Wednesday August 28, 2019
On the morning of August Bank Holiday, certain residents of Cowley must have thought they were experiencing a Doctor Who-style time warp, as 60 Minis thundered along the road from the Mini Plant Oxford. The Cavalcade was, of course, a 60th birthday celebration of one of the select few cars that merit the term ‘icon’ and was an event that involved the resources of BMW UK, BBC Radio Oxford, Tanya Field, and countless enthusiasts who gave their time and effort.
Here are just ten of my impressions – but it could easily have been one hundred:
1) The sounds. Especially of Minis en masse, raring to make that journey from the factory to Cuttleslow Park in Oxford.
2) The heat – but then, gently roasting while the sliding windows largely failed to ventilate the cabin was all part of the Mini experience. At least the Vans (more of which anon) had the roof top vent while certain parties’ gazed in envy at the 1966 Austin Crayford Convertible owned by John Fisher. David Whale, the Chairman of the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs, benefitted from yet more natural air conditioning, as he owns a pre-production 1964 Morris Moke. On a day when temperatures exceeded 28C, who needed a car with the luxuries of a second windscreen wiper or a dashboard when you could enjoy true open-topped motoring?
3) The glamour. Of course, each and every Mini is a vehicle of innate glamour but to be in a venue that included Joel Mutton’s 1990 Steve McQueen replica, a 1981 Milanese-built Innocenti de Tomaso or a limited edition 1988 Jet Black (‘Smooth on the Streets’) was to be almost overwhelmed.
4) The rarity. To have one Morris-badged Traveller Mk. II attend an event is remarkable enough but for there to be a pair (one of which sans woodwork) was incredible. And that is before we mention the Wolseley Hornet Mk. II, the Australian-built Moke, the very early 1275GT fitted with Hydrolastic suspension and the Cooper Sport 500, one of the last Minis to leave the factory.
5) The light commercials. The high streets of Britain were once dominated by the Mini Pick-Up and the Mini Van, but the former in particular is now less seldom encountered than an edition of Judge Rinder that does not induce you with the desire to sell your television set. There were two at the Cavalcade and looking at the 1983 example owned by Julie Mobb vividly reminded me of similar examples that used trundle back and forwards from the Swanwick basket factory during my very distant youth. And that is before we mention…
6) The AA, the RAC, the GPO and the Police Mini Vans. Livered commercial vehicles have the power to convey the observer back to another world – but to see four such Minis in a row was almost overwhelming. Readers will probably be familiar with Keith and Linda Moore’s incredible 1962 Morris Post Office Telephones Van, which rightfully won a prize from the Isis Rotary Club. Nick Kirman’s 1963 Austin AA Van was joined by its rival RAC Patrol, in the form of the re-bodied 1961 example owned by John Hughes. The last of this incredible group was the 1978 ex-North Wales Constabulary acquired by Alex Lee in 2008- and, yes, the two-note horns and the blue flashing lamp both very much function.
7) The stories. Mick Freeman, the owner of the beautiful 1960 Austin Seven Countryman (the oldest surviving Mini estate) once worked at the Cowley factory, and the Whale Moke originally served with the Devon Fire Brigade. Incredibly, Roger Redknap’s 1959 Mini-Minor has not just been owned by the same family since 1961; it was also the star car in the famous BMC promotional film Wizardry on Wheels. Here it is transporting the Cravat family to ‘fresh and exciting new horizons’
8) Memories. Or rather, how age almost inevitably shapes your memories of the Mini. For those old enough to recall Danger Man or Billy Fury it might be the “magic wand “gear lever, the push button floor starter, the white-faced speedometer and the sun visors that appeared to be cardboard. Twenty years later, your Mini experience could encompass the luxury that was a late-model Clubman HL Estate with the twin coach lines, cloth upholstery and those “sports” wheels.
9) The everyday Minis. A yellow 1982 City E may not quite have the performance of a Cooper S or the decadent cabin of a Mayfair, but it has a distinct charm of its own. This was the type of Mini that was so often a first new car in the early 1980s just as in 1969, taking delivery of a Riley Elf Mk. III (with winding windows as standard) was automotive proof that you had ‘made it’.
10) The Cavalcade itself - https://www.facebook.com/bbcoxford/videos/495221561263282/, with cheers and the Union Flags waved from what seemed to be every layby, bridge and pavement. It was an experience that none of the participants of the Mini 60 will ever forget.
With Thanks To: Tanya Field
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