Why so much interest in Y-reg MINIs? The R50- and onwards-generation of MINI rather neatly dovetails with AROnline in many ways. We appeared at the same time in 2001, started out with good intentions and have grown beyond all recognition from the original idea. Well, something like that.
Back in 2016, and spurred on by the creation of the MINI Y REGister, and my love of all things early (when it comes to cars), I thought it might be nice to grab one of the original cars and enjoy it for a bit. The club is building a register of all remaining 2001 MINIs, which is why if you have one, you should get in touch with those guys. There were other good reasons for this, too – thanks to the launch of the F56-generation MINI, these early cars are looking particularly appealing.
Why? Because there’s no escaping that the F56 is a bit of a munter. Yes, it’s great to drive (like any small BMW), and has some very innovative engineering, but its looks really don’t do it any favours. And, yet, because the 2001 car is now visually quite separated from the current car, it’s now in the realms of the sub-£1000 category, although picking up fast, after taking quite a drop in 2015-16.
The Cooper I grabbed back then, Y702 MDF (above), came in at that price point and, although it’s grubby and has a missing parcel shelf, there’s still plenty of life left in it. Driving it back from deepest Berkshire, it was hard not to fall for its quick steering and playful handling – just as I remembered the first Cooper I drove to the Nurburgring in 2006… The good news is that, two years later, number 733 is in rude health and my 19-year-old son is enjoying owning such an interesting car.
The ones to have appear to be the Yxxx OBL-registered cars, which were rolled across the UK as management, dealer and press demonstrators. They are particularly interesting, as they’re the plates the press cars wore back in 2001, and most of the road test cars that featured in the car magazines of the day (here in the UK) wore one of these number plates.
Richard Hill is one of the many enthusiasts of these cars who is working hard to record as much as he can about them. He’s the owner of Y931 OBL, and he said, ‘When I purchased my Y plate it came down to affordability as opposed to rarity but, after owning it for a couple of weeks, I started to realise how lucky I’d been to stumble across VIN 81. This made me want to find out more.’
He’s built an excellent site, Y MINI Adventure, and, on this page, he’s gone a long way in explaining what has happened to all of the earliest MINIs. Well worth a look if you’re interested in these cars, as we know many of you are…