Thursday, March 26, 2009

Car the third: the fast and the furious

I distinctly remember the moment I decided I'd buy a Mini Cooper S. It wasn't that moment I'd gone and sat in the one at the dealer, nor was it the moment that Sparky Ma encouraged me to "treat myself" like she does when I'm thinking about buying a book or a CD. It also wasn't the moment on the 2003 Richmond-Windsor bike ride when a red and white Cooper S, exactly how I'd eventually have mine, shot past us and I turned to Mr. Chunt and said "that's what mine will look like." It was the day after that.

I'd taken the day off work to recover from the bike ride, and had headed down to Staines to grab a coffee and a copy of the latest issue of Q magazine because it had an interview with David Bowie in it. I remember finishing the interview, knocking back the last of the coffee, and thinking 'bugger it - let's do this.' I drove from Staines straight over to the dealership, negotiated a pretty darn good part-exchange on my Cooper, and put a deposit down.

Two months later, just four days after my birthday, it was mine. The dealer had tried to convince me to choose a different colour combination than red and white - the same colours I'd had on my previous Mini - but even he, looking at it under the bright blue sky of a sunny winter's day, had to admit that it looked great, particularly with the white stripes adorning the bonnet.

I took this picture just moments after I arrived home from the dealership after picking up my Mini Cooper S.

Climbing behind the wheel for the first time didn't feel too different from my Cooper; the dashboard was exactly the same layout, obviously, although the colour was a bit different to indicate that is was the more expensive model, and there were a few more toys and flashing lights. But when I started it up and heard the roar of the supercharged engine for the first time, when I got it onto a long stretch of dual carriageway and pushed down on the accelerator … well, then I could tell the difference.

The phrase "punch it, Chewie" springs to mind.

That first evening I took it out on a long drive that looped around what you could probably call my part of the world. It was the perfect introduction to owning a Mini Cooper S. No, it's never gotten the same sort of attention as my first Mini - they'd become a common sight by the point in time I bought it, and even more so now - but you still catch some people stealing a glimpse at it every now and then, particularly when it's been washed and looks all clean and sparkly.

As much as I love 'em, those white wheels are pain to keep clean - but it's completely worth it when I do take the time to scrub the dirt off them because they make the car look nigh on perfect.

I've owned it far longer than I've owned either of my other cars, and it's been the perfect companion for well over five years now. Both the Minis I've owned have been wonderful cars (I tend to look back through rose-tinted spectacles and blissfully ignore the rattles and squeaks that affected my first one), but the Cooper S is the pick of the bunch. It's fun to drive, characterful (I've never tired of the whine of the supercharger as the car picks up speed), and reliable. On the downside, it drinks fuel like there's no tomorrow in urban driving (it was actually pretty good when I drove to Cheshire the other week though!), and thanks to the government's obsession with C02 ratings it costs a small fortune to tax each year (and it's going to get even more expensive in the next couple of years). Seriously, while I understand the need to curb C02 emissions, it's outrageous that the government backdated their tax plans to include all new cars produced since 2001. It'd be cheaper for me to tax a stonking great V8 from the mid-90s than my comparatively cleaner Mini; in all honesty, if I'd known they were going to do that when I bought the car I probably wouldn't have bought an S. Wait - does that mean I regret buying it? Never - I'm just ranting against governmental policy!

*gets off soapbox*

There's something inherently special about Minis. I know some people don't like them because they think they're just a car of the moment that all the fashionistas want to be seen in, or because of those estate agents that drive them around London like maniacs, but there genuinely are people like me who love Minis for their character (faults and all!), the way they drive, and the way they look. Who cares if you can get more stuff in the glovebox than you can in the boot? Not me! Who cares that you can't get anyone in the back seats? Not me - get less friends, I say! In a world of admittedly well-engineered, reliable to a fault motor cars, Minis are one of the few mass-produced vehicles that have genuine charm. So kudos to everyone who helped bring the new Mini to fruition - from its designers to the people at the factory in Oxford who make it. My motoring life has certainly been all the more exciting for their hard work and dedication.

But as they say, all good things must come to an end - and who knows what tomorrow may bring…?


Ponita in Real Life said...

I do like the white wheels... very sharp! My sister has a royal blue and white Cooper S Clubman. It has chrome (or shiny metal of some kind) wheels, not white. I don't think I have seen one with white wheels here.

Is it old enough now that you are wanting a newer one?

I am seriously thinking of trading in my Chev Blazer for something smaller and more economical on gas, but I hate the thought of giving up 4 wheel drive, especially after the dump of snow and ice we just got.

Have to seriously think on this one...

Tara said...

I don't see many Minis around, but I love the ones I have seen. They're always in bold, cheerful colors. The last one I saw was ocean blue (the free-of-pollution type of ocean blue). Very nice.

missyandchrissy said...

i don't know how you manage to keep those white wheels clean - very impressive! my car is silver but looks permanently gray from all the sludge that gets all over it.

Tim said...

Ponita - They were sharp, but infuriating to keep clean! They don't offer the white wheels on the Clubman because you could only have them with a white roof, and you can only get Clubmans with silver or black roofs. I'm such a Mini nerd.

You know there's a little four-wheel drive Mini coming soon?

Tara - Apparently the States is the biggest market for Minis now so hopefully you'll be seeing a few more soon! I think if you're going to have a blue Mini, you'd definitely want it to be a free-of-pollution ocean blue one!

MissyandChrissy - Believe me, it took a lot of hard work. And I really didn't clean them as much as I should've. All the blood, sweat and tears was worthwhile when they were sparkling in the sunlight, though. Of course then two days later they'd be filthy again…

Jackie said...

Very well said, Tim! I appreciate how you defended the Mini Cooper and all who love them. I've been searching and asking about used cars in Indianapolis, and I must say that there are lots of good offers there. Good news for me, of course. One of the used cars (Indianapolis, Indiana) that I would love to own is what else, but the Mini Cooper S, being sold for less than $13,000. I like the white or red one.