Kevin — July 9, 2006, 10:08 pm

The magical, missing mini

Hey! So I bought a car.

Yeah, I know. I’ve been hailing the benefits of car-sharing, because i’m a birkenstock wearing hippie (pffft). But this one kind of just fell in my lap.

See, this nice lady, Tanya, moved to Vancouver from back east about four years ago. She ended up living in Jeff’s apartment, and she was a good egg – a nice neighbour who would occassionally join us for cocktails (rather than slipping not-so-nice notes under the door). Tanya went to New York for a visit, saw this Mini for sale, and kind of went bananas. She bought it and had it shipped to Canada.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting. See, the Mini arrived, but the paperwork didn’t match the car- the silly seller had a few Minis, and so the customs guys (after breaking the seats while looking for contraband) did a safety inspection (which is required by law) and said that the car could be imported into Canada so long as the following details were attended to: One, the horn wasn’t connected, Two, the exhaust needed to be replaced, and THREE: THE CORRECT PAPERWORK NEEDED TO BE PRESENTED.

So Tanya had the car towed to her apartment, and the car was “temporarily” stashed in a parking spot which belonged to one of the fellows in the penthouse apartment, who had two at his disposal but only one car.

Tanya was given three days temporary insurance so she could scoot around and get the necessary work done. Tanya actually even let Jeff take the Mini for a ride, and he tells me it runs great and was the most entertaining thing he’s ever driven – one guy literally LEPT off the sidewalk, raced to the side of the road, and gave Jeff and big grinning “thumbs up” as he drove by. The car is literally a smile machine – people see it and just grin like idiots. Just today, I was washing it, and of the four cars that came into the garage, EVERY SINGLE DRIVER stopped, rolled down his or her window, and with a goofy grin complimented me on the car. Now, I’m not much of a car guy, but that is pretty freakin’ cool.

So, anyhow, on with our story. Tanya called the fellow in New York and said “hey, silly fellow, you sent the wrong paperwork for the car”. “Silly me!” replied the fellow. “I’ll send the correct paperwork right away”.

Tanya stalled a little, never got the repairs done (since the paperwork hadn’t arrived). When it finally did, she went down to the insurance dealer to get another three days of insurance and the dealer said “oh no, you only get three days once, once it’s been used, that’s it. The car must be towed from now on”.

What a drag! Tanya never did get around to getting the car towed, because she herself moved to New York in a few weeks (I guess she and the car technically traded places). The car just sat in it’s borrowed spot and the plan was Tanya would deal with it when she got back.

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So it sat there, in this garage, for two years.

Tanya’s still in New York. The fellow who owns the spot has grown increasingly more and more irate over the years – to the point where, I think, he was planning to set fire to the Mini if it wasn’t moved. So I stepped in, and picked it up (for a very reasonable price) knowing it A: needed work and had to still pass a safety inspection, and B: the new paperwork needed to be processed, because while the number was on the form, they had never seen VIN on the car.

So I arrived a couple weeks ago, and gave the poor thing a bath. Just a quick rinse revealed there was a car under all that dust!

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I arranged for a tow truck to take it to this Mini guy in the ‘burbs, who runs a small, one car shop that specializes in Classic Minis. The tow truck arrived and took one look at the car and said “whoah, that thing is too small to tow – If I tow it, the oil pan will be resting right on the tow bar. One bump, and it’ll shatter. You need to use a flat-deck truck. Trouble is, the parkade where the car was stored was too low to fit the flat-deck in, so I had to hire TWO trucks; one to tow it out of the parkade, and then another (the flat-deck) to take it to Mister Mini-Suburb-Guy where it can be repaired, the paperwork can be confirmed, and I’ll be able to get underway.

So the first truck arrived and lugged the car outside…

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…and the Mini stepped into the sunlight for the first time in two and a half years!

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Then we towed the thing a couple hundred feet to the waiting flat-deck…

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Then the Mini took a jaunty, covered ride to Richmond, to the Mini Dude, where we popped open the hood (I keep saying “we did it”, when I really mean “trained professionals did it while I took photos”) and had a look inside.

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I explained to the happy Mini man (who REALLY knows Minis, let me tell you) the situation. All we needed to do was to get all these little fixes done, show the inspection guy this new, correct paperwork (which matched the car) and we’d be good to go. Right?

Oh, no.

See, the “correct” paperwork? Here’s the form:

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…and here’s the actual plate inside the Mini:

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There’s a few differences. One, the form is for a 73 British made Mini, and this is a late model 70’s Italian made Mini (called an “Innocenti Mini – which are not all that common). I’ve blurred the serial numbers, but let me assure you – they don’t match. They’re not even CLOSE. So, on paper, this car is one thing, but in real life, it’s another.

Apparerently, this is pretty common with these cars. See, in the US, if you import a car over 10 years old, it’s immune to certain conditions; you don’t need to state the mileage, you don’t need to pass X or Y test; it’s an “old classic”. So what probabaly happened is this car was, at one point, less than 10 years old; it was imported to America and processed with paperwork for ANOTHER, older mini. It’s owner knows it’s a XYZ model Mini, but on paper, it’s a 123 model.

