I have no idea where to start with this one. There are people I still remain friends with who will read this and remember the car vividly, while there are those who up until this point, knew nothing of it at all. I’ve had a lot of disastrous cars in my time, but this one really takes the cake. While I get my head around what to write, enjoy the only picture I have of it. Taken with a disposable camera. At night. In the rain. Enough photo-hindering factors to hopefully make it look half presentable.
It was so yellow!
This car came at an important and crucial time of my life, namely the week I passed my driving test (yes, I know I said I could drive in the Beetle post. The chronology of my car owning capers goes out of the window now, as we’re well into the territory of me owning many cars at the same time) and while I had owned numerous cars beforehand, none of them could refer to that part of the motoring spectrum labelled ‘legal’ as home. Mainly because they were all rusty, decrepit heaps of crap. The Mini was no exception, though it did have an MOT. However, it would later become apparent that said MOT had been carried out by Ray Charles and signed off by Stevie Wonder.
Change the wheels for 12in steels and this is what mine looked like. Yellow
At just £400, alarm bells should have started ringing immediately – they did not. Even in 2001, that was too cheap. I was just excited to own a presentable little number from motoring’s hall of fame. I’d been brought up to love Minis thanks to my Dad and the Knight family, the three brothers (Paul, David and John) all had Minis, in fact it was David who put me on to this one. Amazing we’re still friends, really.
Anyway, I’d grown up helping Paul – the youngest brother and my best mate – restore his red Mini while enviously watching David and John buzz around the bright lights of Chadderton in theirs. It was a seed sewn at an early age, so it was inevitable I would own and drive one at some point. But because I’m crap at buying cars of any discernible quality, it was also inevitable mine would be a shed. Or in this case, a shed hidden under a misleading respray.
In the interest of maintaining friendships with the Knight family, it’s best that I gloss over the circumstances under which I bought the car, and crucially, who I bought it from. All that matters is that I did.
Despite wanting to go on an immediate joyride I offered some restraint, drove it straight home and parked it up. The car had no tax and I didn’t want my driving career to begin with a ticking off from the local constabulary. Two long days passed, my wages hit my bank account and I giddily bought tax and proudly wedged it in the corner of the windscreen with the condensation and dirt.
I. WAS. ROAD. LEGAL!
Within mere hours the bad luck started, though not directly affecting me. My friend Dean didn’t get off so lightly, nor did the Mitsubishi Charisma that he and his Metro bounced off, mere minutes into our first tandem drive, which was also my first drive on my own, sans instructor.
Paul and I watched in horror as the Metro broke traction during our descent into Daisy Nook (a place, not a comely lass). Slamming on the brakes, my little Mini skipped through a shower of flying Metro debris as I hunted through street furniture for a space that could hopefully accommodate the sudden arrival of Alec Issigonis’ most famous napkin art.
Luckily no limbs were lost and the only things dented were panels and pride. When the police arrived we were quizzed about what had unfolded, I myself being asked directly if Dean and I had been racing. Raising an eyebrow before shifting my gaze from the police officer to what was left of Dean’s Metro, then to my Mini before returning to the powerful stare of law enforcement personified, I retorted with a sincere and somewhat baffled “no”.
This is exactly what happened
After taking Dean home, Paul and I spent the drive to mine reflecting on the day’s events, exclaiming how it all happened in slow motion and how it was very much like being on Police Camera Action, but, like, in real life and stuff. It was an exciting first day of driving, that’s for sure.
Arriving home, we left the Mini for a night of Playstation and beer firmly. Laughing to myself as I thought once more about my exchange with the police officer earlier in the day, I swung the door of the Mini shut only to be greeted by a dull clunk. Tried again, same thing. One last time…
…the driver’s door fell off.
It had begun, though the full extent of this ‘beginning’ was unknown to me at this point.