editors blog


Modern MINI coverMarch/April 2014 Modern Mini

As I write, just a little over 24-hours ago I was on my way to Heathrow airport for a flight to Munich and a drive on to Sölden in Austria, to participate in some ice driver training in a Countryman. Sadly, however, my early morning stint didn’t go to plan as a van driver slammed into the back of my Cooper S JCW GP as the traffic slowed for the variable speed limits between junction 8 and 9 of the M25. I managed to avoid hitting the car in front, but the initial impact meant the MINI wouldn’t restart. Shock soon turned to terror as I was marooned in the outside lane during rush hour, with no way of getting the MINI across to the hard shoulder and relative safety. After a somewhat hysterical call to the Police, then my husband and the recovery services, I had to sit it out and hope that both myself and the van driver behind would not become ‘sitting ducks’ at the worst possible time. Eventually at about 7.30am the Highways Agency brought the motorway to a standstill and then helped push me across. After being checked over by paramedics and swapping insurance details via the Police, I sat it out with the Highways Officers while waiting for a low-loader. It was then that the friendly Police biker highlighted to me something rather important. The news broke earlier this month editors blogthat the Highways Agency plan to scrap portions of our motorway hard shoulders during peak times to help reduce congestion – a scheme known as ‘Smart Motorways’. I can appreciate the need to speed up traffic flow by using the hard shoulder as an extra lane, but going from my own recent personal experience, this is suicide for anyone whose car breaks down or has been involved in an RTA as there is nowhere to go. But not only that; emergency teams will not be able to use the hard shoulder as a quicker route to get to the scene of an accident. In the circumstances The Guild of Experienced Motorists (GEM), along with other motoring groups, are up in arms about this and has joined the debate. What do you think? You can email me at: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it       

In the meantime, I’ll turn my attention to what’s in this issue. Transforming MINIs into competitive racers is becoming a common sight; we follow not only a rookie in the MINI Challenge but also a former BTCC driver for his guest race in a rallycross Cooper. Other than that, we have an assortment of owner’s features for you this issue, from Cat D rebuilds to Clubman head-turners. Go check them out!

 

 Sarah Harrington-James, Editor

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Modern MINI coverJanuary/February 2014 Modern Mini

I can only assume my day started rather differently to yours on the morning of the all-important three-door Gen 3 MINI Hatch global premiere, at Plant Oxford on 18 November. At 7am I was interviewed by Phil Gayle, live on BBC Radio Oxford’s breakfast show, who asked my opinion of the impending launch and how important it was to MINI. And that is a very weighty question; being the best-selling MINI model, I emphasised that it was vital that MINI got it right.

At the actual launch, we heard from Member of the Board of Management at BMW AG responsible for MINI, Peter Schwarzenbauer, who said that to ensure the new generation of MINI is as successful as its predecessors, they’d further improved the iconic design and beneath the skin was a brand new car. Indeed, the latest styling of the Gen 3 Hatch was certainly bold and beefier with a dynamically different rear, but my initial concerns were that this daring change of direction won’t appeal to everyone. Indeed, the first flurry of comments on Modern MINI’s Facebook page to editor's blogphotos of the new model taken at the launch were wholly negative. However, aside from the debatable styling, I can see why the BMW Group has decided to forge ahead with a new and longer platform for the MINI Hatch, which will no doubt crossover with future BMW models. The versatility of this longer chassis offers more legroom and boot space, as well as roomier rear seats, meaning that MINI will no longer lose out when existing Hatch customers leave the marque as they decide against upsizing to a Countryman or Clubman as their family grows. The latest Gen 3 Hatch would be even more appealing to young families if MINI does launch a five-door version, as rumoured. I’m intrigued to know your views of the all-new 2014 Hatch. Would you buy one? Email me at: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . As the day drew to a close, my views were sought once again for a post-launch live interview on BBC Radio Oxford during the Drivetime show, too!  

Enjoy getting stuck into this issue. Of course it’s Modern MINI Oscars nominations time, so flip over to p20 and don’t forget to email us your votes; we’ll reveal all in a future issue.

 

 

 Sarah Harrington-James, Editor

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Modern MINI coverNovember/December 2013 Modern Mini

MINI has officially announced that the international launch of the 2014 Gen 3 model will be at Plant Oxford on 18 November. There’s no better place for such a world premiere; the factory lines have already been expanded to accommodate the production of the F56 and the date coincides with Alec Issigonis’s 107th anniversary. No doubt the critical eyes of the automotive world will be on Cowley for this mega-important reveal. But it’s not been easy to keep the latest incarnation under wraps from spy photographers as imagery has already been leaked to the press. Perhaps that’s no bad thing for MINI; it only builds up the anticipation even more and of course, it keeps the marque in the limelight. If you have an opinion on the Gen 3 MINI, let us know the usual way: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

If you were expecting to see the Modern MINI 2013 Oscar nominations in the this issue then don’t fret; we haven’t disbanded the whole concept, we’ve just moved this forward to the January-February 2014 edition where perhaps we’ll also have some new categories for your perusal, too! In the meantime, we’ve dedicated this issue to a ‘Maintenance Special’ – there are 13 pages of tips and pointers to keep your Gen 1 MINI in rude health, along with a useful piece written by Roland from GT Tuning on the R53’s known blogfoibles. Great stuff. We also take a look at the quirky ‘camping concept’ vehicles that MINI has created from a Clubvan and Countryman, along with a completely new teardrop-shaped caravan named ‘The Cowley’. Now there’s no word of these actually becoming a reality, but they look fun all the same.  