Problem is, this car LEFT the United States with the wrong paperwork. So it’s arrived here, and technically, it doesn’t exist. See, that’s bad. The Ministry of Transport has a policy for cars like this – they don’t know if it’s stolen, or missing, or what – so they CRUSH THEM. What a typically government approach – Destroy what you do not understand! Haven’t they seen Iron Giant?? Geez.

Yeah, so, not looking so good thus far.

So here’s where we’re at. Now, just to be clear, THIS IS ENTIRELY HYPOTHETICAL. I would NEVER do what I’m about to say – it’d be illegal! Even if this DID happen, it’d be something that would happen without, say, involving anyone else…

Let’s say, HYPOTHETICALLY SPEAKING, that little yellow plate? The one that says it’s an Italian Mini? What if it, you know, FELL OFF. And then I got ANOTHER plate made to match the existing serial number that I have on the form – after all, that’s the number that went from the guy to Tanya, and from Tanya to me… it’s on all the forms, etc etc. The only missing link in the chain is the CAR – so if IT matched, we’re good to go. So… yeah. Like that.

So, like Jason Borne, my car would be one thing on paper, but in reality, he’d be somebody else. A double agent car. A car, born of a lie, living a life undercover, claiming to be something it’s not. Oooooh, you know, I could get into that sort of mystery. That’s TOTALLY my car.

Anyhow, the car is home now. It’s not insured, as this whole thing is being worked out. But I’ve decided to bring this car back to life – the paint is faded, oxydised; it needs serious care. So I hopped on to the internet and check out some car fanatic pages – like, people who own the cars with those insane 22″ chrome rims and the custom six-tone paintjobs. Based on what insanity I have read in those forums, I have learned that what I need to restore this car back to it’s orignal condition is a serious dose of PETROCHEMICALS.

So here’s what I’ll be doing for the next little while: We have the technology. We can rebuild him. We will make the six hundred dollar Mini.

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First off, we;ve got Mothers California Gold Car Wash. I’ve been using dish soap (for, like, my whole life, and apparently it’s horrid for cars – it leeches oil out of the paint. News to me. From there, we roll to a fancy “clay bar”, which picks the crap out of the pores; you scrape this clay over the car and it does it’s thing. Apparently all the detailer nut-balls rave about it. Then we do a “paint cleaning” layer; that removes grime, and all the old wax. Then we do a scratch remover, which fills in light surface scratches and swirls; followed by a sealer and glaze, then finally a pure carnauba wax to seal it all in. Phew! Oh, and then there’s this little black lipstick thing (we do that in the middle) that you actually rub in nicks then seal, which fills all the little paint holes up. Then we’ve got goop for the engine that takes off all the oil and crud, and sprays for the interior – it’s got a walnut dash (!!) which needs to be cleaned and protected.

If you don’t want to count, that’s FOUR SEPERATE WAXES AND POLISHES. I did ONE with this schlocky “all in one” wax, which left my arms like jelly. So I bought this little rechargable 4″ polisher thingie for fifty bucks at Canadian Tire (apparently it’s not be that great, but it’s not like I have a lot of car to polish). Then I did my digging around the forums and the insane car-nerds say this multi-system process is the way to bring a car back from the dead. So what the hell. I like this little car – it deserves to look good! A shiney Mini makes for happy, smiling people. I like happy smiling people.

So there we are. I’ll post photos as the restoration process advances. If you’ll excuse me, I have a date scheduled with a clay bar and a shammy.

6 Comments »

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  1. Comment by Cameron @ July 9, 2006, 11:07 pm

    I’m all about fuel economy and reducing greenhouse gases. I’m sure that Mini sips from a thimble.

    Having said that, as we discussed a little while back, I must re-state those three important little words: get Weber carbs!

  2. Comment by That Chad Guy @ July 10, 2006, 8:48 am

    Gamble, your ride is DOPE! That being said, I noticed in your plethora of polishes, waxes, goops and gunks that you bought extra foamies for the orbital polisher but no extra terry cloth waxing/ buffing clothes for which to cover them with. Don’t make the same mistake I made and try polishing with the foamies, they’re not as scratch free as one would like to think.
    Remember, if you are captured trying to conceal the identity of the mini, the Forbzez will disavow any knowlege of you existence…godspeed

  3. Comment by alicalder @ July 10, 2006, 9:45 am

    That car is SICK !! I can’t wait to see you cruise around in it.

  4. Comment by corsiworld @ July 10, 2006, 1:56 pm

    I wish my MINI was as cool as yours.

  5. Comment by thejhop @ July 10, 2006, 10:45 pm

    Oh man, I’m so jealous! That’s a really nice car, but you never seem to have anything go straightforward do you?

  6. Comment by Sarah Walnut @ July 11, 2006, 7:41 am

    Did you check for liens this time?!

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