Jump to content

- - - - -

Classic Mini As First Car

  • Please log in to reply
61 replies to this topic

#16 steeley


    Speeding Along Now

  • TMF+ Member
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 325 posts
  • Location: bournemouth

Posted 02 August 2020 - 07:23 AM

If you want to spend more time fixing it than driving it then buy a mini

Even spending good money you will still have to deal with rust which will be worse than you thought

Don’t get a 90s mini spi/mpi it will be more to insure and will be harder to work on than a carb model

In the end I got my daughter a Citroen c1, cheap to buy, run and insure

I am nearly finished rebuilding the mini which which I initially bought for her
It cost me £1200 but buy the time it’s finished probably closer to £5000

Minis are great but come with all the problems of most classic cars

Get a mini as a project car to rebuild at your leisure, rebuild it properly with no rush
and while you do it you can learn to weld, spray rebuild all the mechanicals etc

Good luck with whatever you buy

#17 MatthewsDad


    Speeding Along Now

  • TMF+ Member
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 475 posts
  • Location: Warrington

Posted 02 August 2020 - 07:24 AM

I wouldn't wish to dampen anyone's enthusiasm for a mini as a first car (mine was) but if you are completely reliant on it as a daily driver you'll need to be really handy at sorting out mechanical issues quickly. If you do go for it please check for the hidden rot spots even if it's advertised as rust free. If possible try to take someone along who knows mini rust spots (most mini owners have found out the hard way) so they can provide advice. Who knows you might find a really good one for the money. Good luck either way.

#18 cal844


    Crazy About Mini's

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 7,810 posts
  • Location: Ballingry, Fife
  • Local Club: TFMOC

Posted 02 August 2020 - 09:04 AM

buy a Mini to do up. Get another car for the daily.

I agree. I used the mini as a daily for 6 years, it was great seeing the smiles on people faces but I always had to drive more cautiously as if I did smash it enough to put it through insurance it would be a write off.

#19 johnv


    Speeding Along Now

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 305 posts
  • Location: Surrey
  • Local Club: FDMC

Posted 02 August 2020 - 09:51 AM

I think the modern day road conditions preclude it as an everyday car over the mechanics. Try driving one on a motorway in the rain in winter, with every other driver cocooned in a massive 4x4 completely oblivious to the conditions tailgating everything at 70mph

#20 beardylondon


    Super Mini Mad

  • TMF+ Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 662 posts
  • Location: London

Posted 02 August 2020 - 10:22 AM

Exactly the same issues, and ironically they are some of the cheapest and when you said classic mini, I was thinking you meant a Rover Mini as they aren’t silly prices.

There’s a big difference in doing say 200 miles in any classic Mini compared to say a Fiesta, Polo or Yaris etc, especially if you are tall, which I am, and even tough I love both mine, I have a daily drive, as most do.

As everyone else has said, get one to do up and then get a sensible daily driver.

Tanks again for the suggestions, seems like it's not a good idea to buy one as my fist car then. May I ask then, what about a rover mini from the 90's? do they still need some repairing every now and then?

#21 nicklouse


    Moved Into The Garage

  • TMF+ Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 14,471 posts
  • Location: Not Yorkshire
  • Local Club: Anonyme Miniholiker

Posted 02 August 2020 - 10:37 AM

I would like to add this about having a Mini as a daily back in the 80s when you could pop into a Rover dealer for parts and most auto stores had Mini spares on the shelf. Just about every weekend was spent with mates working on their or your Mini just so you could get to work on Monday.

#22 mab01uk


    Crazy About Mini's

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 9,756 posts
  • Local Club: Mini Cooper Register

Posted 02 August 2020 - 01:27 PM

Another consideration is theft, classic Minis come from an era when cars were easy to steal, so when parked amongst modern more secure cars as a daily driver, even an amateur thief knows it is an easy target and often worth more stripped and sold as parts on ebay or burnt out by low life's after a joyride. Nice looking restorations and early Minis are even more of a target and have even been stolen from their owners driveways, so like most classic cars well kept examples tend to be locked in a secure garage or blocked in if outside by the owners modern car where possible.

Take a look here for a few recent stolen Mini examples on TMF:-


Edited by mab01uk, 02 August 2020 - 01:31 PM.

#23 some1158


    Mini Mad

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 292 posts

Posted 02 August 2020 - 05:13 PM

It will probably seem quite disappointing that everyone is being fairly 'realistic' here.


Even the newest Mini is 20 years old. They were designed in the 1950s, at a time when cars rusted from day 1, and needed regular mechanical servicing plus a fair bit of tinkering and care in between to keep them going. Yes, they can be reliable, and yes they can be used daily - but they will need more work than a modern car. It's not quite like a modern car where you can pretty much assume it will start first time and go on a cold wet winter morning.


