Driving through the busy streets of Athens, Greece, I get plenty of smiles and thumbs ups. Of course I like to think it’s because I’m a really cool guy and that’s definitely true but I must admit people are probably reacting mostly to the car I’m driving. It’s nothing fancy, not like an expensive sports or a luxury car. It’s not even very big and if I’m honest most days it could probably use a wash.
However, it’s a very special car for me and it makes me happy to see when people like it. This car is my very own 1978 Belgium-built sand glow classic Mini 850.
The Mini as a family member.
Minis are always popular, the design is iconic and they just have a friendly appearance. It’s like my grandfather said when he bought this particular one I’m driving today. ‘I like the look of it, the front looks like it’s smiling at you’. This was true back then in 1986 and it’s still true today. It was this Mini and my grandfather who got me hooked on Minis and cars in general. I was fascinated as a little boy, the car was so special and I loved and looked up to my grandfather.
We spent a lot of time together driving and even more time fixing it. This little Mini 850 became part of my family and I always knew I would keep it that way for as long as I could. My grandfather was a truck driver for 34 years in my hometown of Serres in Greece. After he retired he was looking to get himself a nice car. In 1986 he stumbled upon the Mini 850 on a used car lot and bought it on the spot. It was only a simple entry model Mini but Grandpa immediately fell in love with it.
It was only two years later that he had to rush my mother to the hospital in this Mini, she was about to give birth to me so I suppose the car has been a part of my life from the very beginning.
It was worth it.
In 1997 a drowsy driver hit my grandfather from behind on a Greek interstate leaving the Mini in very bad shape. Most people would have let it go but Grandpa was determined to fix it up again. This was rather difficult because local Greek mechanic shops didn’t always have the right tools to work on this British car and parts were also very hard to come by. My favorite example was the front grill from an Opel Kadett they put in upside down to fit the Mini. I was 11 years old then and being around my grandfather and the Mini, seeing the process of getting it repaired started my passion for cars and Minis in particular.
Because it was the late 90s and I saw how difficult it was to source parts for the Mini in Greece I got really good at finding like-minded classic Mini enthusiasts on the Internet. There were so many of them all over the world and particularly in the US. Over time I got all the right spare parts to put my Mini back together properly. My grandfather had since passed on and of course he left the Mini to me as he knew I would take very good care of our little Mini 850. The car I learned to drive with and got to share so many moments with my grandfather in was now my own and I was proud to carry on the tradition.
Today I am very much involved with the classic Mini scene running the Mini Pick Up International Club. I’m also an active member with Mini Owners of America - San Francisco where I have attended a couple of the annual meetings in the US. For 2019 I am planning to drive my pick up Mini all the way from Athens to the UK to celebrate the International Mini Meeting in Bristol.
Classic Minis are a great passion of mine, a passion started by my beloved grandfather and handed down to me through my very special and unique classic Mini 850.