September 2022

[2-Sept_22_Lunch_Charles_Nancy.jpg] Our hosts once again were Nancy and Charles Gould.
Photo by Dmitry Bykhovsky

25th Microcar & Minicar Classic
by David Schwartz

SUDBURY, Mass., July 15-17 — After a two-year hiatus due to COVID, the Goulds’ 25th Annual Microcar & Minicar Classic took place at their new home in Sudbury. Charles sent out a “Save the Date” feeler at the end of June, and by July 2nd decided the event was a go. They had two weeks’ notice and lots of help from family and friends to pull it off.

Their new house is in the woods at the end of a cul-de-sac with plenty of parking along the road and in the large driveway. Discounted lodging was available for out-of-town guests at the nearby Fairfield Inn. The original plan was to limit attendance, and there were about 60 people at any given time with some turnover each day. The event format was a slight variation on the time-tested formula due to the Goulds’ move from Newton to Sudbury.

I arrived at about 6:45 p.m. for the Friday evening reception and pulled in at the bottom of the driveway near Wendy Birchmire’s 1993 Mini Mayfair. Wendy’s car had overheated and volunteer mechanic extraordinaire Jon Chomitz was already on the job. Wendy made it home safely in the Mayfair and wisely decided to drive her air-conditioned MINI on the Saturday tour.

The reception happy hour provided an opportunity to reunite with old friends and make new ones. There was a good selection of wines, microbrews, soda and water. Nancy, Charles, Tiana, Monique and Jonathan were wonderful hosts. The event flyer said cheese and hors d’oeuvres would be served, but there was actually a catered dinner buffet.

Saturday morning began with pastries, bagels and coffee at Chez Gould. The weekend weather forecast called for temperatures in the 90s. Extreme heat is brutal for old cars and their (old) drivers on the round-trip drive to Mount Wachusett. I clip an oscillating fan on the dash rail of my 1968 Mini Traveller that helps circulate the air. Linda Abrams opted for A/C and drove a first-generation MINI Cooper on the tour instead of her Citroen 2CV. A couple from N.Y. attending for the first time also drove a MINI.

For classics, we had my Mini, plus the Goulds’ Mini and Mini Moke, making a Mini/MINI total of six cars. Three other British cars participated in the tour: a Daimler SP250, an Austin-Healey Bugeye Sprite and an early 1960s Hillman Minx convertible.

William Ellis mapped out a new driving route that first sent us east on twisty back roads through Sudbury, Wayland, and Lincoln before looping west to Hudson Road and our traditional regrouping stop at the Lake Boone Convenience Store in Hudson. This gave the cars and people a chance to cool down, and time to adjust the clutch in the Goulds’ Isetta.

We continued following the new driving directions to a group photo-op at a scenic overlook in Harvard, Mass. Three cars got “lost,” or got ahead of the main group and missed out on the photo. Then it was on to the lunch stop at Barber’s Crossing in Sterling.

September 2022

[1-Sept_22_Barbers_Lunch_Stop.jpg] A familiar stop for a break during Saturday’s drive — Barber’s Crossing for lunch.
Photo by David Schwartz

There were several false starts after lunch due to the Fiat Jardiniere’s “failure to proceed.” The mechanics eventually resolved the problem and the group followed a new route to the Wachusett Mountain auto road. Most cars made it to the summit, though Charles, who was driving the Jardiniere, and a guest who was driving the Isetta decided not to chance it. This was the first time in years my Mini didn’t relieve itself of coolant upon my switching off the engine in the summit parking lot. I attribute this to not following a slow car and dropping below second gear. All the cars made it to the top without overheating, though some were air cooled so who would know?

After leaving the mountain, the final regrouping stop was at the Sterling Ice Cream Bar for some well-deserved cold treats. At this point we were running a tad late and headed directly to the Goulds’ for an excellent catered dinner. This was followed by Charles’ famous frozen margaritas. Faith Lamprey joined us for dinner, despite a looming British Marque press deadline.

