Mini memories: Chris Chilton remembers a life of Minis

Published: 21 September 2009

Old and new Mini fans tend not to mix. I’ve had, and loved, both. This 2002 picture shows the caged-up BMW Cooper that I campaigned in the inaugural John Cooper Challenge while using as my daily driver. Next to it is my 1964 Mk1. After two weeks of 850cc tedium I dropped in a Cooper S-esque 1275 MG Metro engine but left the exterior stock for maximum stealth value.

What are my other Mini highlights? Here are a few memories, that suggest that Minis have been a part of my life for several decades:

• Rolling my first into a ditch a week after buying it.
• Winding the speedo needle round to the igniton light down a massive hill (a right of passage for every original Mini driver).
• Building a tasty 1380cc motor and becoming quicker than a Wild West gunslinger at swapping engines.
• Using a massive log to lift the back of a mate’s car up to change the wheel on a country road after we realised we had no jack.
• Learning to get one ludicrously sideways by left-foot braking into every roundabout after watching period footage of Rauno Aaltonen.
• Grabbing a couple of trophies in the BMW Cooper (and nearly crashing it on the first corner at Silverstone on my first ever race!).

There are hundreds more memories (many unprintable) and even now, when my average year involves driving numerous supercars, I still lust after a well sorted 1275.

In some ways it’s a sad state of affairs, but for all its drawbacks, 50 years on there are few cars quite so fun to drive as an original Mini.

By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker