View Full Version : Classic Mini in the US

Ernst Blofeld
10-12-2007, 06:40 PM
Given the success of the MINI in the US, has interest in the old car picked up Stateside?

Just wondered really, because the original car wasn't much of a hit on your side of the Atlantic.

I suppose its lack of success was hardly surprising given the car's tininess: in a country the size of a continent smallness must be much less of a virtue, and mile-munching can't be said to be the car's forte.

On the other hand, the car did achieve some measure of success in Australia and Canada where you might assume the same conditions applied.

And if the likes of Triumph and MG had some measure of success selling tiddlers in the US, you might have expected the Mini to appeal to those folk who would have liked a Spridgefire but needed two extra seats. You might have supposed that the latter group outnumbered sportscar fans.

So I'm guessing that it was BMC's lack of marketing nous that scuppered the car's chances in the USA back in the day.

These days I hear that the market for pre-1973 Minis in the US is quite strong, and where once you might have expected the best cars to have wound up in the hands of Japanese enthusiasts more and more classic Minis are ending up Stateside.

I don't know if this is true, but how much interest is there in the old car in the US?

10-12-2007, 07:05 PM
I can only look back on the events you mention from my personal perspective and give you some comments regarding both then, and now.

The classic Mini's sales in the U.S. were indeed small. At a time when gasoline in the U.S. sold for $0.30/gallon, it was hard to justify any small car, especially one whose original design focus was economy. Where economy was promoted, cars like the VW Beetle showed higher sales probably for reasons like easier entrance and lower maintenance. The demise of the Mini in the U.S. is often attributed to tightened U.S. safety standards at the same time that BL was in the first throws of cost cutting and reorganization. The Mini's U.S. sales didn't justify the expense of the re-engineering that would have been required. However, the Spridget, MGB, and various Triumphs through the same period did have reasonable sales in the U.S. perhaps because they were promoted as purely a sports/sporty cars. People who bought them did not concern themselves with passengers or economy.

The classic Mini began seeing a rise in interest and value even before the new MINI arrived. Because so few classic Minis were in the U.S. it has been very common during the past 5 or so years to see Minis imported from Oz, NZ, Canada... and of course, the U.K. A touchy point is that many of these imports arrived as a "Mk1 Mini 'updated' to 1999 specs'. That's a polite description for a re-VIN. I have not been in the market for years but it's my understanding that the price for the classics may have recently passed its peak and that prices have dropped slightly over the past few months.

Ernst Blofeld
10-13-2007, 05:11 PM
Perhaps if BMC had sold the Cooper S as an MG sedan and a similarly engined Moke as a kind of modern MG TC (but for four people) US interest in the car might have been greater?

10-14-2007, 09:14 PM
BMC tried selling the MG-1100 and the 1275cc Austin America over here. A large portion of the Austin Americas were equipped with automatic transmissions to compete with more traditional American family sedans. The AA transmission was not well received and proved problematic. This was probably in large part because Americans didn't understand how the transverse A-series engines were different and didn't maintain them properly. Compare this to the various VW models that could practically be maintained with pliers and the BMC sedans just weren't going to sell well.

The Moke was a curiosity everywhere it was sold. Look back on where it was sold in volume and it was seeing service as a beach rental car or similar. The Moke wasn't going to sell well against serious 4-wheel drive off-road vehicles. Over here we had the Jeep and the occasional Land Rover. In the U.K. you would have also had the Austin Gypsy. All of these were more robust, open, off-road vehicles. If they'd taken the Moke platform and tried to use it as a basis for an open sports car it probably would have needed more power than the A-series could provide. I think there were sedan versions of BMC cars using the larger B-series engines but they didn't sell well in the U.S. either.

If you look at what happened with BL in the U.S. during the 1970s you can see that they recognized their fit was going to be in the small sports/sporty car market. I think MGBs continued to be sold here as late as 1982. The Japanese sports cars and sporty sedans had eroded a lot of the British market over here by that time and it was only a matter of time until BL (Rover) pulled out of the market here.

10-24-2007, 08:41 PM
I have always wanted a Mini, but not having lots of cash laying around, I have to be content watching the prices of the cars go higher and higher. I remember growing up in Mass, there were several Minis that were changing hands in my high school for about $200. Now, those same cars would probably go for 10K or better.

