Jim Predmore had to wait a long time to buy his Mini Cooper S from a friend – an incredible 35 years, in fact. During the subsequent restoration project, he came face-to-face with his personal limits. It took years to get the small, one-time racing car back up and running. So it’s no surprise that Jim now likes to drive the Mini at every opportunity.
Chapter 1: An unusual little car.
Back in 1968, Jim Predmore was living in sunny southern California when a good friend bought an exciting new car. It immediately stood out because it was so different. Jim had never seen this model before and his reaction was typical of many of his countrymen: it was downright tiny. This particular Austin Mini Cooper S was built in 1966. The famously sporting version of the Mini, only around 1,300 examples ever found their way over to the US. Even a standard classic Mini was hardly a common sight stateside. Moreover, the Cooper had bona fide racing pedigree. Its engine churned out 80 hp from its modest 1,275cc. And it had modern disc brakes at the front and twin fuel tanks for improved range and weight distribution – to name just a couple of its sporting extras. Jim’s pal drove his Cooper regularly at the Riverside International Raceway in California until its engine went pop in 1971. The pint-sized racer was then stowed away in a garage to be repaired at some point in the future. The plan, however, was soon forgotten.
Chapter 2: Never give up.
From the very first glimpse, Jim thought his friend’s Mini Cooper S was terrific and begged to buy it from him. Unfortunately it was not to be. Even when the car was removed from action and the dust started to pile up, his friend refused to part with it. This state of affairs continued for years, with Jim repeatedly making an offer, only for it to be rebuffed. By 2006, an incredible 35 years later, his friend finally had his arm twisted and, after parting with 4,000 dollars, Jim could take the Cooper home. Great joy was soon followed by great despair, as the sobering realisation dawned that a huge amount of work would be required if the former racing car was to be driven with time-honoured verve and spirit. The damaged engine had been completely dismantled, mice had nested in the upholstery and, with the vehicle having been out of use for so long, practically every component needed attention. After making his purchase, Jim joined the Mini Owners of America San Francisco Club, where other members made fun of his new acquisition’s imperfections and nicknamed the car “Lumpy”. Jim ignored them. He wasn’t intending to undertake a full restoration project anyway – he simply wanted an original small car that he could drive on a daily basis.
Chapter 3: A little box on wheels.
In the late 1950s, British car designer Sir Alec Issigonis came up with a new concept for what would become the archetypal small car. The classic Mini was a genuine revolution. With room for four people plus luggage, it weighed just 618 kilograms at the kerb. This “box on wheels” came onto the market in 1959 and was no more than 3.05 m long, 1.35 m tall and 1.41 m wide. It took a while for major success to materialise, but Minis soon acquired cult status. Almost 5.4 million of them were built by the time production ceased in the year 2000. Superstars such as The Beatles, Peter Sellers, Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood and Paul Newman were all enthusiastic Mini drivers.
Chapter 4: Time to consult an expert.
Jim rolled up his sleeves and set to work. He started to take the car apart, look for new components and delve into the details. After two and a half years of disassembly, he sensed that the whole project was going to take much longer than he had initially envisaged. At that point he took the car to Jon Becker, who runs a workshop specialising in British cars – and specifically classic Minis. Here the car’s mechanicals were overhauled, while Jimmy’s Auto Body took care of the bodywork. For the paintwork, Jim decided against the original green and instead opted for Mercedes red with a white roof. By 2011 the long-awaited Mini Cooper S was finally ready. It was a moment to savour.
Chapter 5: Jim’s perfect car for every day.
It had taken five years but finally Jim was able to get behind the wheel and take his car for a spin. At that time, he still had no idea what it was actually like to drive a classic Mini. In the event, he was blown away by the driving feeling and roadholding on offer; it was so much more than he’d expected. These days he is president of the Mini Owners of America San Francisco Club. “Lumpy”, meanwhile, has won a couple of competitions and been photographed for a host of magazines. Ultimately, though, Jim prefers to use the car as nature intended – for driving. And no wonder, after waiting such a long time for the privilege.