Like so many young boys I always made the assumption that when I grew up I would own a car, even though we did not have a car in our family. Unlike many boys I did not dream about having the biggest, fastest and most macho car around, I dreamt about having a Mini.
Way back then the Mini was just one of an array of British, and to an extent Australian vehicles that were available on the South African market. The big Japanese and German car makers had not made that large an impact on the locals with the models on offer. For some reason I wanted a Mini and nothing less! On my daily trips by bus to primary school I would avidly keep an eye open for them and count them; with 5 probably being the norm, and 10 the exception. The part of town where I lived was not a rich area and there were more second hand cars in Mayfair than there are in Jeppe Street (Jeppe Street eventually became the hub of dodgy used car lots).
Wind forward to the point where I could theoretically qualify to learn to drive and I never did. Public transport was available, and I did not really need one, and again, our family did not own a car, so I did not come from a car owning culture. All that changed in 1989 when my aunt passed away and I decided that the time had come to learn to drive. I bought a very battered 15th hand 1974 VW Beetle Lux Bug and it ended up hanging around for a year in the underground parking of the building where I lived while I learnt to drive.
I got my license in 1990 and spent the next few years paying for repairs for that dieing Beetle which I disposed of in 1997.
What happened to my dream of having a Mini? The Mini was no longer manufactured by then, in fact one of my workmates had amongst the last Leyland Minis around, and by then I recognised that it was not the ideal car, although it still stirred something in me. When he sold it I was very tempted to buy it off him, but it had an oil leak so decided against it.
Amongst my few surviving childhood toys is a Matchbox Mini which was released in 1970, and which spent most of its life in the display cabinet at home. It is a very old model now, and worth nothing except to me.
Matchbox series 29, “Racing Mini” (1970)
In fact I have more than one Mini model,
and of course when I see one I am drawn to photograph it. In the UK they are not as rare as in South Africa, so opportunities abound. They do command a steep price now, but I do recognise that it is not the perfect car as it does lack many of the items that I look for in a vehicle: reliability, safety, air conditioning, cost of insurance, comfort etc. If I could pick up one in a good condition at a good price I would consider it, but that is unlikely. So, I will just have to enjoy other people’s Mini’s along the way.
And finally, in June 2016 I saw this half Mini at the London Science Museum. It was really quite quirky.
© DRW 2016-2018. Created 17/05/2016. More Minis added 02/08/2016. 15 more Minis added 22/08/2017. More Minis added and created separate gallery for them which replaces the old table, moved the contents of the table to that gallery 20/08/2018,