The past latches on to my leg like a yappy little terrier from the last century.
I was building myself up to a big rant about this car.
About how the past has gone. That the things we thought precious and the people we held dear; they are landfill, and all that remains is an impression of how it was, which is inaccurate.
That, of course, those who will not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, or so we are told. Yet here are people who know a great deal about the history of the car but have seen fit to revisit it anyway. Why? For what is history, if not a warning? It’s not there to be poked with a pointy stick.
That, in May’s Britain, where there will be as few rules as possible, there will nevertheless be a ten-year ban on re-engineering or recreating old cars or pastiches of them, because these activities reveal an inability to move on, in this case to the Kia Picanto GT Line. I quite like that one.
That attempting to relive a past era is like listening to authentic performances of 18th century music. You can get every last detail meticulously period, right down to the cat-gut used for violin strings, but you can’t remove your ears from 2017. You cannot hear Bach as Bach’s mates did, because you have since heard Beethoven, The Orb and gansta rap, and you cannot unexperience these things.
But then I calmed down a bit.
I’d better tell you what it is. It’s the Mini Remastered, by David Brown Automotive, and although it appears to be a ‘proper’ Mini, most of it is new. It starts, inevitably, with a donor car, but all that survives of that are the engine and gearbox casings and the car’s identity plate. Everything else is new.
The paintwork is lustrous, but they missed a bit on the door.
The body, for example, is a re-made heritage job, and even then it’s ‘deseamed’, which was something quite fashionable in the 70s and 80s. As an amateur job this was often risky – a bit like deseaming your motorcycle jacket – but we can assume David Brown has done it properly, and it won’t turn suddenly into a giant Airfix kit when you hit a pothole. I did, it didn’t.
In fact, the work is nicely done, if a bit predictable. The engine is bored out to 1300cc (or 1275cc on the more ‘basic’ version), there are modern lights and electrics, satnav, extra sound deadening, leather everywhere, and plenty of hand-made knurled and polished this ‘n’ that. Prices range from – you are not about to read a typing error - £75,000 to almost £100,000. For a Mini.
It is, says the maker in a rare foray into the 21st century, ‘Livin’ for the city’. These people will be turning up for work without a tie on soon.
Eeeeh it weren't like this when I were a lad.
It’s small, like a Mini, because it is one. Smallness confers benefits, a lesson from history worth learning, and not just when parking. It’s so stubby that sometimes you seem to be sitting behind it rather than in it, like that alternative view in a video game.
But history has an ugly side. As in a Mini (because it is one) the ride is bouncy, the steering oddly geared for modern tastes, the engine quite coarse, the racket unbearable, and the driving position laughable. Because it's a Mini, and the layout was conceived in the 50s, when people were still undernourished from the war and had stumpy legs. And the number of times I went for fifth or even sixth gear started to make me feel foolish. The past is a foreign country, and there were only four ratios.
Look; it’s obviously being touted as a lifestyle accessory. The brochure is full of pictures of people much better looking than me in social situations I cannot aspire to, clutching retro cameras and pouting. Maybe it’s just for rich hipsters.
But if you actually like cars, it’s a bit confusing. If you’re a certified Mini nazi, you’ll want the real thing, seams an’ all. If you simply want a small car that you can throw into a cul-de-sac with suicidal abandon, you’ll want a Suzuki Celerio or a VW Up!
I’ll take a VW Up! I think. I’ll spend around a quarter of the change on an original Mini Cooper and park it in my sitting room, to remind myself how bad we used to have it.
(Picture credit: stolen from online brochure.)