Sunday, May 24, 2009

Mini United: let's motor!

Ages back - I can't remember how long, although it was quite possibly sometime around the end of last year - I heard about a three-day event being held at Silverstone race track to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Mini. Being a big fan of Minis, I was immediately interested … but did nothing about it. Over the months that followed, I kept hearing about it, and Big Bro even said we should go, but I convinced myself that I really didn't need to haul myself all the way to Silverstone to an event that I was convinced would be a bit, well, dull; I mean, why pay £35 (if bought in advance, £40 on the door) to perve over other people's Minis when you can perve over your own for free?

A couple of weeks back, though, the ever-wonderful iPandah sent me a link to a website that had a competition offering tickets to Mini United, and I figured if I could win some that would be a bit different and I'd probably be up for making the drive. In fact, I entered more than one competition in an attempt to win tickets - but to no avail. I actually got a letter from Mini the other day that I thought might be to tell me that I'd won tickets … but no. And that, I thought, was that.

On Friday, though, I was checking out some of the Mini websites that I regularly look at, and as I read about the first day of the event I experienced a sudden pang of disappointment - like I was completely missing out on something, and as a three-time Mini owner I *should* be there. I texted Big Bro to ask if he wanted to go on Sunday - the third day of the event - figuring that if he said no I wouldn't bother. He texted back yes.

And so today I rocked up to Sparky Ma and Pa's to pick up Big Bro at around 9:30 - well, Big Bro would argue that point and say more like 9:45, but in my defense I needed to get some go-juice because I didn't want Clubbie running out halfway down the M1. Knowing that I've not exactly been the most comfortable driver since the accident, Big Bro asked me if I wanted him to drive. While he's recently bought a lovely new car, though, the idea of turning up at Mini United in anything other than a Mini was, well, just wrong. And anyway, his car might've been lynched. And no one but me drives Clubbie - so we set off for Silverstone with Big Bro holding onto his sat-nav like his life depended on it.

The journey there was pretty uneventful until we hit the M1 when we noticed another couple of Minis that we guessed might be on their way to Mini United. And then another couple of Minis. And some more. And the next thing we knew we were in a convoy of about 20 or 30 Minis driving northbound. I was filled with a bizarre sense of pride and belonging.

Just over an hour later we filtered into one of Silverstone's car parks to find a sea of Minis. It was a sight to behold. They were everywhere - old and new, all different colours, but all clearly the pride and joy of their owners.

Here I am just after we arrived, doing what is quite possibly the most half-hearted thumbs-up in living memory.

So, after arriving and faffing about for a few minutes we headed over to the registration tent to buy our tickets. By this time it was about 11:45. I walked to the counter and asked the girl there for two tickets. She looked around a bit conspiratorially for a second, then said "it's £80 for the two of you now - but if you come back at 12 it's free."

I looked at Big Bro, and in unison the pair of us said "we'll come back at 12."

After hanging around for 15 minutes or so, during which time Big Bro took lots of photos of the car park, we wandered back over to the registration tent where we were given £40 tickets, a lanyard with an iPod sock, Mini 50 medallion-type thingy, and what looked like the severed tail of a raccoon, and a map for free. That's nada. Zip. Nothing. BONUS.

It's about here that I should say that I was wearing a Mini t-shirt that Big Bro bought for me a couple of weeks back as a way of cheering me up after the accident. You can see it in the picture above - it's got a picture of a classic Mini from the Haynes manual on it, and it's tops. Anyway, as we're walking in a security guard looked at me and said that I wasn't the only one wearing such a t-shirt - and he wasn't wrong. There were so many people wearing the same t-shirt that Big Bro and I seriously considered starting a competition to find as many as we could and get them to pose for a photo with me. In the end, though, we couldn't be bothered, because quite frankly if we'd done that we wouldn't have had time for anything else - and in contrast to my earlier belief, there was plenty to do.

Mini United was, in all honesty, one of the best days out I've had in a long time. We saw classic Minis race (the Miglia and Se7en classes), watched the new Mini Challenge Cup cars race from the pit wall no less (Big Bro was well impressed by this), saw Minis designed by famous people, saw Mini concept cars from the last 10 years or so, chilled out in a big tent (where I decided I need to buy one of these), perved over lots of Minis, took lots of photos, watched an amazing stunt show by Russ Swift, and got awesome suntans. It was utterly fantastic.

Best day out in a long time.

Some pics, yes?

The classic Minis take to the track. They sounded awesome and went like stink.

I kid you not - this Mini was covered in fake fur.

The Paul Smith Mini. It's stripy!

A David Bowie designed Mini. This was awesome - it looked like something out of Terminator.

Big Bro made me pose with the David Bowie Mini so that its reflective properties made it look like I was inside it - do you see?!

Some sort of mad-bonkers, Mad Max-style Mini.

The ACV 30 Mini concept from 1997. It still looks good over 12 years after it was first unveiled.

