or why I never wanted a Mini again and just recently found one in my garage
Back to the 90`s. Besides tamagotchi, technomusic and platform shoes it was the time when german car makers tried to become big global players. It didn`t work very well with Daimler and Chrysler and it did also not work with BMW and Rover. But BMW probably made the smartest move in the younger car history. They separated from Rover but kept its little appendage with the name Mini. 14 years later, BMW managed to build up a world renowned lifestyle brand from scratch. This is really more than a good reason for me to raise my hat. And more than that, my personal love-hate relationship to Mini started exactly back at that days.
I make a living out of advertisement. I am working for jewellery designers, pharmaceutical companies, the fitness industry and of course, for the car industry. Being that much involved into the world of marketing I thought I would be well forearmed for all kinds of advertisement. Yeah, well, I know that, have seen this, done that, thats boring! But sometimes even I am awkward. Just the moment when the first Mini from BMW showed up on the scene I wanted one badly. Style and design? Sportiness and aesthetics? Old english tradition meets bavarian hightech? Oder maybe just the marketing? Well, probably all together! After that, the years went by and it was already 2008 when I couldn`t resist anymore and with a used 2008 model my odyssey started.
The first generation
BMW named the first Mini generation R50, R52 and R53 and it was sold from 2001 to 2006. The Mini of my choice was a Mini One (R50) from the year 2003 with about a mileage of 50.000 kilometers. Its pricetag said 8000 Euro and I found it at a car dealer from another brand. It was shiny and blue with two color leather seats in blue and beige, a sunroof, heated seats and 16 inch alloy wheels. The perfect second car to safe some money, thats what I thought. I wont drive that much milage on my big car and in addition I have the perfect car for inner city trips. The old fashioned cassette radio was replaced by a modern cd player with USB and Bluetooth and I was ready to go. The all over car handled pretty sporty for a 90 hp vehicle and the engine, which was build by chrysler in brazil sounded a bit rough but other than that all was good. The car kept the promise which was given by the commercials. Well, all would have been perfekt but than it started: First thing, the sunroof didn`t work anymore when it got to hot. To open or close it, I needed to park the car in shadows and than I had to wait for a while. After 2 years and about 20.000 kilometers the first TÜV technical control had to be passed. To make it short and sweet, I have never seen a car in my life which have had so many defects after using it for 2 years. The TÜV examiner was smiling at me and told me to come back after all the defects would be repaired. After a four digit number in Euros and some happy faces in my auto shop I got the approval of the examiner and my Mini was ready to hit the street again. But that was the cure for my „Mini-fever“ and I sold it as fast as possible.
The second generation
The second generation of the Mini showed up in 2006 and the press loved it. It was supposed to have an improved all over quality. But I was just not into Mini anymore and ignored most of the news. I wasn`t interested in the new petrol-engines made by PSA which had a way better gas-milage nor was I interested in the many „engine of the year“ awards. It must have been at that time, when almost a flood of new Mini models showed up in the market. Besides the convertible and the regular Mini they added the Clubman (with its 3 doors and its two-part cargo doors which I kind a liked from the very beginning), the SUC Countryman, the Coupe, the Roadster and a SUV-Coupe named Paceman. I have to remark 2 things here: 1. I really have a difficult time to understand all the different designs (what the heck ist a SUV-Coupe and why do I need a Roadster when the regular convertible already has not much space anyway)? 2. The Mini is not much mini anymore, its getting bigger and bigger!
The third generation
That brings me to the third generation (F56) from 2014. The top model is the John Cooper Works with an output of 231 hp and an all over length of almost 4 meters. But that magical 4 meter mark was already passed by the Countryman anyway. Back in the days the first english Mini, which was introduced by the end of the 50`s, was only 3.06 meters in length with 34 horsepowers. Well, this was way in the past and also the stories from badly fitting sunroofs and a bit rough engines from Chrysler are almost forgotten. Today the Mini is an upscale car with fans and drivers from all layers of the population. You may find it in the driveway of a farm and the same time on the Maximilianstr. in Munich, which is famous for its international designer stores. And because of that it doesn`t make a lot of sense to discuss the simple facts, equipment features or extras. Everybody who likes to buy a Mini will buy a Mini simply of the fact that buying a Mini is a heart decision.
At last I want to bring this story to a good end and that brings me back to my personal Mini quest. By spring of this year my girlfriend needed a new car. She wanted a small car, not to slow, not to expensive, not to much mileage and of course with a good gas mileage. We were looking for the perfect car at many different dealers and some candidates from Germany, Japan, Italy and France seemed to be worth a second look and a testdrive. After all, Italy was to small and Japan not flashy enough, et least in the eyes of my girlfriend. So, the decision should be made between France and Germany, Paris or Rüsselsheim. But in the very last second a Mini showed up and my girlfriend wanted to testdrive it immediately. It`s a Cooper of the second generation with just 25.000 kilometers. I was already preparing for the – in my opinion – worst thing and the moment she was sitting at the drivers seat she had a smile on her face and said: finally home!
I think this sentence describes pretty well the feelings of many male and especially female buyers of the small car. My girlfriend grew up with Mini commercials and in the age of 13 she already new that she wanted to drive a Mini later on. Obviously, the Mini marketing department made a good job! Our Mini does have the less features compared to the other cars. It doesn`t have the flashy two colored seats (Rüsselsheim) nor the beautiful leather seats (Paris). It comes with simple grey cloth seats and instead of 17 inch rims ist has 15 inch. It has an automatic gear which my girl friend never wanted and the only extras are pretty much foglights and heated seats. Did I mention that the Mini was also the most expensive car in our choice of 3. Everything did not matter anymore – finally home – bought it. The most fascinating thing is, I have not tried to talk her into one of the other cars. Would I have had the opportunity to do so? Maybe! Would I have liked do do so? I don`t know! The problem is: The Mini has – compared to its competition – not even half of the features in the radio/CD combination but the sound is great anyway. The seats doesn`t look like much, but even with almost two meters in height I sit very well. The automatic gear may be the drawback of the car but it still shoots in a pretty entertaining way through the city. If you see the facts and the all over quality, the car was a good choice. And shortly after she bought it I became obsessed with Mini again and bought all kinds of more or less important accessories from the Mini shop. I just couldn`t resist. It`s all just offered in a perfect way and makes you want to have it.
The ap sport-suspension and the Mini
Finally I come to the point which brought us to think about an ap sport suspension. I mean, a sporty little car and a sport-suspension is kind a like a match made in haven, right?! To satisfy the hunger of the Mini for more curvy country roads we decides very soon that we wanted to have a sport-suspension for the car. It should be good quality and not to expensive. At ap you can get lowering springs for 151 Euro and a complete coilover kit for only 549 Euro. The best thing is, a part certificate is included. That brought the ap sport-suspension on top of my girlfriends wishlist for her next birthday. More than that, ap has a broad range of products for almost all of the Mini models. So, my personal Mini story goes on and I am really curious how many more of those little bavarian/english cars will sneak into my life in the future.
Story: Andreas Leffler
Pictures: Andreas Leffler