Our Cars : Getting to know Keith’s MINI

Keith Adams


Regular followers of the site will know that I like to change my cars more often than most people change their underwear. The last Our Cars update was about my Vauxhall Calibra – and how happy I was running a modern classic that cost very little money.

Well, a matter of days after I wrote that, I sold it. Don’t know why I did – I guess because it was a reliable, faultless car that didn’t put a foot wrong. I just don’t seem to bond with reliable cars that actually get me where I want to be. I guess that might explain why I’ve gone and replaced it with an R50-generation MINI, one of the first few off the line, with one or two ‘issues’.

Now’s the time to buy, and all that…

I’ve already blogged about the car – along with the early MINI One which I’ve also picked up – describing how there’s been a significant drop in the values across the board and how that’s made these once must-have cars cheap as chips for anyone looking for a little bit of smart for not much cash.

There is, of course, a pay off. Although they were trumpeted as quality cars when new back in 2001, early MINIs are now suffering from the onset of old age like any other car. So, the ads are now littered with early cars that have led a hard life, and are now showing the signs. Broken gearboxes, warning lights and random faults are now the norm.

Still, that gives one plenty to talk about when buying a ‘project’. So far in my MINI ownership, I’ve not driven the Cooper as much as perhaps I should have. Blame it on my new job at Parkers, which is currently feeding me a continuous source of new cars – in the past few weeks, I’ve driven what seems to be everything from a basic Mitsubishi pick-up to a Mercedes-AMG SL 63, and everything in between.

Mind you, in the times I have driven the MINI, it’s been a great deal of fun – cementing my belief that these are fabulous modern classics. They’s cheap, fun to drive, have a great specialist support network and still look fresh and modern.

As the miles pass by, the faults list is growing

  1. Tyres need replacing by some premium, matching rubber
  2. The air-con needs re-gassing, as it keeps steaming up
  3. The gear selectors could do with changing
  4. TPMS warning light showing
  5. Intermittent ABS, ESC and TC lights showing
  6. A full oil and filter service needs doing
  7. The missing trim at the top of the A-post needs replacing
  8. Windscreen and rear wipers need replacing
  9. The air filter housing and battery case under the bonnet need repairing
  10. Headlamps need aligning
  11. Driver’s window needs servicing – it’s agonisingly slow to drop and raise
  12. Driver’s door mirror glass needs replacing
  13. Some paint rectification needed
  14. The interior needs a thorough valeting
  15. The loud aftermarket exhaust could do with replacing with a standard one

That list looks discouraging, but far from insurmountable, but there are two issues with cracking it, though. One, my time is limited, and, although I love the idea of a project, they rarely pan out these days. And two, it’s MoT’d until next August, so I’ll probably just end up enjoying it until someone offers to buy it off me for less than I paid for it. That’s what usually happens.

You know what, though – I really do think these are great cheap sheds to run around in at the moment. You might argue that they’re not properly British, as they came in under BMW’s remit (despite being developed and designed by Rover), and what I need is a nice Rover 400 like Mike’s. But I just can’t do it, despite my MINI costing more than five times as much, and being considerably sheddier.

Anyway, we’ll see how it goes. I do love an early car – and this is almost as early as they come – so, for now, it stays, and I’ll have fun in one of the best steering cars I can remember for many a year. You can’t say that about a Calibra!


Keith Adams


  1. Surprisingly cheap, and as the mk2 MINI was an evolutionary design, still looks surprisingly fresh and modern (could that be said for many 15 year old cars?).

    The recent launch of the mk3 with the bigger grille probably dated the original design a little, hence the value drop (same as when Audi brought out the David Brent grille and dated their previous small-grille models) though as said, still remarkably modern looking.

    When we looked at MINIs a few years ago we struggled to find any below £4k, now they’re entering banger valley territory where we are starting to see poorly modified and pink resprayed examples.

  2. That’s a long list of things to fix. There are plenty of non-knackered MINIs out there (including the blue one you mentioned you bought in your last blog post).

    “I do love an early car”

    Would you care to elaborate? Is this just a Rover enthusiast’s automatic reaction to the horrors of Project Drive? Some manufacturers actually *improve* their cars as time goes on…

      • Fair enough. I’ve noticed you mentioned your preference for early cars in other articles on ARonline. Thought there might have been a more deep-seated reason, something to do with aesthetics or purity of design or some nonsense like that.

  3. I struggle with the idea that becoming “dated” is relevant to Mini / MINI design.

    The first R50/R53 MINI’s are still the best looking of each generation of MINI, with the least conventional and least accountant led body design (just look at the glorious single, deep draw, clamshell bonnet pressing, or the use of glass wraps for evidence of that).

    Having said that, you’re a brave man to take on an early one, especially one where the gearbox went out of production 11 years ago! I can’t imagine that this car will be cheap to return to fine fettle.

    • “dated” was maybe the wrong word.

      Just that with the mk3 “big grille” model the mk1/2 no longer look brand new out-of-the-showroom, but they still look very modern (surprisingly, for a 15 year old car!).

  4. I’d rather have a Calibra than the ergonomic disaster that is a Mini interior. Come to think of it, I’d rather just have a Calibra full stop.

  5. Just what is the reliability issue with the “Midland” gearbox when used in the early BMW Mini? Many articles I have read suggest it was not fit for purpose and was replaced with a Getrag unit at the first facelift. There are even conversion kits available to change from one to the other.

    I understand that the Midland gearbox was the Rover R65 gearbox used in 100s, 200s and 400s for years without any major issues. Was there a design change to save a few pennies?

  6. Never thought Id like this version of the Mini, but it is amazing what a little time can do. Ashamed to say that the only Mini I have driven was the original, might be time to change that now I can afford one of these.

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