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A week in a proper car. Answered

I've been driving Womble for exactly a week now, and some things have occurred to me. I thought I'd share them, in no particular order.



  • I enjoy driving again.

Because I'm driving, not steering. No power steering, no servo brakes, I am in touch with what the car is doing every second I'm driving. I do something, and I get instant feedback. I'm suddenly redeveloping all the good driving habits I used to have - looking further ahead and watching traffic more, correct hand-position on the wheel, feeding the wheel through my hands as I turn, slowing with gears before brakes.

It's a cliche, but it's seat-of-the-pants driving.

I drove Kitewife's Focus a couple of days ago, it was a disaster! Taps the brakes, do an emergency stop - steer with two fingers, weave all over the road. There's no feedback, nothing to tell me by feel exactly how much braking I'm doing, or how fast the wheels are turning. I had to look at the dials to check the speed and watch the revs before changing gear.

Modern cars, I have decided, are only one step short of video games.

  • Maybe that's part of the reason for the rise in roadrage?

There's no need to take pride or care, because the car does it all for you. Spend enough money, and the only thing that will kill you is if you drive at a tree. Even that may not be possible with radar-triggered brakes soon to become more common.

If you have abdicated all responsibility for your safety to a mindless mechanism, who do you blame if something goes wrong? Where do you direct your anger? The only target left is the other driver.

  • I seem to have joined a sub-culture.

I'm not the only driver of a proper Mini in my area. I pass two or three every day. Amongst others, I've seen a white one, striped pink, with a bubbly blonde driving. I've seen a 70s Traveller in immaculate condition. Several jobbing Minis, in every-day-driving state, and a Mini wedged full of teenage lads, fully kitted out for racing, roll-cage and all.

Every single one of them waved, flashed their lights or otherwise said "hello" as we passed. I have never seen drivers of other kinds of car do that. It's pretty good, getting a friendly wave from a stranger. It lifts your day, puts a smile on your face.

It's like we share a happy secret.

  • Minis attract comment more than cars that cost fifty times as much.

If people see a Ferrari in the car park, they might nudge each other and make admiring comments, but if they see a Mini, they come over, say hello. On Saturday, a huge hairy rocker, returning to his big Japanese family car, children in tow, left his children in his car, and came over for a chat about the surprisingly roomy interior of my Mini, and an idle chat about the type of engine (single-point injection, if you're wondering).

People might wish they could afford a supercar, but they are genuinely jealous of people who actually own a proper Mini.

  • Everybody has a Mini in their closet.

I'm not really a petrol head, and I don't work with petrol heads, but suddenly everybody wants to talk about cars. They all seem to have had an adventure in a Mini, their own or a friend's. Half of them regret having sold their Mini years ago.

OK, so the old Minis don't meet modern safety rules. They're slow, utterly lacking in luxuries (my heater has two settings - on or off), but if somebody started building them new, using the original molds for the panels and frames (they still exist), and charged five or six thousand pounds a pop, they would make an absolute fortune.

50 Replies

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DJ Radio (author)2009-09-26

Now that I have read this, the only thing holding me back from driving an old school car is that its old when I'm 16 and people will laugh.

I need to soup up a 1998 Honda Civic later on

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user

In the UK, it would be illegal.

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user

Wheels have to be enclosed by arches.

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user

Well, what's the point of that?

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user

Some little thing about not tangling pedestrians in your running gear if you hit them.

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user

Don't you think they would get hurt anyways? Lol

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user

Compare the bruises and contusions of bouncing off a wing to the inconvenience of having limbs stripped of their flesh and/or ripped clean off.

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user

Not really. No, I knew the answers I was just confirming them.

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user

I'd take loosing the limb. :)

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user

That actually looks pretty good!

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The Ideanator (author)DJ Radio2009-09-26

Dude, my first car is an 88 reliant k. stop complaining.

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user

Thats the one I am driving, it has fantastic mileage (22mpg) even though I floor it on the way to school, I'm a gas waster with my little 4 cylinder is hammering away. True the odo doesn't top 85, it will still get going fast, I just haven't had a long empty strip to fully test that on. All in all, even though it doesn't look sweet (yet) on the outside, I can still put a mattress and some curtains in the back ;-D

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Kiteman (author)The Ideanator2009-09-27

it has fantastic mileage (22mpg)

You can tell you live near Detroit! I get more than that in the Mini, on pure urban cycle, and Kitewife's Focus gets around 40mpg on her mixed (urban/rural) driving.

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Kryptonite (author)Kiteman2009-09-27

How many litres is a gallon? Australia's a bit out of wack with the rest of the world.

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The Ideanator (author)Kryptonite2009-09-27

The rest of the world (aside from the US and some other country) uses the metric (base10) system, we americans you the imperial system (grrrrr metric is sooooo much better)

1 US gallon = 3.78541178 liters

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Kryptonite (author)The Ideanator2009-09-27

Ahh thanks, I thought England used imperial as well. :P Thanks for clearing this up.

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DJ Radio (author)The Ideanator2009-09-26

I am not old enough to drive, I am not complaining, Kiteman has 99% convinced me to drive old school cars, but I am just afraid people will laugh.

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ItsTheHobbs (author)DJ Radio2009-09-27

If its a cool old school car, people won't laugh.

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The Ideanator (author)DJ Radio2009-09-26

OHHHH, ok. Yeah, people wont laugh, at least not directly.

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bumpus (author)DJ Radio2009-09-26

Since when is 1998 an old school car?

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DJ Radio (author)bumpus2009-09-27

Well, I was just saying it works just like Kiteman says his car works above. No fancy driving helpers, no weird gizmos, etc.

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Kiteman (author)DJ Radio2009-09-26

My first car, when I turned 17, was also a Mini (a 998cc Mini City), and was also old. Nobody laughed at it, partly because I was one of only two daily drivers in the school, and partly because I, in my 998cc Mini, could beat the other driver across town in his three-litre Capri Sport.

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DJ Radio (author)Kiteman2009-09-26

I want to drive a 98' Honda civic when I can drive. It does exactly what you want, and I can mod it to look frickin awesome.

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ReCreate (author)2009-09-27

steer with two fingers, weave all over the road.
That is kind of a good thing, it makes it easier for you to drive.
Taps the brakes, do an emergency stop
Something is likely not tuned right...
There's no feedback, nothing to tell me by feel exactly how much braking I'm doing, or how fast the wheels are turning.
Speedometer anyone?

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Kiteman (author)ReCreate2009-09-27

Speedometer

If you need a sensor-reading to know what the car is doing, you are too isolated from the driving process, and treating it like a video game.

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ReCreate (author)Kiteman2009-09-28

Sensor-reading would be more accurate...

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PKM (author)ReCreate2009-09-29

Define accurate- a ruler will let you judge distance more accurately than your senses alone, but a ruler isn't much good for judging distance when I say "here, catch this brick".

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ReCreate (author)PKM2009-09-29

that is entierley different...

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mitchell12 (author)ReCreate2009-10-31

No it's not different at all. When you catch or throw something your brain does the calculations with absolutely no numeric relation what so ever because it can FEEL the weight and judge the speed and angle required. If you can feel how fast your car is going or feel the RPM's and the grooves in the road you can respond alot better as you have more direct inputs that can help your brain make a decision without looking and converting numbers in your head to a logical decision.

You clearly have NO idea what your talking about and doubtfully any experience with standard or older cars.

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PKM (author)ReCreate2009-09-30

Well, it's an analogy so will never be identical, but I hope you appreciate the point I am making- sometimes you need to be able to quickly judge something without using a meter to actually measure it. I'd rather have my sense of balance to ride a bike than a spirit level on the handlebars. When someone pulls out in front of me on my motorbike, I don't look at the speedo to see how hard to pull the brakes, I can tell how fast I'm going by sense.