Sunday there were more pastries, coffee and bagels at the Goulds’ house, followed by a relatively short drive to Alpha Cars in Boxborough. Dmitry Bykhovsky and his crew at Alpha Cars have been bringing interesting Russian (and Ukrainian) cars to the Microcar event for several years. Dmitry invited us to tour their restoration shop and showrooms, which thankfully were air conditioned. Alpha Cars deals in low-mileage luxury and sports cars as well as motorcycles. Their facility and vehicles were very impressive.

After the Alpha Cars tour, I headed home to pick up Betty and spent the afternoon avoiding the heat at Lake Cochituate. Many other attendees participated in another drive in the country, a lunch stop, and a tour of the American Heritage Museum in Hudson.

The weekend was certainly jam-packed, and the Goulds pulled it off with only two weeks of planning! The tours and activities are great, but my favorite part of the weekend was catching up with people I hadn’t seen in three years.

September 2022

[3-Sept_22_Paddy.jpg] Paddy sitting in Barbara Newman’s Mini after signing the dashboard, Watkins Glen Mini Festival, September 2018.
Photo by Barbara Newman

Remembering Paddy Hopkirk
by Dave Newman

Famous Mini rally driver Paddy Hopkirk, MBE, passed away on July 21, 2022, at the age of 89 due to cancer.

Paddy first became famous in Mini circles, and is best remembered for his 1964 Monte Carlo Rally win driving the BMC factory entry Mini, car #37, registration #33EJB, with co-driver Henry Liddon. If you see old and new Minis sporting a white square on the door with 37 on it, that is the reason why.

The Internet and many books about Paddy Hopkirk go into great detail about his many other races, rallies and even the Le Mans 24-hour races, along with his Life Membership in the British Racing Drivers Club (BRDC), and his various businesses, which carry on after his passing. Read them and be amazed at what a life he had.

I had the good fortune to interview Paddy for the Marque in 1999 at the “Mini in the Park” show in the U.K. Always a low-key guy, he gave me an hour of his busy time in the Press Tent. And during the interview, a face appeared through the flap door to the tent, and Paddy jumped up and said, “Hrach! Come in, my friend!”

Hrach came in and Paddy asked if I knew Hrach. I replied, “Yes! Hrach is our Club President!”

After the interview, I saw Paddy once again, as he was parked in the Press Area. He met my wife Barbara and daughter Christa. They had a great conversation, with Barbara talking about her love for the Mini, and both she and Christa got a hug from Paddy. Then he was off to be interviewed on the outdoor stage by the show announcer.

We saw Paddy again in 2018, at the Watkins Glen Mini Festival. This was an event that Barbara and I could not miss! Paddy was the Guest of Honor, and spent many hours each day doing interviews, talking with Mini owners, posing for hundreds of pictures, signing the dashboards and bonnets of dozens of Minis, and walking around the paddock and pits for the classic Mini races. Never rushed, he took the time to speak to anyone who wished to talk, and told us about his past races and his involvement with the BRDC, two years as President.

Paddy was charming and entertaining, giving his honest but reserved opinions on things. He attended many events around the world and I am sure anyone who met him thought him a genuine gentleman. Never one to “toot his own horn,” he nevertheless was the legend of Mini fame all over the world. Both Barbara and I will miss him dearly, as will millions of others.

August 2022

[1-Aug_22_Mayfair.jpg] Late-model classics in Bristol — Wendy’s Mini Mayfair (foreground) and Joe Prazeres’ Mini Cooper.
Photo by Rudy Koehle

British Motorcars in Bristol 2022
by Wendy Birchmire

BRISTOL, R.I.— A midweek weather report called for showers on June 11th, the day of the British Motorcars in Bristol car show. Fortunately, the precipitation never materialized. Instead, a partially sunny sky and a cool breeze greeted over 200 exhibitors to the well-manicured field.

There were friendly faces greeting car owners at the gate and many volunteers to help park cars in their correct class. The Café Modesto coffee truck arrived early to ensure anyone needing a morning caffeine boost could get one. Food trucks arrived later in the day, and there were vendors selling British car parts and memorabilia.

The featured marque was MG, and they were present in a wide variety of colors and models that competed in ten classes. Jaguars made a large showing and competed in four classes, and Triumphs competed in nine. Other marques on the field included Allard, Nash, Bentley, Aston Martin, Lotus, and Land Rover. Plus, there were several British motorcycles.

