Mini Mob invades Vancouver
So I'm sitting at a traffic light at the wheel of a Mini, in a lineup of more than two dozen other Minis, and it suddenly occurs to me that hey, this is more than just a car, it's a subculture.
While automotive enthusiasm is nothing new to me (having owned a couple of old Vespas, a Triumph TR4A convertible, and a Triumph motorcycle), there's something different about this Mini business. After all, these cars aren't vintage—they're brand-spanking-new—and they already have a following most older marques would give their eyeteeth for.
Earlier in the week, when I received an invitation from to take part in Sunday's (April 3) Mini Mob—a fleet of Minis taking a scenic route through downtown to converge on the Auto Show at the Vancouver Convention Centre—I jumped at the chance. While I've had some experience with the old 1960s Minis (charming as all get-out, but spartan, tiny, and almost motorcycle-like in their simplicity), I'd never tried one of the new ones.
Provided with a new Mini Cooper S by Yaletown Mini (fully loaded, sticker price about $35,000), I find the little car comfortable and amazingly roomy for a compact (I'm 6 feet 1 inch and I fit in it just fine).
The engine is peppy—although only 1.6 liters, the turbocharger and the Mini's low weight (just over 1200kg) provide for a rocket-like takeoff. Its wide, low stance allows it to really stick to the corners, and the interior appointments—dash, seats, console—are all plush and state-of-the-art. And as far as the driving experience, the Mini is a ton of fun even if, at parade speed, I never get a chance to really put the spurs to it.
One thing's for sure: Minis get a lot of attention. During the drive, there are plenty of rubberneckers checking out our procession, a lot of smiles, and more than a few waves and thumbs-up.
Once we arrive at the convention centre, I talk to Ross Creasy, president of the Vancouver Mini Cooper Club. His enthusiasm for the brand is palpable, as he tells me about his time with the club, and the virtues of the car itself, describing its "zippy performance and go-kart handling". Creasy's personal Mini, a John Cooper Works special edition, is a real head-turner, souped-up straight from the factory with a supercharged 207-horsepower plant. "It screams," he says, "literally and figuratively".
Almost immediately, our parking area next to the Olympic Cauldron is overrun with curious people, checking out all the various versions on display. There are sport models, special editions, the Mini Countryman four-door, four-wheel drive sport utility vehicle, and even a handful of vintage Minis from the 1960s and '70s.
And, as the Mini owners are besieged with questions, you can see they love the attention. Spreading the word, it's obvious, is just one more fun thing about Mini ownership.