Friday, January 30, 2015

Miniature Triple Threat!

Let's get one thing straight; I know as much (or less) about classic Minis as I do most foreign cars that weren't imported into the U.S. Unfortunately for my reputation they actually were brought into the country between 1960-1967, but I've never had the chance to ride in one, and rarely see them in action. This is a glaring omission in my car lust as this is one of the most iconic vehicles in history. Unbelievably I ran across 3 of them within a couple months last year within a mile of my shop in Brooklyn. Time to begin the research!
To start off we have this beautiful example of a Mark II Mini as denoted from the bold grill. Minis were introduced in 1959 by British Motor Corporation (BMC), and continued on in the same basic form until the year 2000! In shear longevity this makes the Mini the English equivalent of the Beetle.
Other than being '67 or newer due to that trapezoidal grill I'm not entirely certain as to the year. The small square light above the front wheel well seems like a safety feature that first appeared in some markets around 1975.
From the rear we can see another clue to the vintage in the larger rectangular taillights that incorporate the reverse light which happened in '77. We can see that the steering wheel is on the left hand side for driving in the States, but converting one is an easy and commonly performed task.
These little rides are front wheel drive, with a low and wide stance for great handling. Most of the volume of the Mini goes towards interior space for passengers.
Look at this hilarious little squash from the side! I just want to jump in a tear away in this little punk. The tough looking fender flares are original options as are the cool mag wheels.
This show-worthy ride is parked in front of a shop in Gowanus that seems ready to repair any car but definitely attracts foreign classics. Incidentally that drab gray building in the distance used to have CITROEN painted along the top. I believe it was a parts and repair shop but can't be sure. The gray paint covered all traces a couple of years ago.
On to a double take yielding a double discovery:
Sweet! This cool little Mini looks to be rally prepped with its triple accessory lighting on the chrome brush guard. This one looks to be a Mini Mark I due to its more rounded grill. Don't let those oil drips on the pavement scare you; this thing looks ready to pounce right now!
I rode past this ride on my bike in Windsor Terrace and did a u-turn to take some snaps. Only then did I realize there were 2 rides in that driveway! More on that other one in a minute . . .
It looks like there's a roll cage installed from this angle but it's only a reflection on the rear window of some house trim. Again those tough fender flares make an appearance, as do the mag wheels.
As if I needed any more confusion in trying to pinpoint the years on these things the taillights are post-'77 Mark II style. It seems I have absolutely no idea what to go by in determining the vintage then! It turns out that a decent percentage of the 5.5 million Minis produced were CKDs which stands for Completely Knocked Down kits. Basically the car was shipped as a collection of parts in a crate to be assembled in the country of origin. Parts on the Mini are mostly interchangeable for the duration of their production, so grills, lights, doors, and just about everything else can be easily swapped out. If your Mini got in a fender bender in the U.S. you could go to the scrapyard and pick up replacement parts from any vintage to fix your ride, so I hereby forfeit the dating game.
But wait a minute! The one thing I can say with absolute certainty is that they never produced a Mini convertible!
Yes indeed we can see from the cracking fiberglass top-rear of the body that this was any old Mini before someone decided to lop the top off of it. I personally think this is a great decision!
It probably looked pretty darn good when it was recently done, though now it's showing some wear. That roll bar is a good idea, not only for keeping your head somewhat intact if you rolled over, but to try and retain some of the rigidity lost when the roof came off.
Also adding to both the rigidity and craziness factor is the fact that they welded in the lower doors, cutting a small climb-over entry point. If you ever wanted to steer a bumper car towards the wall and break through it to drive on the street this is what it would look like. Look at the tiny windshield too!
It actually has 2 individual windshields which is somewhat in line with classic British sports cars of days gone by. This was as close as I was willing to get to a car parked up against the wall of a house without an owner around to ask permission, but I'm curious to see the interior.
I think the line in the center of the canvas cover is a zipper which would allow you to drive solo with the other side covered. In theory this would be cool like the old LeMans racers but I imagine the canvas would be buffeting pretty hard in the wind.
It's hard to show just how small a topless Mini is with pictures, but this entire ride only comes up to the 3rd step on that staircase.
Since the taillights on the convertible don't contain the reverse lights I'm guessing it is the oldest of the 3 examples featured today. It also looks to get the least use, but the plate is a recent style so here's hoping I can catch it zipping up the road one day in the warmer months!

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