The father-son team from Borges Collision Center was in attendance and they brought a newly restored Riley Elf and a Mini Cooper primed and ready for a paint job.

Class #35 was for early Minis, of which there were six: John Biagioni’s 1973 Austin Mini, Jean and Brian Landry’s 1964 Austin Mini Countryman, Corey Plummer and Jeff Westgate’s 1973 Innocenti Mini Cooper, Joe Prazeres’ 1972 Morris Mini Cooper, Joyce and Steve Aoyama’s Honda VTEC-powered 1973 Morris Mini Van, and my 1993 Mini Mayfair. It was interesting to see how alike these cars were, and yet so different.

The awards ceremony started at 2 p.m. with “The Uncommon Man Award” (a recognition of someone who did all the work on their car). It would be more politically correct if it was called the “Uncommon Person Award”! This was followed by A Very British Hat Competition, The Storyboard Award, People’s Choice Award, and Best in Show.

People’s choice awarded 1st prize to the Aoyamas’ VTEC Mini Van. Second place went to John Biagioni’s Mini, and 3rd was awarded to the Landrys’ Mini Countryman. (As an aside, many NEMO members feel that highly modified cars such as VTEC or similar conversions belong in a separate Modified class.)

The show organizer, British Motorcars of New England (BMCNE), has been supporting local charities in Southern New England for over 35 years. This year BMCNE is donating show proceeds to the Alzheimer’s Association-Rhode Island Chapter.

[See the BMCNE website for the complete list of winners. —Contrib. Ed.]

August 2022

[2-Aug_22_LAAM_Mini.jpg] Union Jack Mini (another Birchmire car) had its day in the sun at Larz Anderson.
Photo by David Schwartz

British Car Day at LAAM
by David Schwartz

BROOKLINE, Mass. — June 26th started off sunny and cool, perfect weather for driving my 1968 Mini Traveller from Framingham to Brookline on Route 9.

I often encounter other British cars on my drive to the Larz Anderson Auto Museum (LAAM), so it was no surprise to see Bob Brownell in his 1963 Austin Mini 850 in the right lane. I tried several times to pull up next to Bob at a light and ask him to “pass the Grey Poupon.” Unfortunately, other cars always got in the way.

I have followed classic Minis on scenic drives, but not on a limited access road or highway. It is amazing how small they look, with loads of space in the lane on both sides of the car. Now I now understand why my Mini Traveller (a full 9” longer than the saloon) attracts so much attention on the highway.

I arrived at LAAM about 8:30 a.m. and the upper lawn was at least half full. The parkir (as they say in Indonesia for parking attendant) directed me to a sunny spot in the center of the lawn. Several NEMO members were already parked in the shade along the road, so I opted to squeeze in next to a tree. Between my pop-up tent canopy and shade from the tree it was reasonably comfortable even after the temperature broke 90°. The tent became a gathering spot for NEMO members and friends.

Six members of the Boston Area MG Club arranged to rendezvous near the Museum at 7:30 a.m. They arrived early and claimed the best spot at the foot of the upper lawn under the trees. (I imagine the Jaguar owners were not pleased as this is their preferred spot!)

There were six classic Minis present, all owned by NEMO members: Bruce Vild and Faith Lamprey’s 1967 Austin Mini, Bob Brownell’s 1963 Austin Mini 850, Ken Lemoine’s 1965 Morris Mini Traveller, Wendy Birchmire’s 1973 Morris Mini 1000, Iain and Nuala Barker’s 1967 Morris Mini Cooper S, and my 1968 Morris Mini Traveller. Three modern MINIs were also present, though I didn’t recognize any owner names on the windshield cards.

People always stop to ask questions about my Mini Traveller, and they were happy to linger in the shade and chat since the tent canopy also covered the back half of the car. We signed up new NEMO member Rachel Stewart on the spot. She had recently purchased a 2019 MINI Cooper Countryman JCW and was amazed how huge her car was compared to my classic Mini Traveller. Welcome to NEMO, Rachel!

August 2022

[3-Aug_22_Rachel.jpg] NEMO recruit Rachel Stewart and her Countryman JCW.
Photo by David Schwartz

Hot, humid weather reduced the show turnout, and cars began leaving around 11 a.m. The upper and lower lawns were relatively full, though not packed as in previous years. Bentleys and Rolls-Royces parked near the Museum entrance, with a Jaguar or two sneaking in.