The Mini Crossover concept. This is a lightly-disguised version of a bigger Mini due to go on sale next year. I'd been a bit unsure about this car, but after seeing it in the metal I'm sold; it's chunky, and a lot smaller than you'd think it is.

Me doing my cheap motor show totty routine with the original Italian Job Minis.

Yeah baby! Me hanging with the Mini from the Austin Powers movie Goldmember.

Hanging out in the Mini XXL limo. How utterly distinguished and gentlemanly do I look in the back of a limo? The answer: very. Pass me my top hat and monocle immediately.

Yes, it has two fronts.

Someone had fun with their Dremel…

Me gurning like a special as I watch the Mini Challenge Cup cars race.

The Mini Challenge Cup cars come into the pit lane. Big Bro took this pic from the pit wall, between the pit lane and the track, where we'd watched the race. These little cars make a wicked noise.

Scooby-Doo's Mystery Machine, in Mini form. The guys that owned this were doing a poll to decide what colour seats to have in it - orange, green, or blue. I voted green.

Funny story - when I was thinking about buying Clubbie I searched for 'Pepper white Mini Clubmans' on the Mini2 website and I found this very distinctive example, which ended up being one of the things that sold me on the black 'n white combo. This Clubman was in the 'flaunt your Mini' paddock, and I really wanted to find the owner and have a chat with him. Unfortunately he wasn't lurking by his car, so I may have to drop him a line at his website.

Big Bro makes me pose in front of the stage where Paul Weller and Calvin Harris performed for the Mini fans the previous night.

Where it all began - a Cooper Garages Mini van.

The extremely limited edition *takes a deep breath* Mini John Cooper Works World Championship 50! They're only going to make 250 of these!!

Yes, *that* Steve McQueen.

The Mini Challenge Cup park ferme. I like this shot - Big Bro had to take it through a polythene sheet window, and I think it gives it a bit of a seventies vibe.

And now, how about some videos?

This is Mini stunt driver Russ Swift parallel parking. What you can't see is some random dude who he plucked out of the crowd and put in the boot of the blue one he parks behind.

Russ Swift does a side wheelie here - with three ladies from the crowd sitting in with him, and some random dude crammed in the boot. There's a point in this video - around the 42 second mark - where I seriously thought the car was going to roll onto its roof.

And finally, just for you, my trusty blog pals (and for making it all the way through this Mini-tastic post), here's an exclusive clip of the witty banter me and Big bro shared on the way home.

In my defense, that Hyundai was really shifting.


Ponita in Real Life said...

You were being overtaken by every other vehicle, Tim!

I loved that cowhide Mini! That's way too cool! Can you tell I am a cowgirl at heart??? ;-)

CyberPete said...

The furry Mini is awesome!

Sounds like you had a great outing. Good for you.

I would have had a meltdown though if I showed up and other people were wearing the same tshirt as me.

Tim said...

Ponita - Yeah, but I was driving at the speed limit - everyone else was breaking the law (expecially the Hyundai)!

Cyberpete - Normally I'd agree with you, but we were all driving the same car too so there really wasn't anything to get worked up about!

Anonymous said...

I seem to remember reading somewhere that in the 60's a gang stole Peter Sellers custom mini and buried it in, I think, Wormwood Scrubs. I've often thought about looking for it.

Tim said...

In Wormwood Scrubs?! Good lord, what were they thinking? I'm well-up for looking for that mythical Mini!

CyberPete said...

You could gather up the team and take the Mystery Mini along on your quest.

the projectivist said...

the cowhide mini is quite possibly the best car i have ever seen.
and you look lovely, Tim
bad thumbs-up gesture
or no bad thumbs-up gesture!

Tim said...

Cyberpete - I could. I might!

The Projectivist - I wonder if you can milk the cos-Mini…? And bless you, compliments always gratefully received!

Tara said...

I am loving that terminator/chrome car. It reminds me of the one in the James Bond movie "Die Another Day" where the car could immediately become invisible.

Anonymous said...

Not the prison - the park next door. Or was it Wandsworth Common...

Tim said...

Tara - Ha ha, yeah Bond would use this when MI6 budgets are cut!!

Anonymous - Ah! Yes, both of those places would make far more sense than the prison! I was wondering how someone would go about burying a Mini in a prison without the guards finding out!!

watch*paint*dry said...

I love the cow one. Or the one with two fronts, I never know whether I am coming or going.

Tim said...

So the perfect Mini for you would be a two-fronted cow one? I'm sure it would be udderly awesome whichever way it was going!

missyandchrissy said...

so much mini! i love the reflective david bowie one. i would drive around blasting "golden years" all day long.

watch*paint*dry said...

I bet I would still be going the wrong way, whichever way it was going.
Nice one on udderly ;>

Tim said...

MissyandChrissy - Funnily enough, my iPhone's been throwing out a lot of Bowie while I've been driving in Clubbie recently!!

Waych*Paint*Dry - I know, I liked that one!!