I guess I will have to be happy with my B'. But one day I will have a Mini in my garage. /bcforum/images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/smile.gif

10-25-2007, 11:36 AM
Ron, don't be so quick to give in. A sharp eye and knowing where to look can yield you a suitable car. Craigslist, eBay, etc. are good places to look. Have your facts togther, and know what you are willing to accept or not and you should be able to find something. I was searching for a wagon that would carry 5 people, plus my massage table, get good gas mileage - gas was nearly $4 a gallon and be reasonably priced. I got lucky and hit my Mini wagon. Of course be wary of purchases via eBay or online places but you should be wary no matter the source. Just keep an ear and eye open and your Mini will find you eventually.... /bcforum/images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/smile.gif

10-25-2007, 11:38 AM

Don't let the prices of Cooper and Cooper-S models scare you off. Solid 998 Minis in good shape can be had for well under $8k. I expect a well sorted MGB of similar vintage would cost a lot more. When and if you do look for a Mini, buy one with as sound a body as possible. With over 40 years of production, the drivetrain parts can easily be found and swapped for reasonable money to make a good running car. Body work will cost the same whether you buy a Cooper-S or a basic 850.

10-25-2007, 11:58 AM
I'm gonna be selling mine for about $6,500 after we fix the brakes so it's drivable. I already miss it.

10-25-2007, 02:34 PM
Melissa, after some of your previous posts I was afraid you would be giving up on your car. It's a shame really.

Please consider that you've invested in a new head, new cooling system, and now... new brakes. You really owe it to yourself to enjoy the car for a bit before selling it. If you're still set on selling the car you may want to put off selling it until spring. I don't find Minis comfortable in the dead of winter or the heat of summer.

10-25-2007, 03:26 PM
-=nods=- and if I put it off until spring... I might be able to convince my husband that I should replace both of my cars with a Smart Fortwo. -=daydreams=-

10-25-2007, 06:30 PM
don't forget to check Kijiji also thats where I find a lot of stuff I need

10-26-2007, 07:03 AM
-=nods=- and if I put it off until spring... I might be able to convince my <u>husband</u> that I should replace both of my cars with a Smart Fortwo. -=daydreams=-

Husband? Did you forget to mention something? I seem to remember that until very recently you were mentioning him as "my boyfriend". Belated congratulations !!!

10-26-2007, 10:09 AM
This is where I mention that I'm really weird. I have an open marriage. My husband's the computer nerd, my boyfriend's the car nerd. Best of both worlds! /bcforum/images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/blush.gif

10-26-2007, 11:20 AM
Umph (sound of foot going into mouth).

10-26-2007, 12:04 PM
hee. Aw, no Doug, it's cool. Thanks for the congrats, though! /bcforum/images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/wink.gif

Ernst Blofeld
10-26-2007, 06:39 PM
I have a Mini here in the UK.

And it was born in 1971, so I believe it is eligible for export to the US.

Moreover, it has recently had the rust taken out, new replacement panels have been fitted where the tin worm was evident before. It has been resprayed in BMC rallying colours: red with a white roof.

It has a roll cage, a stripped out interior, a 1380cc A+ engine with a wild cam (I forget which), Dr Moulton's Smootharide rubber springs - to take the sting out of the car's ride - racing seats, harnesses where once there were seatbelts, new ten-inch alloy wheels, four good Yokohama tyres - I've hardly driven the car since they were fitted -
negative camber brackets at the rear, servo-assisted brakes with Cooper S 7.5" front discs, a long-centre branch manifold, sump guard, the fuel line has been routed inside the car and there are other bits I'm too tired to recall.

And it has just passed the Department of Transport's MOT test for another year. The mechanic who inspected it said it was one of the soundest Mini shells he had seen of late.

I've got a brand-new Pacet auxiliary fan, Cibie spotlights which are still in their packaging and a few other bits lying around.

It's not all wine and roses - the driver's seat needs re-upholstering, the speedo doesn't work, and the engine bay is nothing to write home about. And it does not have an cylinder head modified to run on unleaded petrol (I have been using the recommended additives when I fill her up.)

Other than that it's pretty sound.

If you like I can post some pictures of the car on this website.

I don't know why I mention all this except it might be nice to find an American buyer who will appreciate the car and ease my financial burden.

On the other hand it might be a case of, "look at my lovely Mini: I've got one and you haven't - na, na, na, na, na."

10-26-2007, 06:52 PM
I'm no good at posting pictures here. All I ever do is post links. However, please post pics of your car.

Some states have cut-off provisions that the car be at least 25 years old. Your '71 would certainly be legal for import in the U.S.

Finding a buyer who wants to handle the import papers and process might be a bit hard. If you make mistakes or the numbers are not right the car ends up sitting in your garage for months until everything is rectified. There are several guys I know who do this for a living. Should you decide you want to sell the car for export to the U.S. I can put you in touch with a few such people.