There was no costume competition, but a couple driving a 1965 Austin-Healey 3000 arrived in proper British period attire. They stayed until the show ended, and looked very warm as they walked the field staying in character, including the driver’s wool cap and pipe.

There was a good variety of marques including MG, Lotus, Austin-Healey, Jaguar, Aston Martin, Morgan, Morris, Land Rover, Caterham, Triumph and Sunbeam. There were three very nice MGA 1600s, two beautifully restored MG TFs, and a pristine unrestored 1955 MG TF 1500. Lotus was well represented with many modern cars, and one classic, a 1970 Lotus Elan. (The Elan’s bonnet unclips for easy access to the engine.) My favorite cars included a 1962 Morgan Plus 4, a Morris Minor Traveller 1000, and a bright red Jaguar XK150.

A 1929 Rolls-Royce Coupe with a dickey seat gets my vote for the most unusual car at the show. The doors, sides, and back were covered in wicker, and elaborate lanterns were mounted on both A-pillars. The Rolls was right-hand drive, the fenders sported dual side-mount wheels, and the open bonnet provided a good view of the straight six-cylinder engine. There was no windscreen card, and I was not able to speak to the owner as he was always surrounded by a crowd. I would love to learn the history of the car.

The gas pedal in Bruce and Faith’s Mini had been sticking on the drive up from Rhode Island. I carry a spare throttle cable, loads of tools, and other useful bits. After the show ended, I asked Iain to lead an on-field repair clinic. The diagnosis was the inner throttle cable was binding on the choke cable. I had a good supply of short zip ties and we put many of them to use separating the cables. [Thanks again, guys! —BV]

With all the event cancellations of the last two years, it was great to see fellow NEMO members and other friends in person.

July 2022

[1-July_2022_Nuala.jpg] Nuala Barker and Muffin take a break from the cars and sun.
Photo by Iain Barker

Minis at ‘British by the Sea’
by Wendy Birchmire

WATERFORD, Conn., June 5 — Glorious! That is the only way to describe the weather for this year’s British by the Sea gathering.

That certainly influenced the over 350 car owners who showed up to participate. In addition, 15 vendors offered a variety of automotive-related items, and five food vendors were present to satisfy the hunger of all attendees.

The featured marque this year was Jaguar, specializing in the E-type, and there were some fantastic early models including a nice XK120 and some concours-level E-types.

In addition to the cars, there were around a dozen British motorcycles on display — including the ever-popular Norton Commandos, and a pair of particularly well restored prewar Royal Enfields.

There were eight classic Minis and four modern MINIs present on the show field. A nice silver classic we had not seen before arrived late and left early.

Winners in the Classic division were: 1st, David Icaza’s surfer dude 1969 Mini Countryman 2nd, Iain and Nuala Barker’s 1967 Mini Cooper S and 3rd, my 1973 Union Jack Mini 1000.

Winners in the MINI class were: 1st, Savino Casarella’s 2018 JCW 2nd, Cheryl and Tom Patty’s 2015 Convertible and 3rd, Frank Amara’s 2004 MINI with 201,845 miles on the clock.

This was the first car show for the latest member of the Barker family, “Muffin,” a four-month-old Cavachon puppy. She loved running between the rows of cars (leashed, of course) and playing “chase the kites” on the expansive Harkness Memorial State Park grounds. She was surprisingly unfazed by the drive in a rather noisy (at least by modern standards) 1967 vintage Mini.

Kudos to the show organizers for the rapid counting of the ballots. After some congratulatory comments, the Awards Ceremony moved along nicely. All winners were presented with an elegant, engraved glass mug.

Thank you, Connecticut MG Club, for hosting a wonderful show in a beautiful, breezy location.

July 2022

[2-July_2022_Lockheed.jpg] Brake servo from Lockheed, original Cooper S equipment.
Photo by Iain Barker

Braking Woes
by Iain Barker

May 1st, and spring was finally here in New England. With a weekend forecast above 60°F it was at last time to get my 1967 Mini Cooper S out of winter storage and attend to the usual servicing regime, which this year also included fixing an annoying problem with the brakes.

