2009 Tour of England
The Mini Experience Mini50 Tour of England was the biggest thing I’ve ever organised and there was an enormous amount of relief when we all gathered for the first time in the hotel in Watford, on the outskirts of London.
I needn’t have worried. We had a great bunch of people who all got on famously, brilliant cars for the tour, almost perfect weather (it rained on about three days), and we got to do some brilliant tours of places not normally accessible to the average Mini tourist.
First and foremost I have to thank MINI, both in Australia and the UK, for their help in organising the loan of three brand new Mini Clubmans for us. This was the difference between making our trip just another self-drive tour and a true MINI adventure. With three MINIs on loan we could afford to hire another three, spreading the cost between everyone on the tour.
The only problem was that left me without a vehicle, but my good mate Anthony Braggiotti from London Mini Centre lent me his company’s daily run-about. The car had a little rust on the front corner, and one wheel arch flare missing, but it cleaned and polished up very nicely. When I returned the Mini two weeks later, the crew at LMC said they had never seen it looking so good.
Mechanically, the car was brilliant. It cruised effortlessly on the motorway at 70mph (115kmh) and didn’t miss a beat through the whole trip.
The hire MINIs were organised over the Internet through London-based Prestige Car Hire (www.prestigecarhire.co.uk) who were very helpful and quite reasonable in their charges.
The main purpose of the trip was the IMM (International Mini Meeting) and the Mini 50 show (as near as they had to an official event). This was essentially a camping weekend, and although there were a few problems, we all had a ball meeting the thousands of like-minded enthusiasts from across Europe and the rest of the world.
It was also great for me meeting many of our overseas subscribers, and from that perspective alone the event was a success for me.
Although the weather was perfect for the weekend, the days before had brought torrential rain, turning much of the huge Cofton Park – situated across the road from the Longbridge factory where most of the World’s Minis were made – into a quagmire. Those of us who didn’t get bogged in the mud were able to have a good laugh at those who did, while even most of the less fortunate saw the funny side of things.
We had experienced the monsoonal-like rain the previous night when we ventured to the Ace Café for the monthly Mod ’n’ Mini night. There were a lot of people very worried about what it would mean for the IMM. In fact, I later heard that the Birmingham council ordered that if there was even one more shower of rain, the whole event would be cancelled.
The logistics involved in getting everything sorted for around 12,000 people in over 5,000 Minis and MINIs (plus an additional 1,500 or so Minis on the Sunday) from more than 450 clubs must have been staggering. We were all gob-smacked at the sheer numbers of Minis, enthusiasts and traders in attendance, which was all organised by a committee of only a dozen or so members of the Birmingham Mini Owners Club.
We had our tents lined up, with the MINIs and Minis parked out the front – including Michael and Jenny McKellar, who joined us from Holland in their Mini 40, and a couple of Victorians who were back-packing around the UK. We were also joined by an English couple who were clubless, so we made them honorary Aussies for the weekend.
Our Aussie Embassy consisted mainly of nine tents that I bought from Millets camping stores (www.millets.co.uk) set up around a 3m x 6m marquee hired for the event. With our tables, chairs, stoves, and other luxuries, we had a veritable home away from home.
If you would like to read the rest of this story, order your copy of Issue 21 of The Mini Experience. <plumshop>30</plumshop> <plumshop>29</plumshop>