Ever since the first Mini rolled off the production line in 1959, the compact, cool and quirky car has been part of the nation’s collective memory.
Whether it be trips in a Mini during the swinging sixties or days out in one of the more modern Mini Coopers, the thought of a Mini is enough to evoke a feeling of nostalgia for many.
For me, memories flood back of my childhood - climbing into my step-mum’s Mini and clambering over the awkward seats into the back with my step-brothers.
There was also the classic Mini my best friend drove as a teenager. It was proudly owned by a trendy 18-year-old, with faux fur adorning the back seat, which proved to be hazardous when a rogue cigarette flicked out of the window flew back in with a gust of wind and quickly set the back seat on fire.
So when I came across a row of Minis at the Bygone Fareham event in Fareham town centre last month, I was intrigued. Judging by the glazed eyes and gooey smiles of other people walking past, I wasn’t alone.
The Minis were being displayed by Portsmouth and Southampton Mini Owners’ Club, which meets at Locks Heath Sports and Social Club.
The group was founded in 2000, and now has over 120 members from all over the south.
Founder Rex Patterson, from Lee-on-the-Solent, invited me to meet some of the members at his garage in Stubbington.
‘If you own a Mini, then you have got to be mad not to join a club,’ says Rex
‘We have a wide area and there’s an awful lot of Minis in the area - there’s a lot of knowledge. You really need to belong to a club to make use of all the experience.
‘Our members have a lot of knowledge and they range in age from teenagers up to pensioners.’
Rex has three Minis himself - a Mini Cooper racing car, a 1964 Mini Countryman and a 2007 Mini Cooper S.
Rex says, ‘It is an iconic car. If you look at the Mini today, compared to other cars from the 60s and 70s, then they still look modern. Because of this they are still very attractive to the young, and sometimes that means they don’t get looked after properly.
‘My advice to anyone who is thinking of buying a Mini is; do not buy it unless you take someone with you who knows Minis.’
That’s where the Portsmouth and Southampton Mini Owners’ Club comes in, providing a support network and a social experience.
‘Joining a club is excellent because you can get help and advice with your car without it costing you anything,’ explains Rex.
Club member Keith Burton has travelled from Basingstoke for the meeting in his 2003 Mini Cooper.
Keith, 40, says, ‘It’s the best club around. What’s great is they have a really good support network. I was the first modern Mini but was very quickly joined by others.
‘There are never two Minis that are the same, every one reflects their owner. That’s why I love them so much. People always look at them, every one is unique.’
Club member Jason Stephen, from Park Gate, drives his classic 1974 Mini regulary down to Plymouth for his work in the Royal Navy.
Warrant Officer Jason, 42, says, ‘It does get emotional sometimes, and some of the trips take five and a half hours, when I have to stop and fix it, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. If you have a bad day at work, you drive your Mini home and you are in a good mood by the time you get home, that’s what it’s all about.’
Another club member with a passion for Minis is Rosalind Golden.
The 62-year-old, from Locks Heath, has two Minis - a classic 1996 Mini and a modern Mini Coooper.
Rosalind says, ‘They are just such fun cars. Everbody has a good memory of being in a Mini, whether they are young or old, everyone loves a Mini.’
FOR any member of the Portsmouth and Southampton Mini Owners’ Club, there’s only one man they trust with fixing their precious car.
Founder of the club Rex Patterson also runs the Mini Surgery in Stubbington.
Rex, 65, says, ‘I moved here about three years ago as I was so busy with Minis. I moved to here to be able to repair them. With the Mini Owners’ Club it grew and grew.’
Rex used to work at Elson Motors when he was a young man and he said the owner, while being excellent at his job, hated fixing Minis due to their complexity.
So all the Minis coming into the garage were passed to Rex to work on.
‘It developed from that,’ says Rex.
Rex went on to have a 30 year career in the police, and returned to his tools when he retired.
‘Then we started racing, my son Gary said “I don’t want to get to 40 and say I wish I had”, so that’s how we got into racing and it developed from there.
‘He got an absolute love for it, the second year he was a national champion.
‘I used to fix up Minis at home, building race cars, and in the end it got so busy with the mini owners’ club, there was a lot of work on.
‘When I lost my wife Thelma, people were coming round at all hours, I thought “this is crazy”, so I came down to Stubbington and set up the Mini Surgery. Since then it’s got busier and busier and busier.
‘A lot of garages won’t touch Minis. I even have other garages ringing me to get me to fix their classic Minis.
‘It’s definitely a specialist subject. A modern car is easy-peasy money, if they have to take something off, they undo a bolt and it comes off as it hasn’t been on there for very long, the newest classic Mini is 13 years old. When you come to take them apart it’s a lot harder work.’
Rex says the secret to fixing Minis is patience.
‘You have got to have the patience, people think that Minis are easy to maintain and cheap to run. But they are not cheap unless you keep them maintained.’
Portsmouth and Southampton Mini Owners’ Club
After reminiscing with friends, Kaz Dawson, chairwoman of the Portsmouth and Southampton Mini Onwers’ Club, set about finding her first car.
Her first car was a 1969 Mini, which she first drove in 1980. After scouring the internet, she found Monty - a green 1993 Mini, which she fell in love with.
Unfortunately for Kaz, Monty was prone to breaking down, so she joined the Portsmouth and Southampton Mini Owners’ Club to get some help.
She now has two Minis, after Monty proved to be so troublesome she bought Rosie - a 1995 Mini - as a stand in.
Kaz, 53, from Elson, says, ‘The club is great because we can help each other when things go wrong.
‘Monty was always breaking down. He was very well-known in the club for breaking down in the most inappropriate places, like on the way to France.
‘Monty broke down 20 minutes out of Emsworth, before we even got to Dover.
‘He did it by the Menin Gate as we were on the way home, and then again about 10 minutes after that.
‘We strapped up his exhaust and he was alright after that.
‘That’s why he is my bit of rough and Rosie is my posh one, as she doesn’t normally misbehave.’
Kaz says it’s not just about the mechanical experience in the club.
‘It’s also the people that are with it. It’s not just about the cars, but about the friendships that you make and the places we go to.
‘We go on tour to France every year to the First World War trenches.
‘Last year we had six cars, this coming year we have 15 Minis booked on already because it is the 100 year anniversary. I’m really looking forward to it.’
To join the club go to pandsmoc.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Membership costs £10 per year, or £15 per year for a joint membership.