I had the great fortune to sample a original(street version of the car in the story), as well as the new version. There was something very alive in the original very much a family pet that you cared about. The latter just another piece of equipment…reliable and superbly engineered but still “dead” in the soul.
How do you know its not just the nostalgic aspect of the classic mini that made you all the more endeared to it? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not defending all these crappy throwback cars that are coming out these days, but there is a tremendous amount of nostalgia surrounding classic minis. Are you sure that your connection was a real emotional one to the machine itself, or was it just all the hype surrounding it.
Hey, I wasn’t aware so far that there is a new 2011 mini concept. The first impression to me was good, although, some seconds later I’ve noticed that this thingy is completely overengineered with these door hinges, the led lights and it’s future-style cockpit, but if customers pay for it, why not
How do you know its not just the nostalgic aspect of the classic mini that made you all the more endeared to it?
If you have ever experienced the uninhibited joy of piloting a go-kart around a track, inches off of the asphalt, then you know what it is like to drive the “real” Austin Mini and I don’t believe you would have asked this question.
The same applies to the likes of MG Sprites and Midgets, Honda “N” and “Z” Series coupes, Ford Cortinas (borderline out of this “class” but a gas to drive), Peugeot 2cv, early Triumph TR2-TR3, and a number of the other people-scale “city cars” of the era. Little cars, BIG sensory experience.
The Mini “S” is a TANK compared to these old machines. The original mini weighed in at roughly 1,400 pounds and was hauled around by a 30hp engine (1,071cc); it’s highest rate street engine was 69hp. By comparison, the BMW Mini “S” is over 1,000 pounds heavier and was originally fitted with a 74hp engine which grown to 180hp (turbo) to do it.
I keep thinking of how much bigger cars are now than they were forty-fifty years ago, people haven’t changed in size… why did automobiles grow so out of proportion to the task they’re asked to perform? Even the “big” sedans of the 40-50’s when next to a contemporary model are very much smaller. I was struck by this comparison the other day on the freeway while following a string of old Detroit iron (in a car club) when they were passed by a late 90’s vintage Ford Crown Vic.
Okay, okay, I’ll back off. I haven’t driven one. I want to though. Just playing devil’s advocate i guess.
Back to your original question, “how do we keep the soul”. I think one of the biggest obstacles to doing that is that drivers these days have gotten so used to all the creature comforts that are really unnecessary and just muddy up the design directions of the car.
Its like you said, the classic was much more “honest”. The classic was meant to drive, and that’s all it does, very well. Any new car that comes out today that doesn’t have heated butt warmers, 35 cup holders and seats made of baby seal leather are not “commercially viable”. Our cars (especially in America) are meant to be much more than just cars, and therefore they are bastardized products that serve the masses, but they don’t truly “connect” with anyone.
I’ve also never really understood the bloat. A lot I know is safety standards, but the design lines also seem to be part of the problem. Less care and attention to details as well. Esp. US cars I find (though getting a lot better recently, thinking of 90-00’s), seem to suffer from something both inside and out that looks like they just applied an “add 3cm radius” function to everything. Just blobby and sad.
A perfect example, I once saw a 60’s 911 parked next door to a current/recent model. The design is pretty similar, yes, but the newer one seemed to be about 20%+ more in volume.
I have driven an original mini. It was something unique. I have also been in the new mini. I was all set to get one when they were first relaunched. Was on the waiting list, went to a few launch events, test drove. It did indeed drive like a go kart, and was fun. For me, it was just the interior that killed it for me. Felt too plastic, and too “fun”, like a toy car. Esp. for the money. A cousin had one, and also had tons of problems with it. He returned it after a few months as he’d had to back into the shop numerous times for issues. Not sure if the build quality is better, but I’d hope so given it’s a BMW.
For the segment (expensive small, fun cars), I’d pick a 1 series BMW any day. They are indeed very expensive, and yes, very heavy compared to the old 80’s 3er and 2002, but they drive like stink. 135i is so great after test driving one, I wanted to exchange my 328xi coupe. Turns out would be more expensive that the 3 to lease! Crazy!
so what’s up with all of the “reversed” imagery in this video … 2:43, 5:15, 5:20, 5:24, the whole thing is reversed … a copyright tactic?
THREAD JACK OFF:
“That noise is amazing… that noise is simply sensational, spine tingling…” Jeremy’s comment referring to the sound of the V12 engine. Maybe pumping an engine-noise sound track through the stereo or headphones, synched to the throttle position, might be something MINI drivers would enjoy.
How come that we intersubjectively feel that something has soul and something else hasn’t?
