Although I’ve never owned or even driven a Mini car, it seemed the perfect choice for the heroine of my recently-published novella, Mrs Morris Changes Lanes, in which an unusual loan car takes the heroine on a lifechanging journey.
Even prior to publication, as soon as I shared the wonderful cover design by Rachel Lawston, showing a purple Mini driving down a Cotswold lane, friends began to tell me how much they missed their Mini.
I couldn’t resist finding out more about the reason for their brand loyalty to the iconic little car. I was sure it must be different from Mrs Morris’s. I invited them to share their experience in a new series of guest posts, which began just before Christmas, with historical novelist Anita Davison. (Click here to read it if you missed it.)
My second guest is US author Amie McCracken, currently based in Germany. Like me, Amie enjoys a touch of magical realism. She is an editor, designer and author. Her latest novella is Leaning into the Abyss, set in the US and Mexico, which starts with the startling premise of Rhea’s fiancé falling off a cliff to his death on their wedding day.
The story of Amie and her Mini is less dramatic! Over to Amie to tell us all about it.
Hello, Amie! To start with, please tell us why and when you acquired your first Mini.
On Christmas Day 2013 in fact. I had been on the lookout for one and thought I would fly to the UK since they are cheaper there, but a friend found one near me in Germany that was pristine and I couldn’t pass it up.
How much did it cost and how much did you sell it for?
I bought it for 4,000 Euro in Germany and sold it in the US for 8,000 dollars.
They were never manufactured in the US, so they are a huge novelty.
And our buyer happened to be Austrian so she could read the German manuals and receipts!
How long did you keep it and why did you sell it?
I sold it in 2017 because it made sense. The plan had been to restore it, completely decked out in TARDIS style (the US plate we had on it said GALIFRY). I had even used it in a video announcement of my pregnancy and brought my son home from the hospital in it.
But we found an interested buyer and I knew it just wouldn’t work to bring the car back to Germany again. It was the right time, though I still miss her.
Please describe it in as much detail as you can remember.
A 1989 Mini Mark IV, none of that BMW crap. It had been repainted, so it was a glistening black. The interior was gray, and the driver’s seat dug into the middle of your back terribly. The heater never worked, so when it rained we had a sponge on the dash to wipe away the condensation. But the car ran when I needed it most. At least, most of the time.
Many Mini drivers seemed to feel compelled to name their Minis, as if they have a personality of their own. (Do they have a personality of their own?!) What was yours called?
Foxy. My plate in Stuttgart was FX 1989.
What is it about Minis that makes most owners feel so attached to them?
I think it comes down to the history.
They are a classic, and most classics come with the history of their entire model.
A Mustang is more than the metal and rubber it is made of, but is the smell of burning tires and speeding down a straight track.
A Mini is an everyday car that putts along with personality and carries a twinge of cheekiness.
I know mine liked to break down at the most inopportune moments, but when I was really in a pinch she stepped up and did the job.
What did you most love about your Mini?
I loved feeling so tiny yet safe. She handled like a Formula 1 car.
What drove you nuts about it?
But without the heater working rainy days and cold days were the absolute worst.
Where did your longest journey in your Mini take you?
The car moved with us across the ocean from Germany to the US.
But the most memorable trip was from Coburg to Berlin to catch a flight, stuck in European summer traffic, with plenty of time to spare and yet still needing to reach speeds beyond the 140 km/h the speedometer could read. We reached the airport with seconds to spare, but as we watched the plane board from the other side of the empty security line, and had the security officer tell us that digital tickets were not accepted, we gave up and got back in the Mini to drive home.
What was your most exciting trip?
What most surprised you about your Mini?
How well a car seat fit in the back!
Did you ever have any accidents or any scary trips in your Mini?
No. Even when we drove next to American semis and SUVs, I felt safe.
Who was your favourite/most interesting/most difficult passenger and why?
My son on all counts. He was never a fan of riding in the car when he was a baby, so it was always an adventure! Plus, trying to maneuver him into the back seat with a rear-facing infant car seat while he was asleep and without waking him—that was a true challenge. Part of the restoration plans involved adding a third door.
Was your Mini a one-off buy or did you stay brand loyal and buy more Minis later?
I have not bought more Minis, though I believe I will one day. Always the classic versions. Never a BMW.
What car do you drive now?
Now it’s a 1973 VW Type 2 camper! (Also called a Bulli here in Germany.)
What do you miss about your Mini?
The novelty of owning a fun and classic car.
What would be your dream car if money were no object?
A Koenigsegg. Or maybe a Lamborghini Diablo. I like to go fast. Which, admittedly, the Mini does not satisfy.
In Mrs Morris Changes Lanes, what did you think of her Mini and of her adventure?
I loved it. The Mini is certainly a magical car, and the perfect one to bring someone back to their roots. It is a mischievous car, one that I could see yanking a person out of their intended path to create a little bit of chaos and stir things up.
Thank you, Amie, for sharing your fond memories, anecdotes and photos of your beautiful Mini!
Leaning into the Abyss
by Amie McCracken
The world was in chaos around me. I sat in the eye of the storm, glass of water growing heavy in my hand, every now and then feeling a kiss on my cheek or the pat of a hand on my shoulder. Dad sat in his own separate world in the far corner, ensconced in his wingback chair, waiting for the rest of us to leave. His house was the closest to the hotel, and the largest, so we had convened here to understand what was going on.
To find out more about Amie and her books and services, please visit her website: www.amiemccracken.com
Have you ever owned or driven a Mini? Amie and I would love to hear about yours!