The most frequently asked question of a car enthusiast – after “what is your favorite car?”- is, “Well, what do you drive??”
Fair enough. If I talk the talk, I should walk the walk. And so, dear readers, I submit to you…the 2012 MINI John Cooper Works. “John Cooper Works” is MINI’s skunkworks, sort of like BMW’s M or Mercedes-Benz’s AMG (except…not quite). In technical-speak, it’s a pretty bad-ass little hatchback.
I bought my first MINI in 2004. I was a junior in college and had finally saved enough money from my part-time jobs to make a down payment on my very first bought-by-me car (up to that point, my parents had kindly loaned me a 1997 Plymouth Breeze). I had read good things about the new MINI, which had just come out in 2002. There were not very many on the road yet, so it was always an event to see one in person. They projected an image I could relate to – a little irreverent, a little cheeky, but intent on doing the job right. I never seriously considered any other cars before placing my order for a 2004 blue MINI with a 5-speed.
About that 5-speed. Technically, I could not drive a manual transmission at the time I ordered my car. Or at the time I picked it up, for that matter. I knew that all the cool motorheads drove stick, and I aspired to be a cool motorhead. And I assumed that I would learn quickly if I had no choice.
That turned out to be true, which will be the subject of its very own post in the near future. Suffice it to say, rolling backwards down a hill with a cop behind you is a very uncomfortable feeling.
I loved that little Cooper with my whole heart and soul, and together we traveled 182,000 miles in eight years. We went through many sets of tires, several windshields, near-misses, quick saves and lots and lots of open road. We survived law school together. She was a member of the family.
Alas, the clutch finally went out at 182,000 miles, in May of 2012. With several other major items approaching the end of their useful lives, it didn’t make much sense to drop four figures on repairs. So I set out in search of a new car.
By then, I had been practicing law for about four years and had every intention of buying a non-MINI. I thought it was time to branch out, expand my horizons, update my image, etc., etc., etc. I suppose, if money were no object, that would have been a somewhat easier task. I doubt I would have said no to an Audi S5. Or a Mercedes C63 AMG. Or a Porsche Cayman S. But I’m not there yet financially and, frankly, even the few cars I test-drove that were slightly out of my price range didn’t impress me that much. Because they weren’t as fun as a MINI. They didn’t make me smile, they didn’t hug the corners. They didn’t have “go-kart handling.” Maybe that Mercedes C250 coupe would have been a more appropriate fit for the serious-young-attorney image I (try to) cultivate in my professional life. But it turns out I wasn’t ready to leave MINI behind after all.
So now a red and black little beast sits in my driveway. With black wheels, a rear spoiler and tint as dark as the law allows, my new MINI is pretty much a bad-ass. Yesterday I was waiting at a traffic light when the guy in the truck beside me rolled down his window and gave me a thumbs-up. I can’t say I mind the attention but, honestly, I have given up on using a car to create a certain image. I just want something that’s a hoot to drive. I don’t care if it’s a MINI or a Porsche or a Subaru. Or if I am the last person on earth, so that there’s no one to appreciate my excellent taste in sheetmetal. At the end of the day, if it puts a smile on my face, that’s the car I want in my driveway. And my MINI JCW puts a smile on my face. A very evil smile. 😀