Thursday, November 22, 2012

What will happen to the Mini that time forgot?

IT'S like Indiana Jones meets The Italian Job. This story is so intruiging, I thought it needed bringing out of the classic car forums and onto these pages.

It begins deep underground, in a network of tunnels beneath one of Britain's biggest car factories, the former British Leyland plant at Longbridge. For years, a rather battered old Mini has sat down there, lonely and unloved, gathering dust for decades. It's been stripped of almost all of its useful bits and the roof's been bent in like a banana, but this Clubman version, not a million miles from the Seventies Minis you see above, is quite unlike any other. The Mini which nobody wanted is the last ever Mini to leave the factory.

How did it end up down there? Well, the story goes that when this Mini was being made, it fell off the production line at the factory, and rather than repair it the Longbridge workers ran it around the factory for a few miles and took whatever bits were useful off it to use on other cars.

When it was no longer deemed useful it was bundled off into the tunnel, which had been built in the 1940s to protect the factory workers - who were busy making ammunition rather than cars for a change - from the Luftwaffe. The Clubman that never was stayed in the tunnel right through the bitterest days of British Leyland, right through Austin Rover's tenure, remained unloved when BMW took over the reins and even remained ignored when MG Rover finally went bust in 2005. It's only now that a Mini enthusiast has had the tenacity to fish it out, and it's caused a bit of a fuore in the process.

Should the crumpled old heap, which had its roof stoved in after an unfortunate encounter with a shipping container, stay in that tunnel for posterity's sake? Should it be moved to a museum somewhere? Or should the car's saviour restore the old girl back to her former glory, even though for all sorts of boring legal reasons it can't actually be used on the road?

For what it's worth, I reckon it should come out, but I can't see many museums wanting to take on an exhibit that can't even be moved on its own wheels.

It'd take many of thousands of pounds to mend it properly and keep it original, but if someone's up for the exhaustion and expense then they've got my backing. It'd be great to see one last Mini - the Mini that time forgot - rev up its little A-Series engine in anger.

It's too good to be left abandoned in a tunnel forever.

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