Don’t be fooled by this classic Mini. It might look cute and adorable and tiny, but this is a real tough guy’s car. Clint Eastwood owned a Mini, Paul Newman owned a Mini—even Steve McQueen had one. Then again so did Princess Diana, so the common denominator there may just be good taste. Make that courage, too. I know this after driving one.
Regardless, the original Mini was appreciated and revered by true car enthusiasts. I’ve always been fascinated by them, and seeing a beautiful example of a 1967 Mini Wagon brought me to the deeply insightful realization: the original Mini is really small.
I had to drive it.
When Mosing Motorcars here in Austin acquired a 1967 Mini Wagon, I had to go take a look for myself. I’m always dropping by there, gawking at their newest inventory, taking up valuable space and oxygen, and bothering Eric and Kirk who manage Mosing Motorcars. Thankfully, they’ve never called the cops whenever I’ve shown up uninvited. They even let me drive their cars sometimes—like this little guy.
This was my first time to see an old Mini in person, and to show you how utterly little the car is, I parked it in between these two Texas-sized trucks:
This wagon was restored nicely by Jet Motors Mini, who pride themselves on among the best classic Mini experts you can find. The Mini was first introduced by the British Motor Corporation in 1959 and quickly became a British cultural phenomenon. It had an innovative design with a transverse engine layout and wheels that were pushed out as far out to the edges as possible, which gave the car ample interior room and practicality.
There was also an added, unexpected benefit: the design provided the car superior driving dynamics which made it a track demon, winning all kinds of races and rallies, especially after John Cooper put a decent engine into it.
In 2000 BMW bought the Mini from the near-dead Rover Group, and over the years made the car bigger and bigger—and bigger, with its latest 2017 Mini Countryman being so hefty that it’s now larger than most Tokyo apartments. But the Mini Cooper is still fantastic, holds true to its roots and has an unmistakable presence that continues to attract new fans.
This 1967 Mini is a wagon, or an estate as they like to say in the UK, in the same way they like to say bollocks instead of turkey sandwich. The estate is about a foot longer than the regular Mini Cooper but not many of them were imported to the U.S., making this specific model quite rare.
The wagon is quite roomy and has more space than the regular Mini Cooper once you fold down the backseat. With all that space in there, you could fit in some clothes, a blanket and your favorite stuffed animal. If you needed to, you could park it on a sidewalk and sleep in it.
Everything Is Tiny In This Mini
The wheels are the size of pancakes. The gear knob is the size of a large grape that you could grab with two fingers. The tachometer is so small that I didn’t think the car even had one at first until I randomly spotted it behind the steering wheel on the column.
The pedals are so petite that you have to figure out new ways to work in the limited space on the floorboard to make sure you’re not braking when you should be accelerating. To say things are compact in this Mini is the understatement of the century.
In fact, the only not-so-small thing in this car is the speedometer located in the center of the car which looks huge and is only progressively increasing in size with the newer Mini models. It takes up almost a third of the dashboard in the 2017 Countryman.
Driving The Mini
You’ll get a lot of attention driving around in this “Mini van” but it’s of the good kind—admiration, friendly waves and a curious bewilderment at its proportions. This is different from the attention you might get in a Ferrari, where people are usually openly wishing you’d take your tactless frittering of wealth somewhere else.
The few old cars I’ve driven, like a 1965 Ford Mustang, have proven to be not as fun as I expected. Driving a ‘65 Mustang is like having a rabid dog on a leash. You can try to make the ‘Stang do what what you want it to do, but it could care less about your desires.
The Mini, on the other hand, is far more precise and adept. It handles much better than you’d think a 50-year-old car would. It’s easy to steer because the wheels are so small but their diminutive size also means that you must be prepared for every bump, rock or toothpick on the road. You’ll feel some kind of physical pain every time you go over anything that’s not perfectly smooth.
I would’ve enjoyed driving the Mini more if it had more power. It has an 850 cc engine producing a STAGGERING 34 horsepower and a THUNDERING 44 lb-ft of torque. That just doesn’t cut it, even for a tiny car like this. I know there are upgraded classic Minis out there producing 150 horsepower or more and on a 1,300 pound car, it likely makes the car a true animal.
Now that I think about it, I probably should’ve removed a seat, or the spare or have worn shorts instead of pants because on such a light car, any reduction in weight would’ve helped significantly. But instead, I just drove the car as-is. I slammed the go-slow pedal down as far as it would go and… nothing happened.
It barely moved—I could’ve outrun the thing on foot.
Small Is Also Very Scary
Driving any really old car is nerve-racking. If you hit something or something hits you, you’ll probably die. Either you’ll smash your face into the unforgiving steering column or all that metal will crush you into pulp. What makes it even worse is being in a really small really old car.
When you’re in an old Mini, a Ford F-150 will look like a fearsome monster truck. Even a Civic coupe will appear enormous. Everything around you, other than a lost go-kart wandering around on the road, will look intimidating.
But that’s what it’s like in today’s world. I can see why back in the day the Mini was as loved and respected as it was. It was a car that could do everything. It was easy to drive, fit the whole family and could run circles around Porsches on the track. And this one is a wagon! How wonderful.
A vintage Mini is probably one of the only cars that would look perfectly great sitting in a museum or one that you would get a kick out of driving on curvy roads. Just be sure to avoid the trucks and if possible, upgrade the lawnmower motor in it with something better. Or remove the back seats.