Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Tao of Mini

I truly believe that everyone, at least once, should build a Mini Cooper.
And when I say “build” I don’t mean, ya know, in a factory somewhere. I mean online, at Miniusa.com.

Sure, you can go to your local Mini dealer, wander the lot, and find a Mini Cooper that roughly meets your specifications, but that is not the way the car gods intended. To properly buy a Mini Cooper you must build it from scratch, considering things like: What color should the exterior be? What color should the roof be? Should there be chrome details? Fog lights? Driving lamps? (No, I’m not sure what they are either, but they sure do look nifty.) Stripes? If stripes, should the stripes be white, black, or silver? Should there be jazzy details like Union Jack flags on the roof or checkered mirror caps? Should it be a Sport model? A convertible? If you’ve got kids, maybe a Clubman? Should the interior be leather or fabric? If leather, should the leather have trim? Should there be a roofrack? A spoiler? And on and on and on. . .

Maybe right now you are thinking, “Geez, Max. You sure are shallow.” To which I might respond: You’re just noticing this now?

Yes, people who love Minis, like myself, are something of design fetishists. My friend Travis made an apt analogy: The Mini Cooper is the Apple Computer of cars. Part of the reason we so love our iBooks and iPhones and iPods is because they are designed beautifully—sleek yet cute; modern yet homey. Also, there’s also something positively tactile in their appeal—you’re not sure if you want to gaze at an iPhone or caress it. And of course, going Apple instead of PC says something about you—that you’re urban, artsy, a little alternative. (Yes, I’m aware of the evils of forging a sense of personality identity through brand identification, but I don’t really want to kill my Mini buzz. I’ve been seduced by design and marketing. So sue me.)

Okay, back to my Mini. Here’s the joy of “building your own.” Once you’ve sweated out the details and built the car EXACTLY as you like (assuming that money is no object, or a minimal object, or in my case, if you’ve decided to ignore the object and hope it goes away) you bring it to your dealer and they order it for you.

My Mini order went a little something like this:
Model: S hardtop
Color: Pepper white
Interior color: Tuscan beige leather
Chrome Exterior: Yes
Chrome Interior: Why the hell not?
Stripes: Black
Mirrors: Checkerboard
Name: Spike

And then you wait.

But you’re not passively waiting. Oh noooooo. You’re involved. You go back to trusty Miniusa.com and you check into the Owner’s Lounge and you click on Where’s My Mini? The first thing it says—and for weeks, it seems stalled in this hated designation—“In production.” Then, one glorious day, you click on Where’s My Mini? and it says, “At the dock.” Then a few days later, “En route.” Now, let me tell you, en route takes a eternity—or so it seems, as you check the website once, twice, even three times a day. Then—oh glory—it reads: “At the dealership.”

But don’t expect your car just yet. If you’re like me, you added some snazzy dealer add-ons, like those checkered mirror caps and driving lamps. So you wait a little longer. And then, finally, your car salesman Benn calls you—or, in my case, you send him so many annoying emails inquiring about your car’s status, he eventually just caves—and your baby is ready for delivery.
I have to say, I’m not one for delay of gratification. It’s not my thing. Ask anyone.
But there is something to be said for laying your eyes on your new Mini for the first time, the car that you bought, that you named, that you pined away for and charted the progress of as though you were some sort of modern-day Magellan.

Yeah, everyone needs to buy a Mini at least once. Or at least play with the build a Mini feature online—it’s a lot cheaper that way.

*Pictured: Me and Spike. . . MC Sparky, you will be missed.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

The only Mini I'm driving these days is a minivan--but it sounds like fun!

Lookin' good Max!!