The Cooper S 1275 was unique amongst 1960s Minis in that it had an early-design Lockheed vacuum-assisted brake servo booster fitted for its 7.5” disc brakes. These servos use a cast-iron body with a rubber diaphragm and it is common for the seals to degrade over time, due to abrasion caused by rusting of the cast-iron bore.

Regular readers of my trials and tribulations will know that I had the original 1960s vintage brake servo professionally refurbished in 2020, and the bore sleeved with stainless steel. Although the servo now works well, the functioning booster highlighted a pre-existing problem — the brakes bind occasionally and do not release.

My short-term solution for the 2021 driving season was simple — disconnect and plug the vacuum hose between the inlet manifold and the servo, so that it provides no booster assistance and therefore pedal pressure is directly applied to the wheels. That calls for strong leg muscles and isn’t a fun driving experience. This was the reason I flat-towed my Mini to the British Motorcars in Bristol show last summer. The brakes are fine for driving around the neighborhood, but not on the highway, so a fix is definitely required.

Although the original AP/Lockheed boosters are long out of production, the 1965-69 Alfa Romeo 105 Giulia uses a Bendix servo of the same design, but with an aluminum cast body. The other main difference is that the British Lockheed unit has imperial threads, but Italian cars generally use metric 10mm threads for the brake lines.

So, I bought a brand-new Bendix brake servo from “Alfaholics UK” back in November, and also a bunch of 10mm-male-to-3/8”-female brake line adaptors from Amazon to convert the metric servo body to match the imperial threads of the Mini brake pipes. When I took the servo out of the box and tried the adaptors, the 10mm male adaptor would not thread into the body — but a 3/8-24 UNF tap ran down the threads — no problem using finger pressure. Very strange.

It turns out that even though it is an Italian car, the Alfa used a Girling brake system so it already has British imperial threads. In fact, they are the exact same size as the Lockheed brake servo used on the Mini. All I needed to do was chase the vacuum port threads to fit the new 5/8” non-return valve I purchased from a Canadian specialist, and it all bolted straight up to the existing lines. Even the mounting bolt pattern and orientation matched up exactly!

July 2022

[3-July_22_Bendix.jpg] Brake servo from Bendix — same design, but aluminum cast body.
Photo by Iain Barker

I did replace one of the two brake line fittings as that was deformed from being over-tightened by a previous owner. Evidently I am not the first person to have tried fixing the brakes on this car. It was no big deal to cut a small section off the pipe, re-form the bend, and create a new end using a hand flaring tool.

Anyway, after the usual hassles of bleeding air out of the hydraulic lines through a servo, it seemed to work just fine. At least the brakes would no longer bind on, which was the problem after the original servo was fully rebuilt. I’ll keep the genuine servo, of course — along with the growing pile of worn-out original parts — in case I or a future owner want to reinstate its originality. But for right now, I’d rather know I have a safe braking system even if it’s not 100% factory original (it is at least very close!).

With the brakes finally fixed and engine oil changed, I parked the Mini in its garage knowing it was all ready for the big trip down to British by the Sea car show in Connecticut at the start of June. Or so I thought…

When I drove the Mini out of the garage the day before BBTS, my intention was to just wipe the dust off, polish the chrome, and check the oil level and tyre pressures. But what greeted me — no brakes, again!

I managed to drive the half mile very slowly from the rented garage to my house using just the hand parking/emergency brake. I jacked up the car and looked below the engine bay. It was clear that there was a leak at the new flare I had made on the older pipe.

Looking very closely, I saw there was a small burr on the end of the pipe, no wider than a human hair but just enough to prevent it from sealing fully. Of course, I didn’t spot the problem right away — I spent two hours trying fruitlessly to bleed the brakes again.

Over the space of a week, that tiny gap was enough to drain out half a teaspoon of fluid — the resulting bubble of air found its way to the highest point in the servo and was enough to spoil the non-compressibility of the hydraulic fluid, so the brake pedal went straight to the floor. The solution was simple: file the burr off so that the flare could lap itself properly when tightened to fully seal the circuit, and bleed the whole system one more time.

With the panic over, I still had time to give the car a quick wipe-over with a polishing rag before locking up for the night, ready for the big drive the next day. Our Mini made it to the show with no problems and was even voted into 2nd place. Most importantly, the brakes behaved themselves for the 250-mile round trip — the furthest the car has been driven in the five years I have owned it.

June 2022

[1-Jun_22_Wendy.jpg] Wendy and her nicely-appointed 1993 Rover Mini.
Photo by David Schwartz

Cars & Coffee at LAAM
by David Schwartz

BROOKLINE, Mass. — The Larz Anderson Auto Museum (LAAM) holds a free monthly Cars & Coffee, and the season opener was held on May 14th.

I hadn’t attended Cars & Coffee in at least three years, but LAAM typically gets a large turnout with a wide variety of cars. The event listing said the gate opened at 8:30 a.m., and Betty and I arrived at 8 a.m. in my 1950 Morris Minor. We were directed to join a long line of cars that went down the main road and up a side street. Clearly there was a lot of pent-up demand for a car event on a beautiful spring day.

There were several British cars already waiting in line, and we waved to Wendy Birchmire as she drove past us in her latest acquisition, a 1993 Rover Mini Mayfair Special Edition.

At 8:20 the line started to move. The upper lawn was already half full when we parked. Ultimately, cars filled both lawns and the parking lot near the main Museum entrance.

Wendy parked in the first row on the lower lawn and benefitted from the morning shade. We saw two other classic Minis, both with NEMO stickers on their windows. One was a beautiful Austin Cooper S that I had never seen before.

Other classic British cars included a Sunbeam Alpine, a 1974 Jensen Interceptor, a Jaguar XK120, a Morgan Plus Four, a Triumph TR3A, an MGB and an MGB GT. Modern British cars included countless Lotus (that is the correct plural, though “Lotuses” or “Loti” seem more appropriate), a Caterham, a Morgan 3 Wheeler, an Aston Martin, and a Rolls-Royce.

Non-British cars were heavy on muscle and loud exhausts. BMWs were well represented, from 2002s to roadsters and SUVs. There were a few supercars, and the owners insisted on revving the engines to ear-splitting volume, though the appeal is lost on me.

My favorites among the non-British cars were a 1957 Alfa-Romeo Giulietta and a late production Trabant station wagon in pristine condition. The Trabant was built in East Germany and the body is made of Duroplast, a combination of recycled cotton waste and plastic resin.

June 2022

[2-Jun_22_MINI.jpg] MINI Cooper S parked next to a Trabant.
Photo by David Schwartz

Wendy’s new car is a Japanese domestic-market Mini with right-hand drive, air conditioning, a radio, and an automatic transmission. With all those luxury features, she says it still rides like a classic Mini! The car is painted red with a white roof, and has white bonnet stripes, lower door stripes and mirrors. White Minilite wheels just fit under the black wheel arches.

I visited the mystery Austin Cooper S several times, but the owner was nowhere to be found. Near the end of the event, I decided to wait by the car until the owner showed up. When he — Adam Blake — eventually appeared, I introduced myself and we had a long chat.

His car is a 1967 and he already knew about NEMO. Adam “met” Iain Barker through the Mini Mk1 forum, and later in person when he realized they lived nearby. Adam’s Mini wears a boot badge that reads “The Austin Motor Company, 737 Church St., Toronto,” which he believes is the dealer who originally sold the car. Adam told some great stories about the history of the car, which are detailed in the accompanying article.

The coffee has been upgraded considerably from the “Box of Joe” that was served several years ago. Now there is a barista making free expresso-based drinks to order. Tipping was encouraged and well deserved, as there was a neverending line.

Admission to the museum’s current exhibit “Masterpiece: Art and Design of Italian Automobiles” was also free. The main hall was filled with concours-level cars, including a 1936 Lancia Astura Pininfarina Cabriolet Bocca and a 1956 Ferrari 410 Superamerica Coupe. As the title of the exhibit suggests, all the cars on display are rolling artwork.

The LAAM Cars & Coffee events for June and July have been added to the NEMO calendar. Additional dates can be found at The event was well worth the trip.