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lemonie (author)Kiteman2009-09-27

Can you double-de-clutch non-synchro gearboxes? L

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Kiteman (author)lemonie2009-09-28

I've never had to, but I may have to soon - the synchro is giving up in second gear, and it's a big/expensive job to fix.

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Koosie (author)2009-10-16

I know what you mean by seat-of-the-pants driving.  My first car was a 1969 Mercedes 220D.  4 Speed manual with less power than a lawn-mower, but awesome to drive :)

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ReCreate (author)2009-09-26

Hey wait...I have seen that car before(except in a different color)!

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Kiteman (author)ReCreate2009-09-27

They're around - 25,000 on UK roads.

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ReCreate (author)Kiteman2009-09-27

Windscreen? Wow that is strange, Over here it is called Windshield.(and ironically both are spelled right by my spell checker O_o)

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Yerboogieman (author)2008-10-20

thats really kool, the other day i saw one driving and not one of those new ones, just straight up kool little cars.

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Plasmana (author)2008-10-20

That is a really nice car...

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CameronSS (author)2008-10-16

The electric truck that I drive to school everyday has no power steering and no power brakes (keep in mind that this truck weighs 3,750 pounds without people). Our heater has two settings though-we put a ceramic space heater in place of the heater core, so it has 750W and 1500W settings. It's always strange when I drive our family's Escort for going out of town--the wheel hardly turns around, and you barely touch the brakes, and get this: you don't have to shift gears all the time. I got >40 mpg on the last trip from KC, though...not too shabby for a 10-year-old station wagon.

My mom's car beats even your Mini, though--even smaller, and one wheel less. Its heater also has two settings-Useless and Total Joke.

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PKM (author)CameronSS2008-10-17

You like your EVs, huh? :)

I like that car you linked to- with four wheels that wouldn't look at all out of place on UK city streets- apart from the bullet-train nose and "unusual" factor it would hardly warrant a second look. The back end looks suspiciously Suzuki Swift/Geo Metro... sadly I doubt it will ever do that well here because three-wheeled cars will forever have their reputations tarnished by the Reliant Robin and Reliant Regal. It's rather a shame, I'd quite like on of those Xebras otherwise.

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CameronSS (author)PKM2008-10-17

It seems that they don't ship outside the US yet. The chassis is built in China, then they are shipped to California, where the electric components are installed. If you happen to stop by Topeka sometime, we'll gladly give you a turn. ;-)

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PKM (author)2008-10-16

You enjoy driving, feel more in touch with your vehicle, have joined a subculture where people will talk to you about your car or their own adventures and give you a nod when they drive past in one? Now you know why bikers are bikers. (Or now I know you know, if you already know, if you see what I mean.) Every one of those points is what makes biking an abject joy for me. FWIW, I think there is a company in Brazil that does produce new Minis, VW Beetles and camper vans from pattern parts- you can import them but it's a bit of a nightmare. I think it's a massive shame, but there you go.

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lasersage (author)PKM2008-10-17

the old presses from the mini plant in england were bought up and are doing good as original parts still, don't know about shipping to US though. Don't know about Mexican mini's but they're still churning out beetles as I understand it. Every old beetle or camper waves at my girlfriend when she's out in her bug. I used to get the same from mini drivers when I owned one. Even the odd porche waves at her! air cooled is awesome :) as for bikes, I think there was a time when bikes were cheap and all people could afford and that probably brought together a sense of community. Enduring the elements together. Now that weekend riders have them as toys to kill themselves on and give us all a bad name, hand waving head nodding gestures seem to fading out. Go to france and they shake there leg at you! its a crazy country, no head nodding for them :D

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threecheersfornick (author)2008-10-16

Cars scare me. Cars and credit cards. SCARY.

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