Friday, 3 January 2014

Whatever happened to the Life On Cars Mini?

AS the wind howled in from the Irish Sea and lorries thundered past I could feel the Mini’s speed sapping away, its tiny engine coughing and spluttering under the strain. The A55 in North Wales is a lonely place to be when you’ve just broken down in a car that’s older than you are.

It’s almost exactly five years since I encountered what would be the first of many breakdowns in my first car. Having only passed my test two months earlier, I probably should’ve been sensible and sourced a secondhand Micra or a lightly-cuddled Ka for my motoring debut. That, however, would have been boring, so I opted for a 1983 Mini Mayfair instead.

A car I grew to love and hate in roughly equal measure, depending on how much it’d broken down in any given week.

Even though I sold it more than three years ago, it is still the one car I get asked about more than any other. A860 JKC wasn’t so much a car as a source of automotive anecdotes. One day, I’d be revelling in its go-kart steering and how many mates and bags of Tesco’s finest you can cram into just ten feet of car. The next, I’d be cursing its British Leyland build quality and welding so bad you didn’t need a Haynes diagram to see its internals.

For all its foilibles, the car that became known simply as The Life On Cars Mini took me on thousands of miles of adventures everywhere from Caernarfon to Carlisle. Even though I’ve owned another, better-built Mini since – and quite a few other cars besides – I still miss it. In the same way you might miss your old teddy bear.So I was delighted to discover earlier today that the old girl’s still very much alive.

My automotive answer to Who Do You Think You Are was inspired by fellow Classic Car Weekly scribe Greg Macleman, after reading about hisefforts to track down his old, mid-Eighties BMW. A quick check on the DVLA’s vehicle enquiry website (well worth a go if you’re keen to ascertain your old car’s pulse, by the way) revealed that while it wasn’t on the road, it was still very much on its records. Which meant it’d escaped the crusher.

Next port of call was to dig out the Mini’s old records and give the chap I’d sold it to three years ago a quick ring, expecting it to prompt the start of a lengthy search. I was overjoyed to discover that he’s still got it – and that the car I fell in love all those years ago is finally being treated to the restoration I could never afford as a trainee reporter.

The Mini which graced The Champion’s motoring section every other week with its breakdowns all those years ago is, you’ll be pleased to hear, currently in a bodyshop being given a bit of TLC.

I feel a bit of a reunion coming on. Preferably not on a windswept dual carriageway on the North Wales coast, though!

1 comment:

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