Observations by Anne Bahr Thompson
I’m not a car person. Well at least I don’t like to think of myself as one. And, until about two or so years ago when I admitted there’s a little bit of a car person in each of us, I never put that much of a priority on the car I drove.
As a city-girl, I viewed a car as a way to leave town, not something that defined me or even identified who I was to others. In point of fact, I proudly drove my used Toyota Corolla from B-school for five or more years after I graduated. After paying for the Corolla many times over in NYC garage fees, my husband and I gave in to our SUV envy. We toyed with the idea of a Cherokee, but everyone we knew had one and, well, the Range Rover felt just a bit too luxurious to us, especially in contrast to our beloved Corolla. In the end, we opted for a Pathfinder because it spoke to us. Pathfinders were a bit smaller and far less prevalent then and Nissan embodied the idea of life being a journey to enjoy. Chiat Day understood we were in that phase of taking life too seriously and desired to hold on to some of the freedom work and family obligations were stealing from us.
Eventually, we moved to London and although Chelsea tractors, as SUVs are labelled, were appearing, my husband adopted more of a European attitude and chose a Saab 9.5 estate wagon. Not quite a Renault or Smart Car but moderately better than an SUV. I liked the Saab but, for the first six months that we owned it, I couldn’t shake the visions of paneled station wagons, large families and suburban America. Certainly, though, our Saab maneuvered much better than an old Ford Country Squire.
We drove the Saab for seven years before I got the itch again. One of my uncles had collected antique Jaguars when I was growing up and his love of this English car left a much longer-lasting impression on me than I had consciously recognized. When I received an email from someone who unexpectedly was moving back to the States and had to quickly sell their gorgeous, grey (it’s a British car, hence the English spelling of gray) Jag with the cream leather seats and birds eye maple-like interior I again gave in to temptation. The car was classically beautiful and had a very zippy personality, something I secretly adored and that made driving on the M3 a very pleasant experience. My Jaguar was one of the things I found hardest to leave behind when we returned to the States last summer.
Upon arriving in the US, we drove a rental for several months while debating which car to buy. We were determined to have only one and, much to my chagrin, we needed an SUV with a V8 engine for my husband to tow his sailboat. Familiarity led us back to a Pathfinder, which certainly had changed over the years. It’s much more of a testosterone car than it previously had been and now far too big and chunky for me. Desperately seeking fun, individuality and freedom again, and perhaps missing London more than I had expected, I started thinking convertible and Mini, which meant that after years of resisting we would be giving in to a second car. I’d been eyeing the Mini convertible for years, from the moment I first saw one in London.
One picture-perfect, sunny Friday in early May I decided to stop by a dealership and test drive one; after all, my birthday was coming up. The minute I walked into the showroom and saw an Eclipse Grey car on the floor I was nearly sold. The charming, authentically Roman salesman brought me one step closer and after a cruise, complete with an unsolicited Mini owner waving at us, the deal was clinched. Synchronicity played a big hand as well; when Fabrizio opened the order book I learned only one convertible was due to arrive in early June: an automatic (sacrilege, I know), Eclipse Grey with a John Cooper sports package! I could not have been more excited.
I picked up my adorable car on 10 June and I love it, unequivocally. Whether I’m riding topless (Mini Connected’s fabulous phrase) or not my mood lifts whenever I drive my Mini. It has its operational quirks, without a doubt, but they seem to make it all the more appealing. In some ways owning a Mini is like owning a MAC. I can’t explain it, but I feel like a member of a private club even though there are now far more Minis on the road than I’d prefer. I always smile when another owner waves as s/he passes by, although I’ve yet to wave first. And, Mini after sales are doing their best to ensure I stay in love.
In early July, a sizable package arrived in the mail. The envelope was polyethylene and sported a pattern of white Minis. My husband was convinced I had bought Mini gear until I opened the package. Inside was a sleek black, bubble wrap envelope filled with Mini promotional material: a pen (to accompany the memory stick that came with my car), a journal, a mousepad, a copy of the latest issue of The Mini International (the Mini Summary of UrbanLife, Culture and Design), 101 Fundamentals of GOOD MOTORING, some Mini notes and a yellow smiley face ball to put on my antenna, if I so chose to do so. Of course, there was also a special message from Jim McDowell, Chief Motorer USA, welcoming me to the Mini family. And, when I turned the polyethylene envelope inside out, I discovered an “earth friendly” bag complete with pull carry cords. A complete, branded Mini experience in a bag. At least for now, I can say, happiness is driving a Mini, and owning one.