I have recently sold an Austin Seven de luxe saloon which I bought new in August 1960. When I sold it the speedometer read 58,525 miles. This rather high mileage is due to the fact that I am a representative and use my car for business and pleasure, winter and summer. Below is a list of repairs and the approximate mileages at which they occurred.
29,000: Relined brakes.
32.000: Near-side front suspension strut replaced; soon after this a wheel fractured.
33,000: Replaced manifold gasket.
35,000: Replaced ignition condenser.
38,000: Replaced flasher unit.
41.000: Replaced near-side rubber drive coupling (inner universal joint) and bottom radiator hose.
43,000: Replaced manifold gasket.
48,000: Replaced window catch.
51,000: Welded exhaust system.
52,000: Replaced exhaust system.
53.000: Replaced four brake shoes, one rear wheel cylinder, handbrake cable, clevis pin and linkage.
54,000: Replaced off-side suspension strut.
55,000: Replaced flasher unit.
In between times I replaced the throttle cable and battery. Tyres lasted about 19,000 a set. Tyre pressures were checked almost every week without fail, and the wheels religiously changed round at 2,000-mile intervals. No one bill reached double figures and I was never without the car for more than one day at a time.
Referring to the broken suspension struts, the car just “bottomed” on the bump stops and was still driveable, although at reduced speed.
Lest it he thought that the car was treated with kid gloves, let me point out that I was an average Mini driver! Apart from punctures I rarely had an involuntary stop; when I did it was because I suffered with wet ignition (cured on later models) or rain that had been stacked into the petrol tank via the vent tube which hangs down by the near-side rear wheel. Cutting a few inches off this is reputed to effect a cure. Sometimes even in dry weather I would suffer from an obscure form of fuel starvation, which on pausing for about half an hour would clear itself, but this could be very annoying. Overall fuel consumption was about 42 m.p.g.
During the time I had the car the cylinder head was not raised, and when I sold it at 58,500 it was still doing 800 miles per pint of oil. However, at 57,000, it started to go on to three cylinders, and with the end of my tax year coming, imminent tyre replacement and the fear of paying for new valves, followed by galloping oil consumption if the head were lifted, with deep regret I sold it.
Shortly after I had sold the car I called on the people who bought it and asked the chief mechanic what the engine was like when it was finally opened. His reply surprised me: the “pots” were as smooth as the inside of a glass and the ridge formed at the top of the piston stroke on each cylinder was barely perceptible. No new valves were required, the existing ones merely ground-in and the engine reassembled. It is almost as new now. The oil had been changed at 3,000-mile intervals, apart from about two exceptions, and S.A.E. 30 without additives was used (B.P. refill, Esso topping up). The rest of the car was greased, with very few exceptions, at the recommended intervals, and no wear was apparent in the suspension joints, etc.
On the debit side (apart from the usual Mini failings), i.e., noisy 4-bladed fan (now altered), noisy heater, noisy transmission idler, poor synchromesh (again now altered), and the interior ventilation problems (fibrositis hazard!). The paint round the driver’s door had peeled off (repainting following an accident) and the carpet round the driver’s feet was almost in a hole; the carpet covering the inside off-side front-wheel arch was in a hole.
I would like to think that my experience was typical and not exceptional.
Various factors conspired to prevent my buying another Mini, so I followed it with an A40 Mk. II, about which I will remain silent.
Referring to your correspondent’s letter published a few issues ago about the relative numbers of Cortinas and Morris 1100s seen, I offer the following as an explanation.
When I came to sell the Mini I went to several car showrooms in the Midlands with the object of getting the best price possible for it against a Morris 1100. The best offer I received was £250, the lowest £225, and a delivery period of 8-10 weeks, longer perhaps if I selected my own colour. Against a new Mini or an A40 I was offered £300. One salesman offered me £295 for my Mini against a new one but only £245 agains an 1100, quite blatantly; a racket created by supply and demand.
Just for curiosity I went to a Ford showroom. I was offered £300 for my Mini against an Anglia 1200 or a Cortina; immediate delivery, and was given a choice of colour to boot. What about that?
That then was my experience with Issigonis’ baby. I can only say how grateful I am to have had such long acquaintance with the “poor man’s sports car” and regret that I do not have one still in my garage.