It just occurred to me, right after the previous post, that a big part of the “motoring” experience is the sound… for all that the new Mini is/are, it can not provide the experience that that tiny little BMC series 65hp engine, pushed to the limits and pulling through straight-cut gears of the original Mini did. The chassis, where the only thing between the road and your hands was a few ball-end joints, and a rack and pinion, can’t provide the sensory feedback that the original did. You feel comfortable throwing that little car around because it was so small that it became your own skin… The sound-damping material it the car was non-existent… if you even had a radio you could hardly hear it… blah, blah, blah…
The whole “modern” motoring experience is completely different. Nostalgia is all that is left of the old machines unless you actually own one. With current regulations regarding emissions, bumper requirements, fuel-mileage, etc. , I would go so far as to say that it is virtually impossible to replicate that raw experience in a new street-legal automobile. If anyone would even buy it.
“how do we keep the soul”. I think one of the biggest obstacles to doing that is that drivers these days have gotten so used to all the creature comforts that are really unnecessary and just muddy up the design directions of the car.
yup new cars are for the most part really big Ipod/Ipad/Iphone docks that move sort of. Driving is viewed as a chore, best to be left up to machines and computers so you can spend your time in the sensory cloud of the internet.
I wonder why it is that driving has become such a chore. Is it because the car has been around for so long, virtually unchanged that we (collectively as a culture) are tired of it and ready to move on? Do we drive more often now, getting tired of it as individuals?
I wish that we could get cars with ANY kind of personality these days. Even a bad, or ornery personality would be better than the moving boxes crammed with electronics we have now. I remember having a conversation with my Dad a number of years ago. He was making fun of my Mom (from back when they were in high school together) for having a Nash Rambler. “It was the dorkiest car you could have back then” he said. I asked him (not being familiar with the car) what it would be equivalent to today, and he said there really isn’t equivalent by today’s standards because cars don’t have the personality that they used to.
It seems like to me, its better to say “I’m a dork” than nothing at all. Can it really be that hard to make a car that says that? Maybe we’re just trying too hard.
Citroen, Renault, Alfa Romeo, and Fiat all make “quirky” cars with personality. There seems to be a high correlation between small size and personality. The Catherham 7 (formerly Lotus super 7) is still in production and is ALIVE in all senses of the word. The Ariel Atom in in the same league, but even the little Fiat 500 has some soul. I guess the bigger they are the dumber (duller) they feel and are. A Mercedes S class is a wonderful piece of engineering, but “fun” its not, however in the same class there is the Maserati Quatroporte that is to quote the top gear guys “like a 2 year old, you some times want to spank it but it would destroy you if somebody took it away from you”. So maybe its not size, but being willing to produce something that is not perfect in all areas but exceptional in some important ones.
Hmm. I just came back from a short blast in the Z4 (that I have to return in 6 weeks), now that I read your
I am sure sound has a lot to do with the soul of the machine. It’s part of my addiction to old Alfas, for sure.
That Z4 (Coupe) won me over during the last months. At first I thought it was too loud, too harsh and too hard
to steer. It felt like artificially imposing on you: “I am a sportscar, you know.” But having some soak time with it that vanished. I got used to the vices and saw the virtues much clearer:
This one fits like a glove.
It is propelled by a howling, growling straight six.
this engine is mated to a proper (manual) gearbox of stellar precision.
the sound of the engine is transmitted via an “airbox”? to the cabin. Even induction noise.
( you can hear that in old sportscars, because they are built a little flimsy. The BMW isn’t, but pretends to be.
that horse kicks your ass like a bastard.
All part of a very positive and in the end addictive experience. Does it have soul though? You best believe it has !
So its is possible to built a characterful car, today. One that isn’t a “device”. But most are so capable of anything else
than driving that the driving vanishes. I honestly don’t understand why. BMW already delivers many models with
automated gearboxes at the moment. I for one won’t by it. By bye instead…
Another thought: A car brand should stay true to it’s heritage and market to stay successful. Tuesday last week
I heard a hot Corvette ZR6 roar through the village, but when it came down to our block it was the new M3 convertible
instead. What the hell? : V8, convertible, with steel roof and automatic ?
Call it what you like, but it surely isn’t a M3.
The original Mini.:
Well, I drove a civilian version from a nice girl, once. And it was unfruitful. I just couldn’t find a seating position in the
front seat, not having my ears between my legs. When I tried to brake I always stroke the wiper switch. For a tall guy
like me it was a merry go round, not a car. But it certainly had character. The bellow of the engine, combined with the
whine of the gearbox (at the time I thought it might be shot, but that was normal)
They don’t make 'em like that any more.
Concerning the size of the thing it is for a reason. The original mini was conceived when ergonomics hadn’t been
invented yet. The car had to fit it’s creator. (And some friend, if need be.) Today it has to fit families all over the
world. In Sicily and Mexico as well as in Sweden and California. All flaws, but also all individualities engineered out.
It’s a shame.
On the other hand,any time my father took some chances and bought the futuristic, or “individual” choice of the
season he ended up driving it solely himself and keeping the Golf of some sort for my mum. Many people only like