As for me, well I’m writing this two days before embarking on a 420-mile road trip to attend the UK’s only dedicated new MINI show in Staffordshire. I’ve spoken to many MINI owners who wish there was more for them at the standard, mixed Mini events, including traders dedicated to the new MINI, so hopes are high for this new show, which has been welcomed by the MINI community. We are in fact holding back The Vibe so we can bring you our event report on The Big MINI Show.

All this leaves me to say is, enjoy this issue!

 

 Sarah Harrington-James, Editor

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Modern MINI coverSeptember/October 2013 Modern Mini

Summer has finally arrived here in Blighty! As the mercury is soaring and the smell of tempting barbecues fills the air, I wonder whether this sudden burst of good weather will help boost MINI numbers at shows this season? Mini in the Park at Santa Pod is still to come, an event that traditionally has an awesome new MINI following, and just as we were going to press the show’s organisers announced that they will be launching a brand new indoor event for January 2014! Named Mini in the Dark, it’ll focus on giving visitors the wow factor with amazing light display effects and funky music. As soon as we know more, we’ll bring it to you.  

I’ve been continuing to prove that the GP is a practical everyday car by using it for a shopping trip to a DIY store for garden supplies (see photos above). It sure is a great load-lugger! Next stop will be for a full day’s trackday, hopefully along with a few other MINI fanatics, towards the end of the summer. I’ve only turned a wheel in anger briefly on the hallowed circuit of Brands Hatch during a few parade laps at last year’s Mini Festival, so a proper shakedown is well overdue.

I attended a very interesting conference recently held by Kelsey Media, publisher of not only this very magazine, but also 42 other titles. It was to look to the future and encompass the digital age as print media takes a downward turn; social media is now the number one way people communicate, share and receive information. We’ve moved on a long way from the Commodore 64 era and mobile phones that resembled editor's blogbricks! How would you feel if, in years to come, Modern MINI became a totally online magazine? I’d like to know your thoughts – you can email me at: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it – as well as what you think of our fresh redesign!

Now moving on to our ‘Owner’s Special’ issue – what do we have in store? A bumper five features – that’s almost 30 pages of the best owners and tuners cars, from OEM to show car! Get a load of GT Tuning’s latest incarnation (p27) – a standard to twincharged R53 which the firm later turbo’d using its tried and tested GTT300 conversion. We also have an update on the R53 track build, an interesting behind-the-scenes look at a MINI bodyshop, plus a Hands on guide to changing a wheel bearing. If that’s not enough, then turn to p88 for nine pages of The Vibe – it’s all going on, so get involved!

 Sarah Harrington-James, Editor

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Modern MINI coverJuly/August 2013 Modern Mini

I was recently invited to The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) Test Day at Millbrook Proving Ground – an annual ‘ride and drive’ event for motoring journos. Not having attended before, I was looking forward to the chance of jumping in a whole variety of vehicles and experiencing Millbrook’s different test routes, designed to simulate everyday driving conditions. There’s everything from a high-speed bowl and alpine hill route (used for the Aston Martin rollover scene in the James Bond film, Casino Royale) to tricky off-road tracks for all-terrain vehicles. All the major manufacturers attended with a variety of test vehicles, including MINI, of course. This gave me the opportunity to try out the new Cooper S Paceman for size and after taking to both the city and hill routes, found the Paceman to be more sure-footed than its big bro Countryman and if I were being honest, prettier too. One vehicle I had to have a go in, if only for the novelty factory, was MINI’s new 112bhp Cooper D Clubvan (complete with side slogan: ‘Mr Bun’s Bakery – just what your business kneads’) before returning to base to look more closely at how MINI’s designers have converted it from a standard Clubman. Loading is easy via the back doors, (although the suicide door on the driver’s side still opens) and the cargo guard behind the front seats gives it that all-essential, van-like feel. I was expecting it to be a bit skittish unloaded, (no buns were provided) but surprisingly perhaps, it wasn’t.

editors blogIt was obvious on the day how many manufacturers are now trying to hit MINI’s customer base head-on with similar style attributes like red roofs, matching mirror caps and bonnet stripes; the latest Suzuki Swift Sport SZ-R smacked of this. But the biggest ‘OMG’ moment was seeing Fiat’s new 500L for the first time – an ugly, pumped up 500 aimed squarely at the MINI Countryman market. Will it win over MINI customers? I don’t think so.

Not all manufacturers brought along just modern stuff. Honda proudly showed off its completely original ‘90s 3.0-litre, 270bhp NSX supercar that had been completely rebuilt by its technicians. I remember having a poster of one of these on my bedroom wall as a teenager...

tuning wise, you can also read how we tackled a Janspeed exhaust manifold and sports cat fitment (p78). If there’s anything you’d like to see us cover in a future issue, drop us a line at: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

Sarah Harrington-James, Editor

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