A 1990s Rover Mini is more complex mechanically, and they seem to be more prone to rust - especially the late 90s MPI models, though that may just be anecdotal.


If you do buy, get the best bodywork you can afford. There are numerous hidden rust spots, and rarely such a thing as 'surface rust' on a Mini. They rot from the inside out.

#24 mab01uk


    Crazy About Mini's

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 9,756 posts
  • Local Club: Mini Cooper Register

Posted 02 August 2020 - 07:30 PM

Another thing to consider as a young driver in a classic Mini used as a daily driver is your safety, parents (who often had Minis as their first cars) often advise against a Mini as a first car because built in safety of small modern cars has moved on a long way since the Mini was designed in the late 1950's. Even the last MPi Mini with a drivers airbag was only a token effort to upgrade the design until the BMW MINI was ready in 2001. Facing facts you and any passengers are going to come off worse in an accident with practically any other modern car and at risk of serious injury or even death, whereas in the equivalent modern small car you might well escape without a scratch or minor injuries.

As a classic 'hobby' car most of us will only do a low mileage on summer weekends often to a show and driving defensively rather like motorcyclists have to around modern car drivers. With the best will in the world it is not so easy to do that when driving a classic everyday as a daily driver in a hurry to get to work, etc. Many modern car drivers can also be quite aggressive towards classic cars considering them to be slow and liable to hold up their shiny new SUV's ! A few smile and wave but not that many in my experience.....

Edited by mab01uk, 02 August 2020 - 07:31 PM.

#25 paul.smurthwaite


    Starting My Mini Up

  • TMF+ Member
  • Pip
  • 2 posts
  • Location: Moray

Posted 02 August 2020 - 08:01 PM

I would like to add this about having a Mini as a daily back in the 80s when you could pop into a Rover dealer for parts and most auto stores had Mini spares on the shelf. Just about every weekend was spent with mates working on their or your Mini just so you could get to work on Monday.

This is all too true.  I ran two Minis around the same time; an 84 City E and a 75 Innocenti Cooper which is being restored now.  These were my first cars after passing my test.


Neither were particularly reliable at the time - usually first thing in the morning when you were trying to get to work.  A good tool kit usually included Damp Start, 'spare' leads, dizzy cap, rotor arm, and a GS hammer to free a stuck fuel pump - not to mention a full mechanics toolbox, jump leads, a decent jack and a jerry can of fuel in the boot.  All your mates had ramps, tools, and enough knowledge or oil-coated Haynes manuals to fix most problems (they were driving their own versions of 70s/80s motors built to the same 'exacting' standards and tolerances!).  You had to learn how to 'bump start' a car from an early age, with or without someone to help you.


Every trip was an adventure since you didn't know if the car would start, keep running, break down, or even if you would reach your destination under your own steam or on the back of an AA truck...  Both my Minis moved house with me 3 times over 800 miles - the Cooper was so loud I wore ear defenders on longer trips, the City E got me from the North of Scotland to Hereford in 14 hours, broke down half a dozen times including bumping it on the A9 myself (downhill thankfully), then over to Surbiton where I sold it in 93 for £350 to a garage on the Ewell Road - fomerly John Cooper's garage (this one).  When the garage owner had finished his test drive in the car and we pulled up back at the garage, he pointed across the street to a Honda that had just parked and said 'there's John Cooper, would you like to meet him?'.  He pointed at my facsimile Cooper bonnet stripes and signature and told me it was a pretty good forgery :)


Some of my best memories involve a Mini of some description, and my Dad's before me with every Cooper S he owned over the years.


If you want a reliable, drive every day motor then follow some of the advice above and get something else.  If you want adventures and great memories - get a Mini :D

Edited by paul.smurthwaite, 02 August 2020 - 08:03 PM.

#26 Tds76


    Learner Driver

  • TMF+ Member
  • PipPip
  • 21 posts
  • Location: Melbourne

Posted 02 August 2020 - 10:55 PM

I currently have a Mini as a daily driver. The car has been off the road for extended periods waiting for parts to arrive from the various specialists in the UK and here in Australia. Fortunately the last of these - a head gasket failure happened just before the Covid pandemic started so wasn't a big issue and gave me time to get the head recon'd and hardened valve seats fitted.

Maintenance is quite straightforward and you'll just need some imperial spanners, sockets, screwdrivers and a hammer to fix most problems.

The main problem I have found is a result of having an nth-hand car. When doing work on it you start to find all the shortcuts, mistakes etc. that the previous owners have made so then spend more time sourcing bits to correct these adding further delays to your repair.

Having said that, I love using the car on a daily basis but I have a back-up plan - my work is close enough that I can ride my bike there and if the weather is especially bad I can use the bus/train/walk combo.
Despite the issues you will get, I highly recommend having a Mini as a first car (A Mini was my second and fifth when parts were more easily accessed) but have a back-up.

