If I were buying a new car tomorrow I'd buy a used Mini. It may seem like an unusual choice, but let me explain: the Mini, for me, is a nostalgia car, evoking memories of summer and sunshine, and that first heady taste of freedom…
It was the summer of 1997 and my best mate and I were 17 years old. For her birthday my friend had been given driving lessons and the cutest little Nissan Micra in which we whipped about town enjoying our new found independence autel, thinking we were the bees knees. We were between the lower and upper sixth forms at school, knew that the following summer would bring with it new adventures and separation, and so were determined that this would be the best break ever.
Our school friends were all headed off to some sunny package holiday destination to do the usual tacky teenage bikini-and-beer thing, but that wasn't our style. We wanted music and adventure, fun and frolics, a beach, yes, but also something to keep our minds ticking over. We packed the car with a tent, sleeping bags an awful lot of bottled water (for some unknown reason) and stacks of CDs and hit the M6 south: we were headed to Devon!
When we reached our destination (my second cousin's village, just outside Plymouth) we pitched our tent in the garden by the pool. We then spent a glorious week hitting local beaches, climbing cliff walks, flitting mermaid-like in and out of the water and on-and-off the rocks, and enjoying the local summer festivals. Radio 1's Big Weekend was around at the time, and the eclipse was happening during our holiday and so had inspired small off-shoot music festivals all over the county. We attended as many gigs as possible, in pubs and clubs, on cobbled squares and muddy grass fields, and in-between each we blasted Californication by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers at full volume through the car's tinny speakers. We christened the holiday Criscus '97, a play on our nicknames, with the tagline:
Chillis and minis, boys and bands!
But why the Minis, I hear you ask? If you were in a Micra why do used Minis remind you of that summer?
Bear in mind we were 17 years old and our hormones were in hyperdrive. We did not want the sort of 18-30 type holiday that our friends had chosen, but that was at least in part because we were not interested in the type of boys who went on those holidays! We wanted bassists and drummers, surfers and lifeguards. And we very quickly realised that these were the very boys who drove the abundance of Minis on those winding country roads.
It developed into a kind of competition between the two of us, spotting the oncoming Mini first and starting up the chant: MiniMiniMiniMiniMiniMiniMini… (original Autel MaxiTPMS PAD, no?) before checking out those within. If the car has a surfboard strapped to the top, double points! If not, well, were they at least cute?
Ahh, the heady days of youth.
These days I'm far more responsible. But, in fact, this doesn't make me any less likely to buy a used Mini, rather I see it as something of an investment. Afterall, the new models hold their value better than any other superminis out there, and the vintage design is completely in-keeping with my modern-retro aesthetics. And hitting those windy country coastal roads is far less intimidating knowing my car has a five star Euro NCAP crash-test rating, stability control and front, side and cabin-length airbags. Yup, a used Mini is definitely top of my to-buy list when it comes to second hand cars!Pete J Ridgard is a writer and a car enthusiast. He currently writes for the automotive industry. Here he discusses Used MINI cars.