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“The greatest car of all time” and “The Car of the Century” Autocar and Motor Magazine on the Mini
We are pretty sure most people who have made it this far into our Berlinetta listing know what a Mini is and has (or more perhaps more relevantly, hasn’t) and if you don’t, where have you been for the past 60 years? We hence won’t dwell too much on Sir Alexander Issigonis’ wheel at each corner ground breaking masterpiece but rather focus on what this rarest of all the Mini variants is all about. So in brief, shoving the wheels as far away from each other as is physically possible within the cars tiny footprint and dropping a compact engine in unit with its gearbox and driven wheels into it at right angles to the direction of travel made for a Tardis-esque amount of space; effectively the blueprint for every compact front wheel drive family car made since . Unrivalled levels of charm and style coupled with a super-low price meant that by the mid-1960s the Mini was literally everywhere from Carnaby Street to both Country and Council Estates, transcending the country's already waning social boundaries.
Confirmed by its chassis number, this wonderfully original ‘Mark 1’ Mini is a genuine Super DeLuxe; top of the range with a full complement of bells and whistles such as bumper over-riders with corner bars, opening rear side windows, three dial instrument binnacle and so on - essentially a Cooper without the go faster/stop faster bits. However, what really sets it apart from the vast majority of Mini’s is its automatic transmission which was produced specifically for BMC by Automotive Products (AP). Despite offering the option of either lever controlled manual gear-changes or fully automatic selection (as BMC so charmingly put it in it must be said very different times, a “his or hers” arrangement giving the best of both worlds) sales of automatic Minis were slow and represented a tiny proportion of total production. Always the ultimate chic City Car, today a MK1 Mini automatic might be just the thing, particularly given the ever increasing levels of congestion we all have to deal with.
Registered on 12th September 1967, just a month before the MK2 hit the showrooms, ‘GNH 856F’s V5C on file shows just one previous owner with the current one having acquired her back in February 2004. You may well have already seen the Mini without even knowing it as the owner is a supplier of period vehicles for use in productions for both the small screen and cinema and it has made multiple appearances in ITV’s well-loved “Heartbeat”. ‘Expectations’ (Series 15, Episode 19), ‘Changing Roles’ (Series 17, Episode 10) and ‘Ties that bind’ (Series 18, Episode 18) amongst others all saw screen time for the Mini but rest assured, her apparent dunking in a duck pond actually involved not much more than her front tyres resting in the shallows – it’s all to do with camera angles apparently. On the silver screen she provided period correct set dressing in the acclaimed Brian Clough biopic “The Damned United” though unfortunately the Oscar for ‘Best small car in a carpark’ went to a Morris Traveller though frankly we thought its performance more than a little wooden (sorry, it’s been a long day).
A legacy of its previous life the Mini is both highly original and looks to have just stepped out of the 1960s or ‘70s; an everyday car with everyday issues. The body sports an appropriate number of blemishes that ‘life’ inflicts on such machines with a dink here and a dent there, a little filler (but really not much), the odd rust spot and a small hole in the boot floor; please take a look at the photo gallery to see for yourselves. What may not be so obvious is that the owner (a motor engineer by trade) treated the Mini to new floors a number of years ago so the shell is a very solid basis for a machine that could be left well alone, gently tidied up or more comprehensively restored. There is a little unevenness around the front wing seams and the triangular A-Post sections that carry the door hinges as shown in the photo gallery. Ditto the rear wheel arches and valance though the overall integrity of the shell seems very sound with the fit of the bonnet, boot and doors all good.
Originally finished in Island Blue, the Mini was repainted the very slightly lighter and earlier Mini shade of Clipper Blue to suit the requirements of the Heartbeat production team. As can be seen in the photo gallery this is a ‘fit for purpose’ finish that looks well enough but is not what one would describe as ‘show’ standard. There are no drips or runs but it is not particularly shiny though a good polish might well bring it up nicely.
The chrome sits well with the body and paint – not perfect by any means but it has a good shine with no major distortion though there is a little pitting on the rear over-rider bars. Unusually for a Mini the door handles do not droop which points to a lack of significant wear in their mechanisms. The correctly finished wheels have good hubcaps and five new Blockley tyres have recently been fitted.
The interior is sound and honest but again not perfect though it scores well for originality. The seats might benefit from a good clean but they have no splits or rips though the rear squab is a little wrinkled. There is very little wear to the carpets which just need a good vacuuming and some tactical refitting to improve things dramatically – a very quick win. Points lost for mismatched door check straps are more than regained by a couple of strips of ‘Green Shield Stamps’ (remember them?) we found in the capacious ‘three bottle’ door bins. The paint on the hand brake lever has worn through to bright metal but this just adds to the cockpit’s considerable charm. Period Kangol seatbelts are still fitted along with the original ‘Routemaster’ style steering wheel, flashing green bulb indicator switch and correct plastic door releases/pulls.
In the boot and engine bay, everything is in place and honestly presented; a little grubby maybe but complete and again original. The correct rubber mat and jack are present along with the fragile fibre battery cover in reasonable condition atop a newish battery. The inner painted surfaces have a few scuffs and evidence of a little bit of welding plus a small hole behind the off-side wheel arch which could perhaps do with a bit of attention eventually. The underside gives a similar impression with some surface rust on suspension components but solid sub-frames, floors and sills. Flaking protective coatings should probably be scraped back to sound materials and refreshed before too long. The Hydrolastic suspension has been retained with the common modification of flexible pipes in place of the rear sections of the rigid originals. The mild steel exhaust is new enough to retain its paper label and various new brake pipes have been fitted.
Firing first time with a bit of choke, within a minute or so this can be dispensed with and drive engaged. At this juncture the oil pressure showed an excellent 70 PSI and this only dropped back by 10 PSI or so when the engine is fully warmed up and cruising at 40 MPH. The ride is classic Mini which is to say a little bouncy on first acquaintance but one quickly appreciates the way it absorbs the sort of road imperfections that would cause a modern big wheeled, low profile tyred machine’s occupants considerable discomfort, mental and physical.
The compact history file contains the BMC ‘Passport to Service’ booklet and Driver’s handbook along with the current V5C registration document, a couple of expired tax discs and MOT certificates.
This charming Mini, complete with interesting history, is definitely one to either use and improve or restore though for us its condition just encourages one to get on and drive it - frequently.