Alps Café-Racers: A Mini Story
For this first Post on Alps Café Racers, I wanted to tell you the story of our Mini Cooper, that you can see all over our website! This is the car that we use to prototype all our custom parts. We have for quite some time now. It’s not a first hand of course but one thing is certain: it is now part of our family history and it’s not going anywhere any time soon !
My passion for Minis is not a new thing. I bought my first car back in 2007! It was our very first encounter with a strange world made of driving pleasure, small fears and untimely breakdown! It was a simple 1989 mini with a 1000cc engine that I restored from top to bottom before offering it to my wife as a present. At first, there wasn't really any way I was going to buy one for myself. I'm a little tall, the car is not really powerful, nor very comfortable and let's face it right away: it has a bad temper.
All that is true, but there is one thing for sure: the Mini is also a lot of fun to drive! So I thought I'd get one too. So I sold the venerable diesel Peugeot 206 that served well as our Daily at the time, determined to find me a mini Cooper in good enough condition to drive every day.
In 2007, I lived in Grenoble, in the heart of the Alps. And it was in Paris that I found the Cooper that you can see on our pages today. I found it at a vintage Porsche 911 enthusiast who had bought it for his wife (apparently, offering Minis is a car guy thing). But since the device was deemed "too brutal" by modern standards, Madame had decided that she would never again sit behind the wheel of a contraption that obviously tried to assassinate her at every turn - which was not completely false. A quick phone call and the deal was made without prior visit - after all, an old Porsche enthusiast can't be fundamentally a bad person, right ? And so here I am one autumn morning, somewhere in the northern suburbs of Paris with my cheque to take possession of the machine. My original plan involved putting the car on the train. At the time - it was 2007 - it was still possible to put your car on the train at the Paris-Bercy station and arrive in Lyon fresh and well... Alas, the train was full so I brought the small bugger back by road at night, from Paris to Grenoble. Boy what a drive ! Needless to say, I wasn't unhappy upon arrival. imagine back in the days people going on a family trip in these cars...
Our Mini: picture from 2008
Since 2007, the little Cooper is in the family. She followed us everywhere, from Grenoble to Brussels where we lived for 6 years and now she rides the small winding roads of the Cold Lands, near the Chartreuse Mount. This is a 1991 Cooper model with carburetor. The engine was rebored to 1380cc by the previous owner, to which he added a central exhaust line and a few other small trinkets that make it work quite well. The biggest change undertaken by the previous owner is the 13'' wheel conversion. It's not my favorite but at the time I didn't know better. We all got to start somewhere. As the wings have been cut, I won't move back to 12 or 10''. It will remain like this as a reminder that you never know enough and that you have to learn every day.
For 14 years, his body condition has not changed much. The few modifications concern the Alps-Café Racers door handles and hand-engraved plate light. A black grill was also added: the previous owner installed a cheap remanufactured 9 bar grills that was just terribe. So I restored an old black one with small fins.
Inside, there's been more change. I kept the Cobras seats and installed a wooden dashboard to install additional instruments, including an oil pressure sensor and a voltmeter. the steering wheel is now a Made-In-England Motolita 13'' Semidished.
The heating has been changed in favour of a more modern, more efficient unit. The leaky heater matrix was to be changed anyway.
A common future
Our mini Cooper has been in the family for 14 years now. Of course, there have been ups and downs, like that day when I lost the intermediate exhaust tube on the fast lane, digging a nice furrow in the pavement. Or this time when we redid the gearbox because the second "cracked" a little, to realize that several teeth were missing from the wheel in question. :)
But despite these inconveniences, one thing is certain: this car will never be for sale. She'll stay in the family. It's been 14 years that we have it, and I sign again for 14 years without hesitation!