Does the David Brown Automotive Mini Oselli Edition feel like it's worth £100k?
Driving the outrageously expensive resto-modded Mini on road and track
If you’re in the market to buy a six-figure, hand-built resto-mod Mini, you’re probably not looking to buy it as a daily driver to replace your knackered Ford Focus.
David Brown himself said people might be weighing up this car, the David Brown Automotive (DBA) Mini Remastered Oselli Edition, or a new watch.
However, while this might be a fashion statement or accessory to some – including one customer who ordered it in a rainbow paint job and currently has it proudly displayed in his penthouse home art gallery, likely never to be driven – there are also customers who do use these cars regularly.
DBA brought out its original Mini Remastered in 2017, and now I’m getting behind the wheel of the new hotter Oselli Edition, built in collaboration with the tuning specialist which has prepared Minis and MGs for competition since the 60s.
Jack Aitken might look familiar – he stood in for George Russell at the 2020 Bahrain F1 race
I’m not alone on the modest track at Bicester Heritage though, with Jack Aitken, Formula 2 regular and reserve driver for the Williams F1 team in the passenger seat. He’s been brought on board as brand ambassador, as his first car was a 1275 GT Mini, and he’s been lending a hand on the development of this latest car, working on the damping, steering and other bits of fine-tuning.
This was my first time behind the wheel of a classic Mini, and I didn’t expect the renowned ‘go-kart handling’ description to be quite so accurate. There have been a few tweaks to keep this feeling up, including larger 13-inch alloys wrapped in Yokohama tyres, Bilstein dampers, bigger AP Racing brakes and a limited-slip diff. Needless to say, it took me a couple of laps (about 30 seconds or so around Bicester…!) to get used to quite how direct the steering was. It’s electric power assisted up to about 15mph to make low speed manoeuvring that bit easier, but then it backs off and you feel every little tiny bit of detail at higher speeds.
You’re getting feedback from everywhere actually – whether it’s the happy roar in your ears, through your fingertips on the Alcantara-trimmed steering wheel, or through your entire body snugly sat in the Sabelt seat.
It’s quick too, or at least it feels it (you are only wielding 790kg), despite the numbers not sounding all that impressive at 7.8-seconds 0-62mph, a top speed of 100mph on a good day, peak torque of 113lb ft at 4500rpm, and 125hp.
The engine is a tuned 1,450cc four-cylinder job, which has been fitted with a few lighter upgrades, topped off with a new cylinder head and shiny Oselli-branded rocker cover. There’s also a new crank and camshaft, updates to the flywheel and clutch, and a pair of SU carburettors sat against the rear bulkhead. My dad (previous Mini owner, of course) was keen to ask about the brakes, and I can happily report they are fully up to scratch: AP front brakes with 4-piston calipers, which felt strong at all times.
You really need to get stuck in to driving it, as you’ll find yourself constantly busy with the inputs. Jack encouraged me to trail brake round the longest right-hander and attempt to keep the Mini pivoting round the corner. I wouldn’t say I managed it quite as elegantly or deftly as he did (to put it mildly), but there were a few moments I was pretty pleased with.
I needed to undo my deep-set habits of when to change up the reworked five-speed gearbox as well. Despite the engine yelling at 4000rpm, peak power doesn’t hit until a bit higher, so Jack urged me to pretty much keep it in second for most of the track. It’s not the most precise gearshift I’ve ever experienced, and I did crunch into second a couple of times, but I imagine that would probably be sorted out with some rev matching.
This thing really loves to rev, and in some cases, really needs to rev. After going round in enough circles to make us both feel a bit queasy, and listening to our fair share of tyres rubbing on arches, we headed out on the roads around Bicester. It did die on me a couple of times when I let the revs drop below about 2,000. That all stopped when we turned the air conditioning off though and went for good old fashioned windows. Perhaps a bit of work needed there.
Cutting-out aside, the Oselli Edition Mini was pleasantly happy pottering around. It’s been a while since I’ve been in anything that felt like I was really *driving* it. You feel part of the car, and everything you do with your feet and your hands has a big effect.
How's it lookin'?
If you glanced at it on the road, like a lot of people were doing (and so much waving… people loved it), you’d think, ‘yeah, that looks like an original Mini’. But have more than a cursory glance and you’ll see it’s really not. Every part has been reworked, or is completely new.
The first thing you notice is the quality of the paint finish, and the smart bonded metal arch extensions which have replaced the plastic ones of old. There's modern rust protection and bags of reinforcement. And if you’ve looked at your fair share of classic Minis, you might be wondering where all those panel gaps have got to. The new lights will likely be a bit Marmite.
Inside, and you might think you’re looking at a different car. The DBA Mini features a touchscreen interface, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, new central air vents, and a lot of leather and Alcantara. A lot of love has been put into the interior and all the switchgear feels solid. You will have to make the difficult choice of two or four seats, and seatbelts or five point race harnesses: the two seat option combines bucket seats with a rear half cage.
The driving position is comfortable, with everything nicely centred, enough room for your knees, and a reworked position and angle for the steering wheel. Interestingly, Michelle Gay, sales and marketing director at DBA, said one of main things many previous Mini owners comment on when they see a DBA Mini is just how clean, lovely and generally well put together the boot is compared with the usual classic Minis.
In honour of Mini’s recent 60th anniversary celebrations, there will be just 60 of these DBA Mini Remastered Oselli Edition cars available, with a starting price of around £100,000 (give or take).
Certain cars ignite nostalgia in people like nothing else can, and a Mini is definitely near the top of the list, whether your reference points are you owning one, your parents owning one, The Italian Job, mods, Mr Bean, Paul Smith, Madonna, or even Flo Rida. Everyone really does love a Mini, even if it will cost you six figures.