Bimmer Lite - October 2007
A BMW obsession turns into a Mini passion
by Marc Biunno (aka Bimmer Lite)
Reprinted courtesy of Marc Biunno and Roundel Magazine
Welcome to the new Mini column. There’s hardly a niche for enthusiastic Mini owners in this BMW world. Never mind the fact that a Mini is a BMW; it doesn’t matter to many who judge themselves on the price tag they managed to run up on a fancy-shmancy new Bimmer. Never mind the fact that the Mini offers a driving experience akin to only the greatest of Bimmer lore. Never mind the fact that if there were a car in today’s BMW lineup that truly exudes “freude am fahren”, it’s obviously the Mini. Never mind all of that; this community has become a place of status, where the experience of a car is no longer important. Good thing my dad taught me better. It was past my bedtime in 1986 when I first heard the effeminate screech of the car’s horn. Swathed in my full-body pajama suit, you know, the ones that don’t let your feet out of the fun, I awoke to find out what the source of the commotion was. I slid across the tile floor, security blanket in hand, made my way out to the garage, and there it was: a brand spankin’ new 325. It was as red as red could be, shiny as anything I’d ever seen, and beckoning for me to come inside and go for a joy ride. I hopped into the backseat and learned I was sitting on hound’s tooth. I’d never forget the term. That night began a love affair with all things BMW.
In the following years we worshipped the red 325. We drove it to Canada while Abba yearned for revolution through the speakers. Yeah, we heard the drums. I watched as the odd stick thing was moved with some sort of sequence. I loved how the cockpit was angled towards the driver; I felt left out as the passenger, but I liked the message it sent. I was making the car mine in my mind, and, like Lenny with his rabbits, one day I’d own and tend to this car. That’s where the education began.
Fast forward to a time when I was aware enough to pee somewhere besides my pajama suit at night. It started to become clear to me exactly what this 325 represented. After years of only being able to touch the bottle-cap wheels, I started to realize what else made the 325 special. It was the base 6-cylinder car available in 1986. It had cloth (hound’s tooth, don’t forget) interior, and the only power option available was for the windows. The point is that this was not a race car, it was not an M3, and it didn’t even have the “other” engine. No, this was the "eta," engineered for torque, fuel efficiency, and low-rev driving. Like the Mini, this car was an underdog. And also like the Mini, this car provided a wonderful driving experience.
The purchase of this car was Dad’s first lesson to a future Bimmerphile, and that “lesson” stayed around for nearly twenty years and 200,000 miles. The underdog came out on top, and that is what the Mini will eventually do.
Let’s make some comparisons between that car and mine, a 2005 Mini Cooper S. Both are red, have a manual transmission, and are at the lower end (not lowest) of the BMW offering at the time. Both cars are small, especially in the interior. Getting out of the back seats of these two cars evokes memories of birth canals. Both cars are “sporty”; however, it might be a stretch to call either a pure sports car. The steering feel of both cars is precise, quick, and rewarding. Both cars tell the driver what’s happening at the contact patches, creating a confident feel for the road. That feel for the road is what makes driving fun. Dad knew what made driving fun, so when he kept the 325 forever, he showed us all what to do when we have something worth driving.
Something worth driving. Driving. Not sitting. The point, to me, is driving. Dad taught me that the connection between our communities, that of Mini and BMW, is driving. One time I asked my Dad what his favorite sports car ever was. We were on “Great road” when I clarified, “you know, if you could drive any sports car, what would it be?” “This one.”
Let it be known by those who don’t already have an inkling: the Mini is an amazing car that rivals or tops the driving experience of many of the current BMW line. If you like the “dorky” M coupe, you’ll like the Mini. If you appreciate the 2002, especially the one with (gasp) forced induction, you’ll like the Mini. If you’re not already a Mini enthusiast, and you need more convincing, just go out and drive one.
Driving a Mini is a mix of emotions that’s tough to harness into printed words. There’s so much to feel and hear, rattles included, that it’s almost sensory overload. There’s so much personality to the car and how it likes to attack the road, it’s no wonder that the vast majority of Minis have names. The car is underpowered, produced on a tight budget, and so darn cute that few take it for a real driver’s car. It's an underdog, and it deserves recognition.
This is the new Mini page. This is a page where Mini passion and enthusiasm will shine. This is a page that likes bottle cap wheels, hound’s tooth cloth, supercharger whine, wheels smaller than 17 inches in diameter, and price tags under $30,000. This is a page that will show and highlight our similarities but not ignore our differences. This is a page that will ignore status and concentrate on the part of car ownership that matters: driving.
Because that’s what my dad taught me.