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What Mini Matters Most

  The new Mini has only been with us a few years but in the major markets, it seems much longer as if it was always with us. Magazine ads, billboards, promo gimmicks. The Mini already has it's own major magazine and who can forget the recent redo of The Italian Job ? ( I am trying so help me God ) It is obvious that the new Mini has entered the public consciousness and in many circles is viewed almost as a fashion accessory. All right, fair enough. What car company wouldn’t be happy with such a fanfare for their wares ?

A point in all directions…
  Comparing the new Mini to the original is pointless, there isn't anything relative there. Much in the same way as the New Beetle is a galaxy removed from the VW that first appeared in 1938. However, one must take in to account the designer's intent with regards to both a nod of the original along with where they want their vision of the present and future to go. In this area, the new Mini has succeeded admirably. In one of the few examples where marketing has actually not had to stretch the boundaries of the product, the Mini stands on it's own merits.

  Minis have been subjected to virtually every possible road test and driving impression since the initial launch. I have gotten to the point where all those zero to 60 stats are meaningless. One of the modern miracles is that no one is really building a bad car anymore. Electronics are a key part for the new reliability and most of today's cars are faithful as a servant, require little maintenance and are completely forgettable with the emotion of a bowl of vanilla ice cream. I am more concerned with how I am going to feel after spending several hours in a car as the characteristics come in to play like changing landscapes. The Mini has superior, even great, handling straight off the showroom floor. All the aftermarket stuff makes sense if you have a true purpose for it. If not, as is works just fine, thank you very much.

Rouge Warrior
  The times I have been in a Mini usually are limited to Southern California and occasional trips to the bay area. Those runs tend to be non-stop and I leave LA at night. I bring this up because in metro areas the Mini is already well established and accepted as part of the current automotive culture. I can think of no better ride to have while driving the streets of San Francisco. The Mini registers everything positive needed to navigate the ups and downs of the city. In LA it is a bit different now. The pre-production Mini I had access to was a big hit on Melrose Ave and drew crowds of admirers but that was right after the initial launch. The Mini is now enough of a fixture around here as well as the bay area, that I wanted to check its pulse within the confines of small town California. The farms of the 209 area code, the dots on the map off 101. Diners and gas stations, places like Empire, Cholame, this meant road trip time.

Two triple cheese, side order of fries…
  Good Old Burgers is located off highway 46, a couple of blocks from 101 in the town of Paso Robles. 101 has always been the main artery of Paso Robles and the town owes it's existence to agriculture and the annual summer fair. Rodeo, country & western and old time rock & roll still are a big part of the culture of the town. However, the recent successes of the local wineries threaten the ways of the past with a hefty increase in property values and a changing, upscale population. I pulled the gold bug Mini in to the parking lot and went in and ordered a good old burger and a beer and sat down near a window where I could see the Mini. Some kids that were playing outside at a nearby motel came over and examined the car. A few minutes later a jacked up Ford F-150 pulled up and parked next to the Mini. A couple of guys in their early 20's jumped out along with one girl and headed for GOB's. They all looked pretty much what the culture of the moment is dictating with regards to fashion. The girl had on the usual uniform, low jeans, tank top, big belt and clunky platform sandals. The F-150 was black, big chrome roll bar with lights, huge wheels and tires. It could have been LA but as they sat down across from me the conversation between the three was anything but. The guys were all car talk, big V-8's, loudest headers, paint jobs with flames. The girl was on her cell phone talking about the upcoming weekend at the lake.

Pleased to meet you…
  I turned and introduced myself and joined in the conversation. In to this mix I brought up the Mini and if they were familiar with it. The girl answered that she had seen ads in the style magazines and a cousin had a friend who owned one but she lived in San Diego. The guys had seen a few Minis but only in passing on 101 and usually on weekends. All three had seen the remake of The Italian Job. I asked if they would like to see the car up close. The girl jumped at the chance and the guys kind of, sort of, went along. After the usual how much, how fast and what kind of speakers and amp will fit I gave each a ride. A quick jump on 101, off at the next offramp and a return trip through a few turns leading back to 46 and GOB's. All three were impressed by the Mini's road capabilities and the response from, what to them, is a small powerplant. So I asked if they would want to own one. The girl smiled and said she would love to have one but in a different color. The guys said no. When I pressed as to why it came down to acceptance. The Mini just was not part of their scene. Interestingly, the girl was leaving for college in a few months while the guys had done the local JC and were working at one of the wineries off 46.

Hit me…
  Maybe, just maybe, marketing knew all of this in advance. Then again, maybe it was all one big happy twist of fate. I left Good Old Burgers, put in an old Ian Dury CD, cranked up the volume and headed south.

     Kerry Morse
  March 2005

Calling the 209
My roof's got a hole in it
Good ol' Mini
Drive Friendly
Camp Freddy
In the public view
Good seating available
A mini duo