A Jolly Good Time was Had by All
I've never owned a Mini, but I've driven a few and all have been memorable, so when I was invited along to the Carole Nash Mini 55th Birthday Bash at the glorious Gawsworth Hall, not a million miles from Macclesfield in Cheshire, I had an idea that a few old flames would be rekindled.
From the outset as soon as a chap named Matt arrived along with his son in their stunning 1967, Mk1 Cooper, I found my mind drifting off into the distant past, to 1982 to be precise, when I turned 18.
I was an apprentice bus mechanic with a penchant for all manner of classic vehicles and when a colleague announced that he was selling his '67 Mk1 850, complete with fibreglass front end and who knows what else. I was sorely tempted.
OLR661E was a scruffy bit of stuff alright and so charming that I nearly jumped in feet first. But, for once and once only, common sense prevailed and I swerved the old girl. She's not forgotten though…
Anyhow; where was I?
I watched as Minis arrived from far and wide, equipped with trailers, caravans and roof-racks and couldn't help but smile and admire the way that these cars have captured the car-loving public's imagination right from the get-go.
More than that, there was a decidedly festive atmosphere, as kids arrived at the Carole Nash stand to collect their Easter egg hunt clues, while the grown-ups tried their hand at the Spark Plug Challenge, attempting to remove 4 plugs from an A-Series, Mini cylinder head in the quickest time, under strict, timed conditions, the fastest time of the day walking away with a handsome trophy.
The quickest hands on the day managed to do the task in a little over 20 seconds, but there'll have to be some improvement if folks want to win the Triumph Spitfire that Carole Nash is offering as a prize for the fastest socket wielder of the year. The deciding heat takes place at the Carole Nash National Restoration Show, Stoneleigh on Sunday 26th October.
The sun shone on the magnificent array of vehicles present and the fact that not all were pristine added to the feeling of camaraderie. I'm sure that if I'd turned up in the rusting 1965, standard 850, warmed over as a fake Cooper - it allegedly had a Cooper engine - that I nearly purchased in 1987, I'd have been most welcome, just as long as I didn't try to pass it off as something it most definitely wasn't.
It would seem that Minis provoke nostalgia in heaps and I make no apologies for wallowing in it. After all, there must hardly be a UK family left untouched by the cars after 55 years and the tales are every bit as interesting as the cars themselves. Indeed, unfolding in front of me were future tales, ready to be told by some of the younger attendees.
As the day moved on, we were entertained by the excellent Uke Box, an outstanding five piece ukulele-led outfit specialising in cleverly presenting well-known tunes from yesteryear and today in a way that allowed everyone earhole access.
However, the noise from the Carole Nash stand became the main focus towards the end of the day, as the Spark Plug Challenge reached a crescendo and frenzied confectionary fans attempted to guess the weight of a specially commissioned Mini cake.
With trophy and baked sweetmeats won, there was time for me to take a wander around the cars and have a chat with their owners. My preference was always for more ancient, original machines, but even the 'ever so modern' Clubman models were floating my boat.
As I walked off and ashamedly curled myself into the MX5 I'd arrived in for the journey home, I mulled over the day and wondered if perhaps I'd missed a trick by not having become a Mini owner. Perhaps it's not yet too late.
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