Cheers, Paul.

Edited by Tds76, 03 August 2020 - 09:49 PM.

#27 Nial


    Stage One Kit Fitted

  • Noobies
  • PipPipPip
  • 62 posts

Posted 03 August 2020 - 03:27 PM

It's a bit like computer operating systems.


If you want something that just allows you to do things/ go places without worrying about it, buy windows / a polo.


If you want to be more involved in maintenance and runing things use Linux/ a mini.



If you end up buying a mini prioritise bodywork condition over bling/ wheel sizes/ engine size etc.

#28 humph


    How bad can it Be?

  • TMF+ Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 743 posts

Posted 03 August 2020 - 04:07 PM

I'm sure reading this thread you'll be feeling a little deflated because everyone is saying not to, but they are right.  I'd start by asking this; you say it's your first car, but will it be your daily driver & will you be reliant on it to get you to important destinations like work, job interviews, big dates? If the answer to these questions is yes then I certainly wouldn't recommend a Mini. If it's just a car to drive because you want to get involved in the scene, runs, & shows, then potentially go for it.  If you do you will need to expect periods of the car being off the road and expense, but if you want to learn the mechanics you will cut the costs down (after initially investing in decent tools). The really pricey bit is repairing rusty bodywork as the Mini is all welded panels, you can't just unbolt wings like you can on other cars.  Make sure the body is solid, do your homework before buying. Personally I wouldn't buy one if you do need to rely on it for work etc. 


I'm a big fan on the new MINIs but these aren't trouble free either. My scrappy bound early R50 cost me £450 and I've spent that again on some common faults using second hand ebay parts and my very amateurish mechanic skills. They're pretty simple to work on really and parts are plentiful, but not always cheap.  Mine is now a great fun little run about, but again not my daily driver, and I really wouldn't consider using my classic daily at all for what I do.

#29 Cooperman


    Uncle Cooperman, Voted Mr TMF 2011

  • Mini Docs
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 21,961 posts
  • Location: Cambs.
  • Local Club: MCR, HAMOC, Chelmsford M.C.

Posted 03 August 2020 - 10:22 PM

OP, I see you have asked the same question on 'Pistonheads' under Classic Minis, so I have replied there as well.

If you do decide to get one as a first car, then just be sure that you are prepared to be doing a lot of work on it. You will either have to pay a specialist around £50 to £60 per hour, or do it all yourself.

I had a Mini as my second car, but that was in 1963 and I had just finished my apprenticeship in aero engineering, so working on something as basic as a Mini was very easy for me. It was a fairly new, 15 month old, car, and rust, therefore, was not an issue. It was also low mileage (14,000 if I remember correctly), but even so it needed a lot of regular maintenance. 

It is hard to se how you could run one as a daily car unless you have a lot of tools, a well-lit & heated garage and the know-how to do it. You would also have to be prepared to be without it whilst you wait for parts to be delivered. These days you can't just go into the local BMC/BLMC/Rover Dealer and get the bits 'off the shelf'. You need to be able to have the car off the road for a few days until the parts arrive. Regular DIY preventive maintenance helps with reliability, but remember, the suspension needs greasing at (I think) 8 points every 3000 to 5000 miles and more regular oil changes are needed than with modern cars.


By all means have a dream, but be realistic. We are all dedicated classic Mini enthusiasts on here and we do appreciate that they need a lot of TLC, which we are all happy to give. I was working on my 1964 car yesterday because the fuel gauge, wipers & heater blower circuit had a dead short. The instrument binnacle had to come out and some re-wiring was necessary. It all works well now, but it was a full day's job, even for me and I have all the kit to diagnose and fix it. It was just an old wire which had become partly broken exposing some bare wire which was shorting on a metal pipe to the temp gauge (capilliary type). Most of us on here do everything ourselves. I know I couldn't afford mine if I couldn't do it all.  For example, the front swivel-hub ball-joints are things which can need changing. To do this costs me around £15 for a repair kit. If I had to pay garage labour, it would be around £150 to £200. A head gasket change with re-lapping the valves costs around £30 in parts and materials, but for a garage it would be more like £250 (4 hours labour plus parts at full retail). Classic cars are not cheap if you do either a normal mileage, say 12,000 to 15,000 miles/annum or have to pay someone else to do the work.

Edited by Cooperman, 03 August 2020 - 10:48 PM.

#30 ads7


    Mini Mad

  • TMF+ Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 204 posts
  • Location: oswestry

Posted 03 August 2020 - 10:29 PM

Don't buy a classic mini as a first car. Far too much regular attention required and there are so many rotboxes for sale out there to catch the unwary.

For retro fun get a nineties Japanese car that will give you street cred as well as years of reliability - Toyota Starlets and Nissan Micras are cracking little motors with a few basic mods they can be good fun

0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users

Mini Spares