 1969 Red Morris Miner Mini, known by its last and only owner as "Margo", and had been driven by its owner until she reached the age of 98, that's correct, 98 years old. (She went on to hit the two zero 100 years before going to that big car club in the sky). The car had only 35,000 miles on the Speedo but was in serious need of some TLC.
As indicated the car was found by a employee of the Lancaster Insurance Company who persuaded his employer to restore the car and then put it up for auction to raise money for a worthy charity. The media got hold of the story and the general public started to send donations for the restoration process. The final product was completed in 2015 and it was agreed that the car would be auctioned at the annual Classic Motor Show staged at Birmingham UK. The car was listed and the auction was held in the summer of 2016. The hammer came down for the highest bid at just over $19,000, purchased by the buyer as a Christmas gift for his wife. The money will go to the Prostate Cancer Society in the UK.
The moral to this story is simple, don't
write off your old car to the scrape
heap when you may be sitting on a
winner, if the right person is prepared
to bring it back to life for a worthy
cause. This car was given on the
understanding that it would help some
individual or in this case a worthy
organization. On top of that somewhere
in the UK there was a very happy wife
when December 25th came round! In
today's somewhat uncertain world its
nice to hear a happy story with an
equally happy ending.
Interesting story Geoff.
There are probably a million Mini stories.
Here is mine.
1960 Austin Mini 850 sn-AA2S7L18001 .. 1982-1994 by Franklin Cunningham
1960 Austin Mini 850 sn-AA2S7L18001 in 1992 California
MY first Mini
I guess the story of our Mini begins back in the 70's when someone in a bar started talking about Mini's. I said, "I had always wanted one". I don't know why, I said this because I really had never paid any attention to this particular marque or model. But hey, it was, after all, a British car, so I must have after all "always wanted one". Right!
Well, as any card-carrying car fanatic would do, I did not forget this profound conversation that I had bestowed upon the world. And I kept my eyes open.
Then in 1982, it happened. In among several older examples of discarded Detroit iron adorning all the open space around a disheveled ex-petrol station-cum-service shop called "HARRY'S GARAGE" was a MINI. This was no ordinary find, after all this was in Salt Lake City, Utah; not exactly the British car center of the world. But never mind that, this was the car that my wife needed. I just had to convince her of it.
Undaunted, I made an inquiry, but with no contact. Then some days later the phone rang. It was about the Mini. The caller informed me that that his father had died, and he was looking after the estate and would I like to buy the Austin. The deal was made over the phone. I had not yet really seen the Mini, but how bad could it be, after all it was British.
My new car; my wife would not have anything to do with it, sat there at "HARRY'S" with a bashed-in backend, no floorboards, no brakes, no tail or head lights, spray-can-painted maroon over light blue. But it was now mine.
1960 Austin Mini 850 sn-AA2S7L18001 as found in UTAH 1982
Oh, did the motor run? Who knows, no battery.
We towed it home on a chain. I can still remember the look on the seller's face when we reached the first stop sign. No brakes, remember. The Mini went .flying by me and stopped only when it ran out of slack on the chain.. I thought the seller was the expert at this kind of thing. After all, he runs "HARRY'S".
By the way, It also had no title. It seems that this car had been rescued from a wrecking yard, and the permit had been lost. Now what? Some research led me to the last (pre-wrecking-yard) owner. His story was that he won the car in a local V.F.W. raffle.
The car was full of groceries (there had to be some value here if this was to be a genuine prize). This fine fellow did what any normal person would do - he ate the food and threw- out the packaging, i.e. the car. Later his grandson came along and asked to use the Mini. Next stop, wrecking yard (Breakers to the Brits).
"Harry" later come along seeing the Mini being used as a lot car, hauling drive shafts and the like, and thinking it to be a Cooper, purchased it on the spot (it was only a 1960 850 Mk. 1). It was towed to "HARRY'S" and parked.
Then Harry died.
I now had a Mini. Well sort of. The engine had no oil pressure, brakes, lights, floorboards, bumpers, grill, and the seats were useless. But it was a Mini and "I had always wanted one".
These photos show the progress made over 2 states. I kicked it around for about 10 years and it was a great fun project. Had racing seats, wink mirror, big lights on the front, built twin gas tanks with quick-release caps, large Mini-Finn aluminum drums and twin leading edge front brakes, 1300 AA engine, twin SU's, and hot red paint.
1960 Austin Mini 850 sn-AA2S7L18001 in 1992 California
A follow on to my original MINI story
My Mini by Geoff Wheatley
I think you are right when you say there must be a million Mini stories waiting to be published. It's such a popular car, even today with the redesigned BMW version. My own mini story is interesting from an early prospective.. I saw the car at the 1959 London car show and decided not to eat for a year and buy one. I collected the car in late January 1960, one of the first to be seen on the roads of Britain, I paid the price for that privilege by forever being stopped by admirers who asked a thousand questions about the vehicle. (Most times I did not know the answer).
