GALLERY: Go Behind The Scenes On Our Austin Mini Cooper & MGA Film Shoot
Driving fun cars with your friends is, by no stretch of definition, time well spent. Being able to do so while you’re in high school and can say that your first car wasn’t a typical five-speed automatic Corolla only makes it better, but owning half-century-old baby Brits like Daniel Harrison’s 1958 MGA and Daniel Hornstrand’s 1962 Austin Mini Cooper isn’t simple. Both have rebuilt his car’s engine, and while their pack of petrolhead friends all offer competent help in the garage, it’s a rare time when all the group’s cars are running well at the same time. They don’t mind though, and adopt an attitude that focuses on the fun times with friends who will spend weekends in the garage chasing the inevitable gremlins that come with not only owning and driving (often), but maintaining cars like these.
It all started when a mutual friend’s 1980 Camaro needed some work done to it. Assembled on the lawn to fix the issue, the group became fast friends after this bonding experience, and it solidified the friendships between the high-schoolers that would go beyond the surface rust.
Daniel Harrison had been talking about getting something fun for a while for his first car, and he and Daniel Hornstrand would spend the better part of a year of French classes and study hall time scouring eBay for MGAs and similar cars. Eventually they landed on the right one, and Daniel’s dad drove him out to look at the MGA, giving a stern warning about how deep of a project this would be, how impractical it was for a first car to be one that was over five decades old and would need the consequent amount of work and time.
However, on his birthday a few weeks later, his parents presented him with a lemon-yellow MGA. It needed work, a lot, and the car was torn down to its chassis for a full restoration. The rust meant it was in the bodyshop for metal repairs and other jobs for about a year and a half. After finally getting the car to a drivable state with a presentable exterior, Daniel put it away for a while to focus on his college application process. He’d enjoyed it mightily for a year or so prior to that, but when he went back to start it up the next time it sent a piston somewhere it wasn’t supposed to go. So, undeterred, Daniel took it upon himself to rebuild the motor.
Knowing nothing about such things before owning this car, together with his friends and family he learned how to put the motor back together after tearing it down, and chose to swap the standard 1.5L for an MGB’s 1.8L. Not a bad idea, “while you’re in there.”
Daniel Hornstrand took a similar path, and when his parents told him it was time for him to get a car, he came back with the Mini. That was initially (and for some time afterwards) met with a flat out “No, you’ll kill yourself in that thing.” He was in love with the car though, from pop culture and by its sheer presence—a small, but impactful and accomplished little design, most would agree—and he wouldn’t give up his goal. He wore his parents down enough to make it a reality, and his 1962 Austin Mini Cooper has also received a fresh heart, with Daniel finishing the rebuild of the motor before he headed off for college. Not many kids in high school drive cars like these because of safety and reliability and the cost involved with the latter, but if you have the gumption to get under the hood and keep up with these cars and what they need, there’s no reason why you can’t make cars like these your first.
He drove it to school too, at night to avoid overheating, at 60mph flat-out on the highway for eight hours amidst dwarfing semi trucks for company. That’s dedication. The group of friends that the Daniels made in high school is all away at separate schools now, and while it might be uncommon for all their cars to be running well at the same time, they always make a point to get together for a drive whenever they’re back home together.