There is a special birthday coming up soon – not mine I hasten to add; that was in January. Nor is it someone in my family; the one I am referring to is the 50th birthday of the Mini.
The first production model came of the assembly line on May 8th 1959. To celebrate the occasion there are several events planned including the International Mini Meet 2009 to which the organisers expect half a million spectators.
I remember being given a lift in one of the early Minis which had sliding windows, door pockets, funny little seats, flimsy door pulls, a centre mounted speedometer and tiny little wheels. Not a lot of comfort in those cars but they got you about and were as cheap as chips - £500 on the road.
Gradually the Mini became more refined and more expensive. Eventually it also became a whole lot faster. Who could forget the Mini Coopers and the Cooper S. They won three Monte Carlo rallies and starred in the ‘Italian Job’.
I had a friend (Eggy Swaine) who bought a Cooper S and would delight in dabbing the throttle just to demonstrate the lovely noise it made. After a couple of pints of brown over bitter, he took me out in it and scared me to death. There wasn’t a lot of metal between you and an accident in that tiny flying machine. Still it was glorious fun and I eventually stepped out unscathed. We went back in the pub and downed a couple more pints.
Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade my present car for a Mini but I still give a second glance when I see one in the streets.