Back in October I eluded to a 'new' 'commuter car' that never came to fruition. Some of you may know that I have lusted after a classic mini cooper for some time now. I have spent years trolling ebay and minimania.com looking for one in a reasonable radius at a reasonable price. I stumbled upon one very near to my house and almost bought it. That was, until it was hit by a state snow plow.
So, the search continued. A passive hobby, every once in a while scanning the sites until one popped up in Rhode Island. That's not too far, and after my years of research, I know what the going rate is, and this one was cheap. So, sight unseen (save some bad pictures) I decided to buy it.
Last week I drove up there, and before I knew it I was sitting in the most adorable car ever produced by man. I was very happy to see that it did in fact exist, was drivable, and that the seller was really selling it and not planning to murder me at all. Every wild ass plan comes with moments of clarity and terror, sometimes simultanously. Sitting in his driveway behind the wheel of a car I could barely drive was that moment. It is the mark of a good wild ass plan to think to yourself, "How in the hell did I get into this situation?"
Before I got there, I had driven a manual car four times and I guess we can safely say I am much better at it now than I was a week ago. I asked the seller not to think less of me when he saw me drive by his house 22 times before I actually left. He laughed, but then I actually did.
I drove it from his house to NH that evening and it was an adventure. I had some highway time, some back roads time, some stopped in traffic time and it was a success. Now, I can't pretend that I know anything about cars, so any noise or smell I experienced while driving filled me with terror. Also, the gas gauge is broken, and the seller wasn't clear on how big the tank was, so, in 100 miles I stopped for gas three times because not knowing made me very nervous. And yes, that was three times too many, and yes, it does feel stupid to buy one gallon of gas.
After a long and sordid story, my parents escorted me home. It was nice to have them behind me as they gave me a wide birth on hill starts and if anything happened it was comforting to know that they were right there. And whether he admits it or nor, Dad knows a lot more about cars than I do.
In many, many miles of non-highway driving we had only one overheating incident and other than that the mini performed admirably for a car of its age and lineage.
I've now had it vetted by a professional and the results were as expected: it needs a little work. But not as much as one might think. I ordered the parts and the immediate problems will be addressed as soon as they come in. It has been fun trying to find basic things like light bulbs and lug nuts. Overly helpful auto parts stores insist on attempting to find the bulb numbers in the computer. The problem is they start by looking under BMW. I try to explain that this is a 'real' British mini and if it were there it would be under Morris, British Leyland, British Motor Company, Rover, or Austin. "Oh, yeah, check under Austin Martin." one guy suggested. I just smiled and nodded.