Me & My Car: A miracle of packaging
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What are you driving?
Rupert is a resto-modded 1963 Deluxe Mini in green with a white roof. He has a 1330cc engine driving through a 4-speed remote-change manual gearbox. My husband Brian and I found it when we were looking for a restoration project in 2012. It came with all the flash bits we wanted since someone had tried to turn it into a Cooper replica, but they'd run out of time or money or inspiration and just stored it in a shed. Like all restoration projects, it turned out to need more work than we expected.
What do you like about Rupert?
We've restored this Mini from a bare shell to show condition, customised to suit exactly what we wanted in a Mini, with zero regard for originality. My favourite thing about it is that, to the average punter, it looks fairly standard and understated. Of course it's not. It now has a custom, modernised electrical system, full leather interior, worked 1330cc engine, performance suspension, and a 2K paint job with full seam sealer, stone chip, and rust proofing. We did all the work, except for the painting, which was done professionally by Sin at Benge Spraypainting and Restoration in Penrose.
How does the Mini fit your personality?
It's understated, while being quite a bit more capable than it looks.
Is it easy to get into?
I'm only 5ft 8 inches [1.72m] and Brian's not much taller, so yes, it's easy to get in and out of. Though we have Mini-owning friends who are 6ft 4 [1.93m] and they don't have any issues, either. A Mini is a miracle of packaging.
Is there plenty of room for everything else you need?
We've gone on a few longer trips and the boot's useful if you don't pack too much, but the back seats have plenty of room for luggage. We mostly use it for day trips, car shows, and for getting through traffic, so it's usually empty.
Is this your first Mini?
My first was a 1966 Mini van, with the frantic 850cc engine and no soundproofing. I sold it to a friend in the 90s, and it's since been restored.
How often do you clean your Mini?
We're still in the freshly restored honeymoon phase, where it's spotless inside and out.
Who else drives your Mini?
We've offered a few friends and family the chance to take it out for a drive but, so far, no one's been brave enough. I think they're worried about scratching the paint.
What do you always keep in Rupert?
There's a large spare parts bag in the boot — light bulbs, fan belt, spark plugs, wires and various spares. Murphy's Law says that if I'm prepared for a breakdown, it won't happen. So far, so good. Inside there's the log book, some USB chargers, and a couple of teddy bears that come out for car shows.
What else do you have in your “garage”?
A 1991 Mitsubishi Delica 4WD (the caravan-towing utility wagon), and a 2008 Daihatsu Terios.
First car you owned?
A 1974 Morris Marina. It was the worst car in the world, and it broke down so often I had no choice but to learn to enjoy fixing cars.
Your dream car?
I'm thinking of importing a Mazdaspeed Mazda AZ-1 (the tiny gull-winged Kei car), but only if I can keep the Mini as well. Brian has a Lotus Elise and a Mk1 Mazda MX5 on his bucket list.
Any cars you have regretted selling?
I'm not really a regret kind of person, but I still miss my supercharged AW11 MR2 when I'm stuck behind slow traffic. The Isuzu Piazza Turbo is now rare as, so I wouldn't mind having that back, and the Austin Healey Sprite was a heap of fun.
Do you judge people by what they drive?
I like to think I judge people by how they drive, but I must admit I don't trust a BMW with its indicator on —it's just too out of character.
Is the Mini taking part in the February 17 Pride Parade?
The Bears have managed to overheat their parade cars twice now, I'm not going to risk it with the Mini. It's not built to go that slowly, anyway.