It was a hand painted metallic blue with tattered upholstery and badly worn carpets. More often than not it needed a push start before backfiring and then spluttering along with bald tyres masked by clouds of smoke. But I had to have it.
Why? Simple. Driving a Mini with twin carbs in the early 70s made you the toast of Hillbrow. And after two weeks of untamed exhilaration (I think it was more the petrol fumes than the performance), my metallic Mini was also toast.
It was towed to a Jules Street garage where a monkey wrench wielding mechanic stripped it down to the chassis, stole the precious twin carbs and left me with a bill that an underpaid ICL System IV computer operator could not meet.
It was a rude introduction to the motoring world for a naive Bulawayo boy and I never wanted to see another Mini in my life.
But time wounds all heels, they say, and the image of that menacing mechanic had almost evaporated when I lowered myself into the cockpit of a bright red MINI John Cooper works convertible.
Before pushing the Start button I hadn’t taken this tiny sports car too seriously. Black racing stripes with black spoiler, grille and wheel arches. All a tad too flash.
Even the zany instrument cluster where retro has gone ape didn’t turn me on. The main redeeming feature was that my 1,98 metre frame fitted very comfortably into the moulded seats – with room for a miniature Yorky behind me.
But I challenge you to drive this MINI. Maybe that should be CHALLENGE. Because this ultra hot MINI JCW is really a CHALLENGE racing car in street disguise.
John Cooper Works, who have been injecting steroids into this Oxford built car for decades, have engineered racing specs into every cubic centimetre of this turbo charged creation.
Push the Sport button, and apart from being thrust back into your seat to the snarl from those huge pipes, you’ll also experience the tightest, edgiest steering since your last lap on the go-kart track.
With the ton up in 6,5 seconds and topping out at 238 km/h you may wonder if there is just too much under the bonnet. Well I’m told that ABS, EBD, CBC, DSC and cousin DTC will help you out in a tight corner.
Fortunately I never had to call on the gang, but who am I to argue when the MINI John Cooper Works meets the incredibly high standards of the BMW Group?
What I can say is this – if you can get more fun and excitement out of 1598cc with the roof down…let me know.