I’m currently enjoying a bit of a break from work. It’s been an interesting few months, writing and launching Honest John Classics, running AROnline and working on www.honestjohn.co.uk. That’s why I reckoned that, for a birthday treat to myself, I deserved something of a screen break. Being (the partner of) a very satisfied MINI First owner, I decided that the International Mini Meet 2013 was a great event to visit – helped not only by the fact that all the best Minis and their owners visit the IMM, but also that for 2013, it’s being held at the Mugello racing circuit, in the heart of Tuscany, Italy.
I was going to drive down in my (partner’s) MINI First, but when she made loud grumbling noises reminiscent of the rear differential of my Lancia Integrale, I went with Plan B, borrowing a Clubvan (AKA ‘Britain’s fastest van’) from MINI UK, and hacking down in that instead. I went in convoy with my good friend Dave Smart (see his blogs, entitled Dave’s Marvellous Mini of Doom) through Switzerland and Italy (and you can read all about that later), and had an absolutely brilliant time in the process.
I have to say, I absolutely love that little van – even if I’m the first to accept that it’s not going to be the first choice of commercial vehicle for those looking to carry large loads on a Europallet. Think of it as the ideal cupcake or croissant delivery vehicle and you’ll get the idea.
Of course, for this trip, the event’s the star, and I have to say that as a fan of Issigonis’ ‘wizardry on wheels’, the IMM2013 has been an absolute pleasure to be a part of.
For those who haven’t been to IMM before, and who do have a love – or even curiosity – about Minis, it’s well worth a trip. In 2014, the event takes place in Kent, so you won’t have to go quite as far as I have this year, but you might not find that you enjoy the drive quite as much fun. When I rolled into Scapreria, near Florence, the village that Mugello backs on to, the place was literally over-run by BMC’s little blighters. They were everywhere, their owners hooting noisily and flashing their spotlights at each other – it’s hard not to be overcome by such infectious enthusiasm.
And once into the circuit’s surrounding grounds, the sheer number of Minis (around 2000) that have attended don’t actually overwhelm; no it’s the variety of the cars – from the maddest tuned R56 John Cooper Works cars, to the most standard and well-preserved 850s – and where they’ve come from. For a geeky numberplate spotter like me, seeing ‘plates from Ukraine, Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania (the host of IMM in 2015), France, Belgium, Great Britain, Ireland, Germany, Malta and a host of other countries is a sheer joy. Then there’s the cars – most are gorgeous, some are just wacky, and a few are battered, bruised and bear the scars of active and happy lives.
The stars for me – of course – were the Innocentis. I absolutely adore the Bertone-styled Mini 90/120, and to see a selection at the show – first hand – has been a genuine pleasure. There were many of the facelifted Daihatsu-powered examples but, in among them was a delectable A-Series powered Mini 90 (above) and a Cooper S powered De Tomaso. I wanted both. But seeing so many Innocentis, so lovingly looked after, sporting more appealing details, and weird names like Mini-Minor, Minimatic, or 1001, than their British cousins was lovely. I believe there’s about half a dozen of the things back at home – at IMM, I must have seen more than 50.
However, what really makes IMM so special is the sheer unbridled enthusiasm of everyone there. Yes, it rained during the event, the toilet facilities were medieval and plenty of people were camping in a quagmire, but they were all smiling, cheery and having a great time. On the day I left, Evo’s Editorial Director, Harry Metcalfe (a massive, massive car nut), said to me that going to Mugello must have seemed like a huge journey in a classic Mini – to which I responded that the owners are a hardy bunch. I’d now add sociable, too – and, here, I have seen this first hand.
That’s because everyone is so accepting. The Mini scene is young and vibrant. It’s a multi-faceted community united by its love of the cars. It doesn’t matter how good, bad, or ugly your Mini is, it’s as celebrated as the next car. The post-2001 MINI’s presence is getting stronger and, from my first-hand experience, they’re now very much part of the scene (very ably supported by its parent company), even if the real stars of the show were ten-feet and a quarter inches long and were designed by Alec Issigonis.
I can’t wait for the next one – and stay tuned for galleries of the most interesting cars from the event, both here and on Honest John Classics.