AN ORIGINAL MINI COOPER STILL ROARING.
Since its inception, there have been entire businesses, industries and communities built on the restoration of Minis.
But in Peter Colwell’s eyes, nothing can beat a well-preserved original.
Peter bought his Mini Cooper S in May 1969, at a time he calls “the height of the Bathurst days”.
Three years earlier, Morris Coopers had taken out the first nine places in the Gallagher 500 race at Bathurst, a win that put Mini on the map in Australia and earned a place in the heart of racing fans across the country.
Peter’s car was one of the first Mark IIs sold, and in the first five years of its life, he rallied it around New South Wales.
In 1974, Peter brought the car home and it became his everyday car, before he put it away in the shed in 1982.
A lifelong mechanic, Peter covered up the car and turned it over every now and again.
He had always intended to take it out of the shed and restore it, but farm work and family life took priority, and the Mini remained tucked away.
“Life took another direction, I suppose,” Peter says.
“I had another car and another motorbike and we were doing a lot of touring.”
Almost two decades after retiring the Mini, Peter and his family moved to Dubbo, and decided to bring the Mini with them, rather than sell it.
It was only then that he fully started it up – and was astounded to see it roar to life immediately after decades of remaining idle in a dark and dry shed.
“The sound brought tears to my eyes,” Peter says.
“It took me straight back to when I was 20-something, it was just an incredible moment.
“It actually was very emotional.”
After a few minor replacements, like brake parts, the car was ready to hit the road again.
“What makes it unique is that it’s totally original,” Peter explains.
The paint and interior are still as they were 50 years ago, and many of the parts are untouched.
“The clutch has never been touched, it still has things like the original plug leads and the heater hoses, and it still runs really well.”
“When I bought it, it was just another car – I really didn’t intend to keep it for 50 years.”
Despite having had a “rough start” with multiple rallies, Peter’s Mini is still in almost perfect condition – save for a few paint chips sustained in races.
“It’s done 91,000 miles and we drove it to Mudgee last weekend and it just hummed along beautifully, all the way there and back.
“It actually runs better than some restored cars and to this day, it doesn’t need any attention.”
Peter’s Mini is one of the few of its kind that has been unmodified or unrestored, which had made it a benchmark for other owners looking to model their own restorations on.
“I thought about restoring it completely, but I think to restore it now would spoil it,” Peter says.
It’s not just the look of the car that has stood the test of time – Peter says the famous Mini handling is still as enjoyable as the day he bought it.
“I’ve driven a whole lot of cars, so you tend to gravitate to have friends who also are car fans,” he says.
“But Minis have the best steering – I’ve never driven anything like it.
“It’s just one of those things, if I tried to explain it to someone who’s not a Mini owner, they wouldn’t understand.”
Peter’s love for Minis has been a long term one, but he’s only ever owned the one.
“I just love it, I think it’s beautiful,” he says, adding that the fascination with the cars comes down to a balance of aesthetics and an appreciation for Mini’s subtle engineering genius.
“I think it’s because they’re so unique,” Peter says.
“They’re attractive to look at, but the thing is, if you see one now alongside a modern small car, they have a whole lot of room inside that the modern small cars don’t have...they’re cute but they’re very practical as well and they run so well and just bring a smile to people’s faces.
“They just grab people’s imagination.”