Beatles albums at 50 can now be improved, apparently. Is the same true of Minis at 60? We head to Swinging London to find out
Damien Smith
13 July 2019

Last year, a newly remixed version of The Beatles’ White Album was released to mark the 50th anniversary of one of the greatest records ever made. It was the same wonderful, mixed-up double album, but now it had been refreshed by a new stereo mix. There were copious demos and previously unreleased versions of songs, making up a monster seven-CD box set – for £120. If it was thought a rambling cacophony by some in 1968, this was something else again. 

Many of us who’ve owned copies of the original for years were cynical. After all, how and why would you mess with something so beloved, so perfect in its imperfections? This was The White Album, for Chrisssake! Leave it alone. 

The same thought occurred as Autocar set off for west London to drive David Brown Automotive’s production version of the aptly named Mini Remastered. Alec Issigonis’s original city car was never perfect, but from the start, exactly 60 years ago, it was a little star: stunningly original, brilliantly conceived and bubbling over with character. Enzo Ferrari had one. So did The Beatles. Something about it encapsulated Swinging London, yet unlike the Fab Four, it survived the 1960s to enjoy a production life spanning four decades. And we, like millions around the world, still have a massive soft spot for it. 

Our Verdict

Mini Remastered

At £99k it's not cheap, but the David Brown Mini Remastered comes with bucketloads of Sir Alec Issigonis’ original creation’s charm

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We’ve driven an early prototype version of the Remastered before, but a chance to try a production car around Chelsea in the big anniversary year was too good to refuse. The premise is simple: it’s an Issigonis Mini as we’ve always known it, but with all mod cons: remote central locking and keyless stop/start; modern dials in retro Smiths styling; and even a 7.0in touchscreen with Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, all presented in a cabin made of the finest and most tactile materials. It’s retro, it’s modern, it’s fresh – and kind of wonderful. 

“We don’t do masses of market research. We do what we think is right and what there is a market for,” says sales and marketing director Michelle Gay, as she gives the backstory to the launch in April 2017. “We unveiled three prototypes with different looks and feels – and were completely overwhelmed by the response. Within 12 hours, we had 2500 sales enquiries.” 

Okay, so that’s a good reason to ‘mess’ with a legend. “We had to produce it in bigger numbers than expected, which explains the lag between launch and production,” she says. “The first car left Silverstone last year. We delivered three initially, but we’re planning to deliver 50 this year – and they are already sold. Next year, we’re aiming for 100.” 

Not bad for a Mini that starts at £90,000 before you’ve personally specced it from a luscious menu of options. Our car has conversely been de-specced, because originally it had a roof rack, skis and extra lamps for an Alpine theme. Not very Chelsea… but the £130,000 price is very Abramovich. Yes, £130,000. For a Mini. 

But consider for a moment the 1400 hours required for what goes beyond any normal definition of restoration, from a donor car sourced usually from the late 1980s/1990s Mini editions, through a complex process of de-seaming, strengthening and e-coating the body to combat corrosion. New bodies are formed from original British Motor Heritage tooling, painted and fitted with fine detail touches. Check out the wing mirrors, fuel filler cap, LED light fittings (halogen is also available) and central twin exhausts, which give the original (but obviously completely rebuilt) engine a pleasing rasp. This one has been bored out to 1330cc and offers a boisterous 83bhp. 

But there’s still a nagging doubt: will it drive like a new car? If so, surely David Brown Automotive and its enthusiast founder will have missed the point, by erasing those infuriating, beloved imperfections. There’s only one way to find out. 

It’s near rush hour as we set off beside Battersea Park, cross the river at Chelsea Bridge and melt into the traffic along the Embankment. Down Lots Road, past the auction houses, on to the Kings Road, trickle by Vivienne Westwood’s World’s End, then a right through congestion to cross Albert Bridge. There’s no Twiggy, David Bailey or Terence Stamp… but thankfully this is still a Mini they’d recognise. The clutch is heavy, the brakes are soft (and squeal loudly), the seating position is awkward, the steering is heavier than it should be, the five-speed manual ’box is period loose – and it’s brilliant, darting from jam to jam with the same cheeky aplomb we’ve always loved. The soundtrack download featuring The Stones, Kinks, Hendrix and The Who doesn’t hurt (nice move, Michelle, but no Beatles?) and we’re relieved: of course David Brown and his small band of artisans haven’t missed the point – quite the opposite. 

So £130,000 for what, despite the all the glitz, is still a Mini? You bet. And if we could, we absolutely would. 

And The White Album? Giles Martin, son of eminent Beatles producer George Martin, was in charge of the remix. He didn’t miss the point either.

Read more

David Brown Mini Remastered review​

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Comments
20

13 July 2019

"The White Album" should be in quotation marks. That is not its official name, just a popular misnomer.

Birds Eye Potato Waffles, they're Waffly Versatile

13 July 2019

Can't you just buy several mint condition originals for much less - and then drive around as if you're on the set of the Italian Job?

bol

13 July 2019

It’s not one thing or another. Lots of jewellery, but basically the same thing underneath. Why not either go for a nice original car and stick a CarPlay stereo in it for £300 from Halfords, or go the whole way and put a modern (or e be electric) power train in it, with decent brakes and decent steering? Clearly I’m not the target market, but I’m missing something. 

13 July 2019
When I saw the price I assumed that to 'justify' it the car must be electric. Then I realised that that was impossible because there would be no room for the battery packs. So this is just a hugely expensive restoration with some tasteless add-ons that stop it looking like the original (those rear lights, FFS). As a restorer I know that time and parts bills can add up, but this is still a Mini at Lancia Aurelia prices. No thanks...

13 July 2019

whats with the unpainted, unfinished wheel arch in the second picture?!

 

Have they given it authentic BL quality control just to make the whole package feel that little more genuine?

 

Jesus. For £90,000 I’d like it finished please and not with a brush as seems the case here. 

13 July 2019
kj079490 wrote:

whats with the unpainted, unfinished wheel arch in the second picture?!

 

Have they given it authentic BL quality control just to make the whole package feel that little more genuine?

 

Jesus. For £90,000 I’d like it finished please and not with a brush as seems the case here. 

...it's a reflection - it's different in all the pics. Did you honestly believe it was a bodged paint job?

289

13 July 2019

...this should be an article about the stupidity of the rich, not praising the tarted up (for the worse) Mini!

And yes, what is going on that rear wheelarch extension - someone run out of emulsion?

13 July 2019

These appear worse than the BMW reincarnation. At least the BMW MINI is using the legacy to inform a modern interpretation. Original mint & rare cooper S’s from the early sixties are not quite nudging these prices. There are details that for this money are lacking thought and attention. The drop down fog lights below the rear bumper? Surely for this money instead of the awful cast aluminium light cluster a better integrated fog light solution could have been designed to better resolve the rear end. 

For those of you who’ve commented on the arch extensions... I did double take on this myself, but they’re high gloss grey and what you’re seeing as crap brush strokes are actually reflections. If you look at the other images from the front you can see the same. 

Poor show. But someone with more money than taste (and a true understanding of the original) will buy them. So at least they’ll be around on the second hand market in years to come!!

13 July 2019

What David Brown does to classic cars (see also Ian Callum's Mark 2 Jaguar) is equivalent to what Kahn does to current cars. 

13 July 2019

This is the kind of thing Wood & Pickett and Radford used to do to Minis back in the day. Indeed, Wood & Pickett is still going today, although they mostly sell naff accessories now.

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