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Mazda chief designer Peter Birthwhistle on his first Mini

Published: 09 October 2009

Yes, you always remeber your first Mini.

I was my first year at art college in 1969 and spent my entire summer vacation 'digging roads' to pay for a white 1959 model.

It cost me £100 and boy I wish I still had it. For those who don't remember it had the exterior door hinges, starter button on the floor and the sliding side windows where moss used to grow.

All the usual 'issues' - rust at the top of the front wings, where they joined the body and the habit of stopping once you had driven through any kind of puddle - a plastic bag over the distributor cured that one.

The previous owner was obviously a pipe smoker, since when lifting the floor matts, it revealed what must have been a rust hole in the floor that had been filled with a squashed St Brunos tin.

Top speed was around 60 mph, I guess, although it seemed like a ton at that speed. A college friend, also a Mini owner, and I used to drive on the A4 from Reading to Maidenhead in tandem down the centre lane playing 'chicken' with cars coming the opposite direction. Those were the days!

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By Peter Birtwhistle