by Steve Favill
The first car that I bought myself was a 1965 Austin Mini 850 Deluxe. The “Deluxe” upgrade had included corner over-riders on front and rear bumpers, two additional gauges, one each side of the speedometer which indicated coolant temperature and, I think, oil pressure, which meant nothing to me as a callow youth.
EBF486C, finished in Trafalgar Blue with grey vinyl interior, was surprisingly reliable, despite my well-meaning but still comparative neglect. It was reasonably quick, by virtue of the fact that it weighed next to nothing, and the wheel in each far corner of the car meant that it handled better than even its designer had ever imagined. Sliding windows in the front doors and cable pulls with which to open them were just a part of its undeniable charm. It carried me to and from police training college out Coventry way in the English Midlands, and never failed to get me to my destination, wherever that was.
One of the faults that I can remember was a dead water pump, which required removal of the radiator together with a number of other items just to reach the bolts (and which needed doing again after finding out that I had goofed something up). I had an early deadline the following morning and, thanks to my father and brother who burned the midnight oil to get the job done for me while I caught some sleep, I was able to make it on time.
The only other issue which I can remember, other than the never-ending battle with the dreaded tin-worm, was with an increasingly iffy fuel pump which always responded to a smart whack with something solid and heavy, and necessitated kneeling down, reaching underneath the rear subframe and administering the assault. Rewarded with the ticking that indicated renewed delivery of liquid dinosaur I would return to the driver’s seat, turn the key and continue my journey.
This tactic failed to work for me one wet morning when, on my way to perform another tour of duty as a British Bobby starting at 5.45 in the morning, the usual remedy of hitting the fuel pump finally failed to elicit as much as a token death rattle from the now thoroughly abused SU fuel pump.
Fortunately, I always carried a selection of basic hand tools with me wherever I went in this car and I also had a new replacement fuel pump in the boot. Deciding to carry out a roadside replacement, I eventually showed up for work 30 minutes late and received an almighty bollocking from my shift Inspector. This was before the cell phone was even thought of, and so a call to let them know was out of the question.
I eventually sold the car, as the offer of a much newer, larger and more exotic vehicle provided to be rather more tempting than my poor little Mini. Would I buy another? In a New York minute I would, which I suppose is the true test of how good a car really is.