editors blog

CoverLgSeptember/October 2011 Modern Mini

You’ll read elsewhere in this issue how MINI’s future in the UK has been assured for the foreseeable future courtesy of a £500m investment in the Cowley factory which when coupled with the firm’s other activities in the UK can only be a good thing for our motor industry.
I’ve also had a chance to visit the other end of the scale courtesy of a trip to another BMW Group location: the Rolls-Royce facility at Goodwood where the spotlessly clean plant with its manicured trees and ornamental ponds is about as far as you can get from most people’s idea of a car factory.

OctBogIt’s intriguing to see how the current range of cars is a mixture of state-of-the-art technology underneath with everything you see or touch being traditional Rolls-Royce in its qualities. In fact the idea of the Rolls-Royce inspired ‘Goodwood’ MINI makes more sense than you might think.

I’ve also had a chance to view the British motor industry from another angle this month, courtesy of a week spent at the helm of a new MG6, the car which bears the octagonal badge with pride and which is part assembled in China and part in Birmingham... in a factory which was also once part of the BMW empire. It’s thought-provoking to walk past miles of demolition sites where the Austin buildings once sprawled but in their place are springing up high-tech new office parks and a sparkling new college. All of which illustrates the benefit of looking forward rather than wallowing in nostalgia. MINI has done it, Rolls-Royce has done it and MG is certainly trying too.

Which brings us neatly on to the subject of the photo above these words which next issue if things go according to plan may well be replaced by a new model – not state-of-the-art maybe, but certainly with some updated features in the shape of Assistant Editor Sarah Harrington-James who is stepping up to the Editor’s chair...

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May-JuneCoverSmMay/June 2011 Modern Mini

As the new MINI celebrates its first decade in production, it’s easy to forget that the second generation cars have been with us for nearly five years now and it’s taken that long for values to soften to an affordable level. As you can see from our buying guide feature on page 29 though, the time has finally come when the trade price guides list the Cooper S at under the psychological £10k mark.

There are of course those who prefer the older car and it’s generally accepted that although the second generation is a more refined package, the original has the edge when it comes to being a driver’s car. And a nice example of the original MINI is hard to tell at a casual glance from a brand new model, at least to non-MINI folk. I recently pulled up at a friend’s house in our 10-year-old Project One and was surprised to be asked if it was another brand new road test car. Even more surprisingly, he’s worked in the car industry for years and knows what you mean when you refer to an R50 or R56...

The tuning industry is only just getting started on the newer cars of course and the business of making supercharged Cooper S’s go faster has been pretty much sewn up over the years... except that this isue is the first time I can remember that we’ve featured a modified automatic example. The CVT gearbox found in the R53 cars is an acquired taste, but we were intrigued to hear that owner Peter Neasham rated it above his DSG-equipped Audi, which to be fair to the Ingolstadt brand is high praise indeed.

This issue is also the first in which we’ve featured a modified example of the original One D, although there’s precious little of the innocuous economy car left in the French low-rider. It’s a world away from the business of buying nearly-new JCWs but variety is what makes the new MINI scene so great. Now I wonder if we could get air ride springs under our Project One...

Paul Wager

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March/April 2011 Modern Mini

MA11coverSo much was made of the 50th anniversary of the Mini in general that it’s easy to overlook the fact that 2011 sees us entering the year in which the production version of the new Mini will celebrate its 10th birthday. I can still remember the hype over the new car and many of those first owners have stuck with the MINI ever since. How many have stuck with their original 2001 purchase though? If anybody out there has spent 10 years in the same MINI then do get in touch and share your experiences – or your MINI adventures as the marketing people would probably prefer it, although they’d probably rather gloss over any mention of that Midland gearbox...

Of course there will be many who would have stayed with the MINI for a decade but just couldn’t wedge all the paraphernalia of family life into the hatch and of course for these people a Countryman is the answer.

Much has been said already about whether the Countryman is a real ‘MINI’ or not and that of course is a subjective thing. One thing mirrors the original 2001 launch of the MINI though, which is the rush to get tuning and styling parts ready for the new car, which explains why we managed to capture one of the first modified examples for you, courtesy of Forge Motorsport. See the car on page 22 and I’m sure you’ll be cancelling your order for that Qashqai or Yeti...

Of course here at MM we’ve had our own experience of the 2001 MINI with our Project One and now that prices of early examples are coming down sufficiently to allow younger, more hands-on owners entry to the MINI scene, it’s a good illustration of what can be done to create a credibly quick car for minimal outlay.

As everyone knows, speed costs money and we’ve achieved a sound result from our R50 for well under a grand. And that’s historically what making MINIs go faster has always been about.

Paul Wager


January/February 2011 Modern Mini

JF11coverI seem to have covered a lot of miles in the last couple of weeks all in the name of putting Modern MINI together. Most of it has been in in MINIs too, although a six-hour journey from Folkestone to the South West in our project One was pushing the limits of endurance somewhat. Especially when lunch involved a rummage through the door pockets which turned up little more than one of those miserable little twin packs of biscuits they give you in hotel rooms. Yup, it's a pretty glamorous life sometimes on MM.

Although it has to be said the Clubman Cooper D in special edition Soho trim was an altogether more classy experience, something I realised as I parked it up in a central London car park and realised it was attracting more attention than the Ferrari 512BB in the corner.

In its unique White Silver paint the Soho looks tremendous and as you can read on page 26, it's one of those rare cars which provides a superb drive and cracking economy: with more torque than a Cooper S JCW it's a punchy little thing around town and should you find yourself on a six-hour marathon journey involving a stationary M20 it's even a great long-distance machine. Couldn't find any biscuits in it though.

Speaking of winners, this issue of course brings you the results of our annual Modern MINI Oscars, which are now in their fourth year and becoming pretty hotly contested, with some categories showing very close competition as nominees found themselves separated by just a handful of votes.

The results are all decided by you, the readers and they just go to show that you don't have to spend thousands on your MINI to be in with a chance of winning: Andy Mullen took the prize in the Cooper category, but as you can read in the feature on his car in this issue, he's done most of the work himself and the project cost him less than you'd expect. Get the spanners out and you could be one of next year's winners.

Paul Wager


November/December 2010 Modern Mini

NDcoverSo the Countryman has finally landed and the debate about whether it's a 'proper' MINI or not can really get going.

As you can see on page 22, we've now had the chance to try UK-spec cars on UK roads and I can sympathise with both sides of the debate.

On the one hand, as someone who has struggled at times to get all the family clutter into a standard MINI hatch I can appreciate how the brand can't overlook the need for a slightly more practical offering but on the other hand, four metres long is getting to the limit of something you can hang a MINI tag on.

Since my other hat at Kelsey Publishing involves classic car magazines, I reckon the Maxi name needs to make a comeback but any marketing types reading this will probably now be cringing in horror.

What doesn't need any debate though is the way the car drives and here it's impressive to see how the MINI character has been engineered into a much bigger car. The high-riding four-door feels bulkier than a regular MINI but still feels very much more like a MINI than a big off-roader.

Given the tolerance of the new MINI crowd one thing we're unlikely to see is any of the conflict between Countryman and regular MINI owners like the classic/modern Mini issue, although as we found at both shows reported on in this issue, more than one club out there is now welcoming Minis of all kinds into the fold. It's a sensible move considering we know for a fact that quite a few Modern MINI readers also have a classic Mini tucked away in the garage.

On the subject of debate, this month sees our annual Oscars awards kicking off with the nominations on page 16. If there's a MINI, an individual or even a club or company you think deserves to win, then get your vote in to the usual address.

Paul Wager

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