June 2022

[3-Jun_22_Adam_Blake_Closeup.jpg] Adam alongside his Mini.
Photo by David Schwartz

My Mini, Microfiche, and Mr. Powers
by Adam Blake

In the fall of 2021, after a search that took over a year, I was thrilled to finally close on the purchase of a 1967 Austin Cooper S. While no stranger to modern MINIs, I had never owned a classic Mini and immediately dug into learning as much as possible — both about Minis in general and my car specifically.

One of the first steps was a visit from fellow NEMO member Iain Barker, who has been tremendously helpful. In addition to learning about the mechanical aspects, I was especially interested in the story of my car, and spent hours trying to unearth as much history as possible. As a result of more than six months of work, I now have a pretty clear picture of my car’s history, including a previously unknown celebrity owner.

The car had low mileage when I bought it, but the precise mileage was unknown and there were some holes in the documentation. Trying to shed light on the mileage was an early focus of my research.

According to the British Heritage Certificate that came with the car it was originally delivered to Canada. I have some records from three previous owners who all lived in the Toronto area. After many on-line records requests and follow-up calls to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, I learned a special records request was necessary in order to access older records from microfiche. However, they warned me that the records only went back as far as 1985 so I didn’t expect to learn about the early owners.

Due to COVID disruptions, the request ended up taking over five months, but when the paperwork finally arrived there were several key breakthroughs.

The first was that I now had a record showing the car had been taken off the road as a daily driver with only 30,000 miles on it. A subsequent owner (a car collector with four Minis) got the car back on the road years later and reset the odometer. Since then, fewer than 24,000 miles have been added, so the vehicle really did travel less than 54,000 miles in the last 55 years. Unfortunately, I still didn’t know why this occurred.

The next breakthrough from the Ontario records came in the form of a 1985 transfer-of-ownership document, which was likely to be the furthest the records went back. Ontario didn’t have titles back then the registration was proof of ownership. On the back side of the transfer of ownership form was the previous owner’s last registration document from 1971. The name was fairly unique and I was able to find a phone number on the Internet.

June 2022

[4-Jun_22_Adam_Blake.jpg] Car and driver at a recent Cars & Coffee at LAAM.
Photo by David Schwartz

Five minutes later I was on the phone with the second owner, who bought the car in 1970 for $1,500 CDN. He said that a family friend had gotten him excited about Minis by taking him for a very spirited drive in a Cooper. Upon turning 16, he bought a Cooper S as his first car.

Between excessive noise from a muffler upgrade and a lot of speeding, he was constantly being pulled over by the police. A minor accident that left a small dent in the rear quarter panel was enough to trigger an insurance rate increase, and he could no longer afford to keep the car on the road. He parked it in his mother’s garage, where it sat with just 30,000 miles on the odometer until 1985.

When the Mini was sold, the front end was locked up and the buyer had to drag the car out of the garage. It wasn’t until 1990 that the car was back on the road.

Inspired by these breakthroughs, I decided to take another crack at tracking down an elusive previous owner.

Despite hours and hours of Internet sleuthing, I hadn’t been able to contact the woman who bought the car in Canada and imported it to the United States in 2001. With some renewed focus I was finally able to reach her by text message and an interesting conversation ensued. She explained that she had not in fact been the true owner of the car, but instead it had been owned by her boss who bought the car not knowing how to drive a stick shift. She couldn’t reveal who her boss was.

Naturally that got me pretty curious so I dug back into my records and noticed a strange holding company mentioned on one of the importation documents. I looked up the owner, matched on-line housing records, and was able to determine the actual owner was actor Mike Myers!

He bought the car in his hometown of Toronto and brought it to New York, where he was living while making the Austin Powers movies. I shared my new knowledge with the faux owner and she happily confirmed I was correct. She was his personal assistant for over a decade and the car had been put in her name for secrecy. She also told me hilarious stories of trying to teach Mike how to drive stick on the car, which explained why the subsequent owner had to replace the clutch!

When I bought the Mini, I had no idea how much fun it would be to dig into the history of the car and the added enjoyment it would bring to the ownership experience. Although I plan to spend more time driving than researching now that driving season has arrived, I still find myself doing bits of research whenever I think of a new angle to pursue.

You never know what you might find!


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