Wednesday, May 07, 2003

The Miniblog.

Lately I’ve noticed a few Minis on the street. I’d heard, vaguely, that this kind of car was coming to the United States, but until recently I hadn’t seen any actual Minis tooling around. But they aren’t Harold Wilson’s Minis, the anemic little boxes produced by a socialized auto industry — 21st-century Minis have some style, at least the export version. Someone went back to the drawing board, or more likely the Power Mac, and came up with an aesthetic little car, with a nice overall shape, good trim and a small but sturdy appearance.

They’re still toy cars, considering the fact that three of them at least could fit inside a Hummer’s glove compartment. (See the March 5 blog for my adventures driving a Hummer.) It’s interesting that Minis and the new Hummer are hitting the streets at roughly the same juncture in history. What does it mean? I couldn’t say.

It reminds me of the time I drove a Yugo. I may be the only person you know who will admit to this, but that’s because I didn’t own one, or even consider it. Back when I worked at Advantage magazine, ca. 1986, a car dealership who had just gotten a stock of these cars, the pride of Serbian auto craftsmanship and Titoist heavy industry, asked us to test drive one (and maybe write about it).

Well, I never did write about it, until now. I’m not a car aficionado — what I want from a car, I get from my Toyotas, namely that they run well. But when I was driving that Yugo around the streets of Nashville that day, even I knew that, to paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt, I could’ve carved a better car out of a Budweiser can. It was a toy car all right, but the kind of toy that breaks the day after Christmas, and you could tell that by holding the chintzy wheel, shifting the metal tube that passed for a stick, and pumping the scary brakes.

I think history has proven that I was right.


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