View Full Version : Ghastly, horrible cars, but why do I own one?

Ernst Blofeld
04-05-2007, 07:28 PM
My father warned me against it, but like a fool I ignored his advice.

Turning thirty did it, and in a failed attempt to recapture the youth I misspent in an alcoholic haze I decided that I should own a Mini.

With my waistline expanding and my hair receding I wanted to go back to my childhood.

You see, I had fond memories of the family Mini, the car that served as our transport back in the late Seventies. My father had only bought the Mini because the Austin Maxi that had previously been the family hold-all had succumbed to gearbox failure.

If you were to believe the newspapers of the day, Communist workers at the great British manufacturing plants deliberately put loose nuts and bolts into the Maxi's transmission to ruin the car, and by extension, British Leyland.

I'm not sure if that is true, but it is inescapable that union intransigence cost the company dear in lost production and revenue.

The 1969 Maxi, I should explain, was a bold design - the last effort of Mini and Minor designer Sir Alec Issigonis - and in many ways a scaled-up Mini. It had many of the Mini's attributes: the efficient use of space, a transversely mounted engine driving the front wheels, wheels at each corner, and Moulton suspension - but progressed the theme with a five speed gearbox, a hatchback, and a brand new overhead-cam engine.

Shorter than a Ford Focus, the Maxi has more interior volume than the Ford, and its seats could be configured to form a (lumpy) double bed.

In any event, to my developing mind the Maxi was only significant because of the car that replaced it: a Mini.

And no ordinary Mini - it was a customised job, a deseamed,
vinyl-roofed Mini, in metalflake bronze, with a walnut dashboard, and an electric aerial, which seemed like the stuff of science fiction back then.

The car had been fettled by renowned Mini coachbuilders, Wood & Pickett, and, knowing what you know now, perhaps you can forgive my youthful obsession.

JAB 315N - where are you now?

But my father hated JAB with a deathless passion and when I told him that I was going to purchase a 1971 1380cc engined Mini five years ago, he thought I was mad. The ride will, "shake your guts up", he said.

My own Mini languishes outside my house. It's rusting in the places that all Minis rust, and despite my seeming indifference I know that one day soon I will spend a sizeable proportion of my meagre savings making the car respectable again. That's because no other car means so much to me, or drives like a Mini.

And in defiance of my father, I have fitted Dr Moulton's 'Smootharide' springs. I may have a rusting Mini but at least the ride will no longer shake my guts up quite so much.

The Mini: such a rational, irrational car.

I still want a Maxi, though.

04-06-2007, 09:25 PM
I had a Maxi.....'L' registered 1500 it was, awful car! Get a later model 1750 if you can, they were much better.

Minis I love, always have done.

Ernst Blofeld
04-07-2007, 08:05 PM
Well, the Maxi was an intelligent design, but let down by a flaw or two on the early cars, most notably the cable operated gearchange which is still notorious.

But this was only Sir Alec's way of toying with us. Early Minis had their faults, too. The gearchange was similarly poor, and the car had an unfortunate habit of letting in water.

However, most of the Mini's woes were sorted out, and a protracted motorsport development programme - by the likes of John Cooper, and Daniel Richmond of Downton Engineering - turned the little car into a nice little earner - for BMW. And only forty years after the event.

Later Maxis were improved. The former-owner and saviour of TVR - before he sold it to a petulant Russian child - Peter Wheeler thought highly of the Maxi he used a salesman in the early Seventies, Downton Engineering could make them go indecently quickly by UK standards, but when I tell you that none other than John Lennon owned a Maxi I suppose I will start a craze for the car in the US amongst Beatles fans.

It stands to reason why Lennon owned a Maxi: the man wanted to start a revolution from his bed, and, as already mentioned, the Maxi's seats could be arranged into a double bed - ideal for peace, but especially good for free love.


09-11-2015, 09:33 PM
There is a group for Wood & Pickett built cars on fb, incase you want to ask for info inthere ?

09-13-2015, 06:44 AM
My uncle had a Maxi but my dad had an Austin 1800, older sister to the Maxi. I always prefered the 1800. It looked nicer to my preteen eyes. Both cars had loads of room inside. I remember some American relatives coming to visit and being impressed by the legroom 'for such a small auto'.

10-03-2015, 11:45 PM
The Landcrab did have a respectable amount of interior space. Decent cars, I liked them, they drove rather well.