Monday 05 Dec 2016

Mini Cooper
Carmel Regatta

I purchased my dream car when I was 17 years old. After saving practically all the money I ever earned or received as a gift, I bought a car. For my first car I thought I was well prepared or at least better prepared than were my friends; they hadn’t saved a dime.

My father was encouraging and accompanied me from dealer to dealer looking for just the right car. He knew I had my heart set on a Mini Cooper. I’ve loved these little cars since the very first time I saw one.

I told my father when I was 13 that I wanted a Mini Cooper when I was old enough to drive. He told me I’d better start saving my money if I truly wanted a Mini Cooper in a few years. I immediately opened a bank savings account, at age 13; from that time, I deposited any money I received into my Mini Cooper savings account.

Fast forward to the day I turn 17 years of age. My father and I began shopping for a Mini Cooper, with all the right features. It had to be red, with white strips; an S-type, that is, supercharged; have a stick shift and a hardtop.

Finally, after spending hours on the telephone, Internet and talking to dealers, we found my dream car. It was at a dealership, about 150 miles away. That wasn’t going to stop me.


My father and I called the dealer and set up an appointment. We travelled three hours, the following weekend, to look at this car. It was love at first sight.


The car was exactly as I’d imagined; exactly as all the photographs, I’d seen of the Mini Cooper. I couldn’t wait to test drive it. We took it for a short test drive; it drove better than I hoped.

This Mini Cooper reminded me of driving a small go-cart. I could see everything around me, no blind spots, anywhere. It had plenty of power, maybe too much; the gas, brake and clutch pedals were the perfect size for me and I could easily shift the car, using its small and cute gearshift.

The large center mounted speedometer is probably the feature I loved the most. How European! The location, of the speedometer, makes the driver more conscious of speed than does the behind-the-wheel placement in US cars.

The steering was a bit difficult to get used to because it was very responsive. I was used to driving my Dad’s Buick, which was nice and comfortable, but not sporty at all. The steering on the Mini was extremely sensitive.

I must have looked like a drunk driving the Mini Cooper for the first time. I was zigzagging all over the lane, constantly over-steering. It really drove like a small go-cart.

The Mini Cooper hooked me. We needed to get back to the dealer to make it mine, whatever it takes. I wanted to drive it home, today.

This is when I found there is a lot more to buying a car than having a good down payment. I found the sales person asking questions I had no clue how to answer. How is your credit score? Can you put at least 20% down? How many months financing are you considering? Have you checked insurance costs? Do you have a co-signer?

I must have looked like the dumbest girl this sales person had probably ever seen. I didn’t have an answer to any of his questions. I wanted that car and that was it. 

Finally, after Dad watched me squirm for a bit he stepped in and started answering these questions. I had no idea getting a car would be so complicated. Dad said she doesn’t know her credit score, but I’ll be getting the loan for her. She has 20% to put down. She’ll be under my auto insurance policy for a few more years. Now, what is your best price?

As Dad bartered, I thought about what I would do without him in my corner. He obviously has done this a few times and after another thirty minutes of haggling, he got them to throw in upgraded floor mats some seat covers and a set of those big fog lights on the front. Funny I don’t remember telling him how much I loved those fogs lights. 

I’ve owned my Mini for about 3 years, now. I find it as much fun to drive today as that first day I took it on a test drive. It is the only car I can parallel park with any sort of success. I love zipping around town in it.

The only thing I don’t like about my Mini Cooper is it only being a two-seater. Although advertised as a four-passenger car, the passengers in the rear had better not be more than five years old. I’ve had some of my friends squeeze into the back seat but they weren’t sitting in there for long. There is no legroom at all for back seat passengers.

The gas mileage isn’t quite as good as advertised, but I still get about 25 miles per gallon most of the time. Still, I drive it with a bit of a lead foot so I can't complain.

I’m in love with the looks of my Mini Cooper. I’ll most likely purchase another when I can afford it. Otherwise, I wouldn’t trade my Mini Cooper for any other car in the world.

Carmel Regatta is an unusual woman and a superb writer.

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