Austin Mini

This was my first car, bought with my own money. I bought it from John at the Southside Mini Centre in Glasgow. At the time it was an eight year old car with around 36,000 miles on the clock.

I paid £1,500 for the car, plus another £300 or so to take it from bog standard Mayfair trim to something a bit more interesting. The plastic grille was replaced with a nice chrome version, and the wipers, washer jets and various other bits were also given the chrome treatment.

I didn’t stop there: I bought some minilite replica wheels and Yokohama tyres from a mail order shop (apparently the heaviest delivery the postman had ever delivered!), upgraded the intake and exhaust to a full Stage 1 kit, replaced the headlights with brighter Wipac units and replaced the radio cassette with an Alpine CD head unit (apparently the only in-car CD player at the time with enough dampening to prevent skipping in a Mini).

I also did an absolute ton of hard work on the car, T-cutting the dull paintwork, fitting window tint to the rear windows, removing all of the Mayfair logos and coachlines and much, much more.

The car was an absolute hoot to drive. Coming out of the BMW 320i, the Mini was probably about as big a contrast as you could hope for. A tiny, chuckable front wheel drive car with limited power but almost limitless grip… so much fun.

To be honest, I added too much grip. Throwing it into a roundabout, the chassis actually creaked as the weight transferred to the outside wheels. In the end I had to increase the pressure in the rear tyres (28 up front, 45 on the rear) to make it a bit more slippy and interesting again.

The car was an absolute hoot, ruined only by its reliability. Even with only 40K miles under its belt, the Mini needed almost weekly attention. The bodywork bubbled with rust at an alarming rate, the wiring blew one of the car’s four fuses at least once a month, the cylinder head needed to be skimmed after the fan stopped working, and the accelerator cable snapped the first time I pushed the accelerator all the way to the floor.

But the final nail in the coffin for my wee Mini was when I took my new girlfriend (now wife) through to Edinburgh for a day out. It started snowing on the way home and the poor little Mini didn’t have the power to push the snow off the windscreen. We literally couldn’t see where we were going because the wipers were too weak — who was still building cars this badly in the 1990s? Austin, that’s who.