For drivers who just wanna have fun, the Mini is the only game in town. Or so claims Adam Grenon, an irrepressible 33-year-old music teacher from Whitby, Ont., who not long ago purchased his first Mini, a Clubman, from a fellow member of the Toronto Mini Club.
“I challenge anyone to get into this car and not end up saying, ‘Okay, the Mini is the most fun car you’ll ever drive,’” Grenon says.
He is what’s known as a “Miniac” – but it’s not a particularly unique distinction, because if you spend any time with Mini owners, they all seem cut from the same cloth. And their temples are the Mini clubs found across the country.
“I actually joined the club before I owned a Mini because I wanted to get a sense of what the Mini culture was like,” Grenon says. What he discovered was that Mini aficionados are an innately creative group who delight in making their Minis distinct. Miniacs customize, modify and accessorize their cars and then hit the road so all can enjoy their creations.
In late July, Grenon and members of his club ventured in convoy to Niagara-on-the-Lake for the Mini Invasion, a Woodstock-like celebration of “all things Mini” and, as he wandered the grounds of Fort George – where 162 Minis were aligned for inspection – Grenon was not surprised to see that “no two Minis were alike. It’s fantastic.”
Such enthusiasm is contagious. “The Mini has become something of a cult,” says Adam Shaver, director of Mini Canada. “The Mini brand is very difficult to slot in terms of traditional demographics. It’s not defined age, gender, or income; it’s all about a mindset. Whether they’re 20, or 90, Mini owners are all fundamentally young-at-heart and animated by an intense enthusiasm for driving their cars.”
Kirk Henry exudes this maniacal passion. Asked what makes Mini so special, the president of the 610-member Mini Club of Quebec says, “The handling is the only way I can describe it. You feel like you’re driving a go-kart.”
Shaver agrees. “Until you actually drive one, it’s hard to really appreciate how brilliantly it handles,” he says. “With its low centre of gravity and its wheels at the very edge of the chassis, the car is just extremely stable and takes tight turns effortlessly.”
Says Grenon: “Often I’ve had guys in $70,000 Porsches getting extremely frustrated because they can’t decimate my $26,000 Mini Cooper. It’s just the perfect driving base, it’s stable and close to the ground.”
Mini Canada shipped more than 6,000 cars last year and by the end of 2014, it expects to sell its 50,000th car. These are impressive numbers considering this classic British brand was re-launched by BMW in 2001 (2002 in Canada).
With about 100 members, the Toronto Mini Club has a website, a Facebook group, an excellent technical community and a membership that relishes sharing information and supporting one another.
“I’m not a car guy – I’m a Mini guy,” Grenon says. “What I know about cars, I learned at the Toronto Mini Club. Our club is very diverse and that’s what I love about it. A lot of car clubs are pretty stereotypical – people from the same background – but we’re more like a biker club with folks from all walks of life.”
But what likely characterizes most Mini club members is their love of the road. “It’s fun going to events like the Mini Invasion at Niagara,” says Grenon. “Because it’s such a fun car to drive, it’s the journeys we take together that is the best part. It’s not about your quarter-mile speeds, or the straightaways, or highways. It’s about the turns, the twists, the curvy fun country roads. It’s about the sheer delight in driving.”
And the sheer delight in drawing attention to yourself. “The Mini is just a very cute car, you get noticed,” says Henry.
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