Our 3 Favorite Cars From The Awesome Mini Meet West
Photography by Andrew Golseth
When I heard Mini Meet West, the premier North American Mini event for nearly forty years, was being held in sunny San Diego, I marked my calendar. The four-day auto gala celebrates the iconic British microcar in three different equally awesome forums–and yes, it was an awesome time.
Day 1 kicks off with registration and an informal meet-and-greet. The show and shine was held on day 2 at the beautiful Spanish Landing Park, which is a popular automotive venue for obvious reasons—this is what we saw.
“Holy…that’s a huge Mini show,” I thought when approaching the lush green bay front lawn. There were rows and rows of the classic British grown-up-sized-go-karts, all proudly parked in front of breathtaking background of anchored yachts. With so many Minis on site, it would take something special to catch my eye upon the overwhelming arrival.
Thankfully, a little red woody wagon with Oregon number plates commanded my full attention. This 1964 Morris Mini Minor Traveller was driven all the way down from Portland by its proud owner, Roger Wooley. Roger was kind enough to give me the scoop on his beloved long roof. In place of the original underpowered engine is a larger 1,275-cc unit featuring a port-and-polished head stuffed with an uprated valve train. To help get the added power to the pavement, Roger sourced a set of wider Cooper S model wheels complete with polished center caps. Amazingly, this cherry long-wheel-base Mini still wears its original wood trim. Of the few Travellers in attendance, Roger’s restored wagon with a dash of OEM plus really stood out.
Making my way through the colorful isles, it was clear the Mini crowd were a cheerful bunch. Everyone seemed to know each other from forums, respective local clubs, and caravans to previous Mini Meet West events or helping each other source hard to find parts. I heard a group discussing giving an extra hand to a fellow Mini motorist stuck roadside thanks to a busted generator. Knowing very little about the inner-circle details of Minis, I received a warm welcome—turns out, the Mini folks are big fans of Petrolicious.
After rummaging through many Minis ranging from bone stock to highly personalized Minis both new and old, this little crisp white fella stopped me in my tracks. Though at first glance it may appear like your usual classic BMC, after further examination something about it looked different—that’s when I noticed the Innocenti badges and black Italian license plate. That’s right, post-war Italian scooter manufacturer signed a deal with BMC to produce Minis for the Italian market as a Fiat 500 competitor.
The caretaker of this 1973 Innocenti built Mini is Dave Munsey, another Portlander. After circling the car several times, I began to notice differentiating details, like the Carello sealed beams, Altissimo taillights, and Hellebore steering wheel. Dave went on to point out the additional Italian instrumentation on the dash, fixed seats, and roll down windows with functional quarter glass (as opposed to horizontally sliding), and unique “eyeball” air vents. For the most part, everything mechanical is standard BMC while the more refined interior, lighting equipment, and 9-fuse electrical system were built in the boot.
The show and shine officially came to a close at 2 pm, but in typical enthusiast fashion everyone lingered around and continued chatting—not wanting the fun to end. As cars fired up and slowly began trickling out of the Spanish Landing greens, I made a beeline to a Mini I’d kept tabs on all afternoon. There were wilder, more rare, and louder examples on display, but this early Austin Cooper looked proper.
I asked the ecstatic owner, Amanda Silverstein, if she had a second to chat about her Smoke Green machine. With a huge smile, she boasted, “Of course, I love talking about my car!”—I’m glad we did, because her Mini has an awesome story.
Amanda grew up around Minis her whole life and searched for one to make her own for years. She ended up finding a stripped shell, void of the entire front clip, drivetrain, and powertrain, and made an offer. The reluctant owner had long dreamed of saving the car but never got around to it. Amanda took home the shell and immediately got to work. What she didn’t foresee was a 14-year restoration.
She became obsessed with restoring the car to its exact factory specifications—an extremely challenging task for any incomplete project. What made her venture even more difficult was the special nature of her Cooper. It’s an early 997 model, which were only produced for some 18 months and she was determined to return it to its former 1962 glory.
After revitalizing the battered body, to include joining the appropriate model front clip, Amanda had the original Smoke Grey hue custom blended, as the paint code on file isn’t quite the right color. At some time in the ’70s, Bay Area based Mini specialist Jon Becker performed the very common 1,300-cc engine swap on this very car.
Nearly 30 years later, Amanda set out to source a factory correct 997 engine. Incredibly, John Becker heard of Amanda’s project and informed her that he still had her car’s original engine! Rebuilt, her Mini now moves under its own power from its original heart. If that’s not an automotive miracle, I’m not sure what is.
One of my favorite details of Amanda’s Mini was the “E.T. finger” turn signal switch. At the end of the stalk is a green lensed bulb that flashes when switched for left and right signal indication—how cool is that?
Eventually, everyone departed Spanish Landing for a relaxing evening—much needed as most were in for two more days of Mini fun from behind his or her wheel. The third day autocross and ‘Funkhana’ were held at the Qualcomm Stadium parking lot, followed by a spirited rally through some of Southern California’s very best scenic back roads on day 4, the perfect ending to Mini Meet West.
If you’re a Mini fanatic, or just a gearhead in general, I highly recommend experiencing Mini Meet West. I attend every automotive related event I can schedule in, and this was one of the most fun meets I’ve had the pleasure of attending.
The cars were great and the people, even better. If you’d like some Mini overload, keep an eye on the event homepage for information on future events. Full disclosure, if you attend and currently don’t have a Mini of your own, you’ll have a newfound need for one—you’ve been warned!