One fond memory is collecting the car at John Cooper Garages of West Sussex, then a Honda dealership and the well-spring of the traditional Mini Cooper. The Honda handover was done by the late Formula 1 constructor himself, and he applied his famous moniker to the inside of our engine bay to mark the moment.
He was a hilarious guy who was soon telling tales of his early racing days. At one summer meeting in the 1950s, he allowed himself to be seen furtively adding Ribena to his cars’ cooling systems, before confiding to a chatty paddock character that he’d discovered a new way of preventing cars from boiling on the grid. He chuckled through the rest of the afternoon as he watched rivals pouring blackcurrent concentrate into their own cars’ bubbling radiators.
WEDNESDAY PM - First trot for ages in a Mini JCW, hottest ‘brick’ you can buy from a showroom. It’s as quick and refined as you’d expect of a third-generation BMW whose parameters have hardly changed. Loved the ever-ready poke, the quick and precise steering and the bum-on-floor driving position. And if I ever get the chance to shake hands with the team that sorted the damping, I’ll be proud to do it. The latest JCW has superb body control but always stays comfortable.
Mind you, I’m not keen on the dingy interior (ditch that dinner plate, please, and give us a decent switch layout) or the way the Mini’s styling has been stretched over a new set of baby BMW underbits. But neither would be a deal-breaker.
FRIDAY - Our car park suddenly seems stuffed with electric cars and hybrids. New cars keep piling into the market, and existing ones spring to notice as people ride the pendulum away from diesels, blighted by the Volkswagen scandal.
Of course, diesels won’t stay blighted unless (as Professional Engineering magazine points out) we want to add an average 16g/km to the CO2 output of every car in Britain. I’m ever more interested in pure-electric cars. Their swift step-off, silence and sheer ease of use restore enjoyment to tough modern driving conditions.
My main regret is there are few affordable ‘enthusiast’ electric cars. For now, utility predominates over muscle, sportiness or high image at sub-Tesla levels. I yearn for a VW Golf GTI-e, or a Nissan Skyline eGTR, and am convinced I’m not alone. A recent search through Pistonheads’ classifieds for examples of the Tesla Roadster (a quick but far from perfect battery sports car) turned up three, each at £50,000-plus. Surely, that’s proof the electric fun car commands a big premium.