My First Car

My First Car

Last week, I was running some errands around town, pretty much minding my own business, when I pulled up to a red light behind a sharp looking, brand new, blue car that was smaller than the usual sedan we see around these days. It looked different somehow. It was at this point that the flashbacks started. It was a Mini. Obviously, a 2012 or 2013 version, but it was a Mini. Now you may ask “what’s the big deal, it’s not the first Mini that we’ve seen”. Well, my friends, it was the first one I’d seen in the exact same powder blue color as my iconic 1970 Mini GT that was, “My First Car”.

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was 17 yrs old and had just passed my MOT Driving Test which for you young ‘uns out there was the closest thing to The Spanish Inquisition that you would ever want to get. Driving stick shift, it was an hour long torture ride of reversing on hills backwards, handbrake starts using the clutch, and just general harassment from a tinpot driving examiner, whose name, wait for it, was James Bond! I kid you not! ┬áSo anyone who had passed this infernal thing, had definitely “come of age”. Anyhow, I digress. My Dad had found a nice looking 7yr old blue Mini GT in a town nearby and I couldn’t wait to get a look at this gem. When I got out of our car and took my first look, I was every car salesman’s dream customer. It had the alloy wheels, the sport steering wheel (Rally version of course) and it had a blue RAC Rally sticker than ran the length of the back window. This car was mine ! It had a toggle switch that you could throw when you parked the car that would cut off the engine after 30 seconds if the car was stolen. That proved a life saver on the streets of Manchester one cold, rainy night a couple of years later. It was fast, too. Not a Mini Cooper S which was the “race car” version and for years, the best Rally Car in the world, but fast enough for me.

For the next 3-4 years, this car was my life. I took it to college. I drove it down to London to soccer matches at Wembley Stadium. It was my first “love machine” as all first cars are, and I loved it to death. It was like all firsts in our lives though. When it was bad, it was awful and the Mini didn’t disappoint. A mechanic’s nightmare, it was horrible to work on. I recall a trip to London with several friends when on the way back, the convoluted water hose that returned water to the engine block blew out. It was a 50 cent part, but unless you had the fingers of a Hobbit, changing it would take hours. Seven hours in total. What a horror story, but it was my Mini and I loved it.

The new Mini is a totally different experience. It has become the small car of the future. It is packed with a 120 HP motor with availability for a 208 Hp turbocharged unit. These cars have air conditioning, power steering and Bluetooth capability. They have six-speed manual transmissions with an option for a six-speed automatic, and they drive like a Go-Kart. Typically, and what makes this car still as adorable as ever, it is dysfunctional in the extreme on the inside. From switches that are in the wrong place, to decals that are difficult to read and systems that are a puzzle to program, this fun-to-drive car can be as frustrating as ever. However, it still has excellent mileage at a very economical 28/36 mpg and it still turns an eye on the street. It is still great value for money and has established itself as one of the Top 20 Affordable Small Cars in the USA.

As time moved on, my ambition was to drive a faster, better looking “bird puller” (a bird in the UK is a chick), and with a good paying job out of college, the attraction of a Triumph TR-7 took over my heart, and my Mini eventually fell out of favor. However it will live forever in my memory as the machine that took me from boyhood into the fast lane of manhood in the blink of an eye. It showed me how to drive properly, how to fix a car, and how to love something that I could hate, all in the same breath. It taught me how to have fun without killing myself. It was My First Car

At that moment, the red light changed and I was back in my old Pontiac.

One Response to My First Car

  1. [...] England in 1980 and was pleasantly surprised to learn that my parents planned to upgrade my old Mini, to a nicer car, more befitting my new role as an intern at a textile manufacturing company. I had [...]

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