Ten years. It’s been ten years since this Dark Silver, R53 Mini Cooper S entered my life. For ten years, its been the family’s consistent, reliable-ish(!) and sensationally fun daily driver. For ten years, it’s carried everything from the weekly shopping to Christmas trees. It’s undergone its usual German breakdowns and expensive repairs. It’s travelled nearly 70,000 miles on Irish and Hong Kong roads and I’ve enjoyed every screaming supercharger whine of those miles. And now, I must say a temporary goodbye.
Ten years ago, I was involved in a car accident. Our first MINI, a British Racing Green Cooper was totalled in an accident which left me suitably traumatised, crying and out of school for two days - a car I’d rapidly gotten attached to in the few months we had it, was destroyed in seconds. So when my dad went shopping for another car, I insisted it had to be another MINI. And this was when NX 6166, formerly 05-D-81533 arrived in my life.
Manufactured in June, 2005, this Cooper S was originally owned by a lady in Dublin. She only had it for a month or so before deciding to sell it - she was also a terrible parker as the car arrived with heavy curb rash on every wheel. With the first generation of MINI rapidly approaching end of production, this grey Cooper S with a manual gearbox and Chrono Pack was the only one in the country that matched my dad’s needs.
The day we went to pick it up - I remember it vividly. The car was parked in an underground carpark at Barry Motors in Galway. As the salesman started it, the tank was nearly empty, fuel warning light ominously glowing red. We pootled outside to the petrol station and filled up a quarter tank. He then took us onto a dual carriageway heading towards Oranmore. On a fairly empty stretch, he said “Ready?”. Eight year old me in the back seat with parents, nodded, with no idea what was coming. He then proceeds to slam his foot to the floor. The supercharger wakes up, cries havoc and I’m pinned back into my seat as this little car starts to relentlessly accelerate. We hit nearly 100mph before he hits the anchors as we approach a roundabout. He then chucks it around twice, so hard that the traction control light flashes angrily at us. He then proceeds to exit the roundabout, foot to the floor again. All the while, my mouth is hanging open speechless, brain scrambling to comprehend the performance. I had fallen head over heels in love.
05-D-81533 served us until 2008 when the financial recession hit. Forced to move 6000 miles across the world back to Hong Kong, I couldn’t bear to part with it. My dad relents to my pleading and in autumn 2008, it was loaded in a 40ft container with all our worldy possessions on a several-month long journey across the world. It finally arrives on Asian soil the next year and after a short period of inspection and registration, 05-D-81533 became NX 6166. I’ve still got those old Irish numberplates.
And from then until recently, it’s continued to be my family’s daily driver. It’s suffered its fair share of German reliability problems - in fact half the centre console lights haven’t been working for years. It’s also the first car in which I fixed something (a bulb blew but hey, you’ve got to start somewhere). I’ve overseen its upgrade from its original, heavy 8-spoke wheels to the much lighter two-piece set you see today. I also oversaw the replacement of its original, tired suspension to a swanky new, lower set by JCW. Today, its DD-ing duties have been replaced by my Civic and is now taking a much needed rest although it does occasionally get a late-night coastal run to chase after rubbish drivers in Ferraris.
And now, I must say a temporary goodbye. I’m leaving to study in the UK for three years and there’s only so much I can take with me. I will miss the effortless acceleration in any gear and that glorious supercharger whine. I will miss its hilarious agility and chuckability. Ok, I won’t miss the biblically hard ride, but I brought that upon myself. This will be the last week I’ll be spending with the most consistent childhood friend I’ve ever had - I’ll make it count.