We motoring journos are a lucky lot. We drive a heck of a lot of cars – this week alone, I’ve had an Audi A5, a Merc A 150, plus the current steed, a Toyota Avensis estate.
The trick, Chris ‘Drivers Republic’ Harris told me, during work experience at Autocar back in the day, is to approach it thus.
Whenever you’re driving, you’re working.
Good motoring journos don’t drive and switch off, he said. They’re thinking, comparing, contrasting, questioning. And this, curiously, makes even the dullest cars interesting. WHY are the brakes on a Citroen C3 so tiresome? WHAT is it about the ride quality of an Avensis on 18”s that’s so contradictory? And so on.
This creates problems for the cars we drive in our spare time. Here, we’re looking for drug cars – a quick-hit fix of insanity, that we can get into and be wired straight into. Ones with immediacy. Long-distance seat lumbar support and high-speed wind noise suppression is less vital.
It’s why most motoring journos’ stables are so nutty. Lord knows, when some of us do meet up for a tea in deepest Wales on Saturday mornings, the sort of stuff you see is crazy: stripped 205 GTIs, Clio Cups, Caterhams, scratch-built 1950s MGs, Minis with Honda engines, really dodgy old bikes, even dodgier old BMW 6 Series with no interior trim, etc and so forth.
Me? Golf GTI MkII. It was. Until this week.
Now I need an original Mini.
I drove a single-seater at Silverstone, you see. Bit random, but there is a connection: I Loved it. Had forgotten just how special they are. Remembered what a buzz ‘pure’ motoring is. And the logical way of recreating this is with a noisy, uncomfortable, hard-riding old Mini.
With, of course, impeccable FWD handling, plus feel, intensity and spirit by the bucketload. I can tinker with it, get involved in the scene, maybe even bang a VTEC in it at some point. All for well under a grand for my favoured route of 1980s Mayfair (for the uber discreet look – and velour – no?).
How wrong could I be.
Minis. Not cheap, are they? As in, thousands. Grands. Many of. Oh, my.
So now, I’m a journo on a mission. To find a good 1980s Mayfair, for decent money. Does such a thing exist? For obvious reasons, I think I need one by this August, which gives us plenty of time. Are they out there?
And, in the meantime, if anyone can offer me a quick-fire education course on buying and running all things Issigonis masterpiece (that’s not dissin’ the 9X and ADO17, of course), do please take the opp. I think I’ll be needing it…