These early cars were certainly basic in terms of space and comfort. Also when you hit a bump in the road you certainly knew that you had. On the good side was the fact that you could get about 40/45 miles to the gallon at a top speed of around 70 give or take a mile. The car was virtually a death trap on the new Motorways that were springing up all over the UK, as most of the Trucks could not see the car, further more if they could, they simply viewed the car as a toy that should not be on the highway. The choice of color was like Henry Ford's policy with the Model T. Any color as long as its red. (For the record I never saw a black Mini.) The advertising at that time indicated, note the term indicated.. That you could get three travel cases in the rear. In reality they would be small weekend size, holding clean socks, a spare shirt, and tooth paste, but not much else!
Apart from the fact than when it rained it was hard to see very much due to the style of the early screen wipers, the car had a tendency to stop after a few miles in the rain. Wait fifteen minutes and it was back on the road again only to have the same problem a few miles later. Like other new owners my Mini was back in the local Morris dealership after a few examples of this problem. The answer was simple, during the assembly of the car while fitting of the engine, a metal screen was provided to protect the distributor from getting wet in a rain storm, or even a modest shower. This shield had been fitted the wrong way round so it attracted the rain rather than distracting it! I don't know how many of the early production experienced this problem but you can count me as one of them.
1967 Austin Mini Cooper John Quilter Photo
I drove the car for about four years until my wife decided to buy one, assisted I think by the popular movie, "The Italian Job".. By that time the Cooper Version was on the market and so she acquired one. A few days drive in that machine was enough to make me trade in my original Mini and buy another car ..Not another MINI of course, with a Cooper in the garage, I could retain my Mini experience any time the wife was away!
Certainly an interesting vehicle that has more than qualified as a unique means of transport . Would I buy one today? Don't think so!
Age is one reason, as the agility required getting into and out has now passed me by, in company with a few other past delights. I did rent a Fiat 500 for a few days last year, the car frightened me every day, especially when a eight wheel truck passed me on the highway, or sitting at the stop light and looking at the front wheels of that same truck and wondering. Can the driver see me?"
as I am still here the answer has to be.. Yes.
The Mini Story goes on Geoff.
As you mentioned driving one in the rain...
1960 Austin Mini 850 sn-AA2S7L18001 Washington, State
My wife's job had us moving from state to state. I bought my Mini in Salt Lake City, Utah and in the middle of restoring it we moved to California where I finally finished it. It was a solid strong running car with its AA 1300cc engine and we even drove it to the Squaw Valley Mini Meet running up hill on I80 we were keeping up with traffic.
Then we were transferred to the State of Washington and ended up in Edmonds, in the Rain Belt. The Mini and other cars were trucked but I drove my 1969 911 Porsche and when I arrived an engine problem had gotten very bad. I discovered a cracked piston. I pulled the 911 engine and used the Mini, as it was in one of its former lives, as a parts runner. Edmonds is a small town north of Seattle and all the things I need were 20 plus miles south in Seattle.
There are 3 types of weather in the Rain Belt above Seattle, Light Rain, Raining and Heavy Rain. I guess much like the Mini's Mother Land, however I spent a week in and around London and never had a rainy moment.
As one of my upgrades to the Mini, I had installed twin leading edge front brakes and fined aluminum brake drums. Those things would lock-up a the slightest touch of the peddle. I had not replaced the original skinny 850 series wheels and tires with wider rubber yet which would have improved stopping in the dry but may not have helped in the wet.
On one of my parts run I was in the #2 lane on the 405 Interstate in heavy traffic and rain. We were all going about 60 to 70 MPH and right in front of me the line of cars stopped dead. I hit the brakes and the tires locked, rising up on a film of rain water, I felt like the Mini was accelerating... Towards doom! I remember the thought running through my mind, "This is going to hurt!"
The Mini has really great all around visibility and I had installed a "Wink' mirror. My mind was racing and a quick glance into the Wink I could see cars to my right, but the left was clear. I hit the gas and powered to the left, barely missing the stopped cars in front of me, passing them at probably 70MPH.
Several weeks later about the same location my wife driving a Ford Bronco, with 2 of her family members, had the cars in front of her stop as did she. However once stopped, the car behind her slid into the Bronco just tapping the bumper. Wife and the cars in front of her drove off with no damage but the car that tapped her and all the cars behind it were totally damaged.
So I say that my Mini's front wheel drive and the Wink most likely saved me from some serious bodily harm.