Production of the classic Mini stopped in 2000 but it still has countless fans around the world, including among the younger generation. They have discovered the delights of the Mini – a fun, speedy car that is small, unpretentious and egalitarian. They meet in clubs like Minipeople Lithuania, a cheerful family that just wants to share good times.
Lithuania is a Baltic state with a population of around 2.7 million, making it quite a small country. Until 1990 it was part of the Soviet Union, which dissolved in 1991. Up until that point, dreams of owning a ‘Western car’ had been practically impossible to realise, even though the inexpensive classic Mini would have fitted the bill perfectly. Lithuania has been part of the EU since 2004 and adopted the euro as its currency in 2015. Ideal conditions then for Lithuanians to catch up on things they might have missed.
Laptop and Mini – Mindaugas, the digital native.
Mindaugas Lataitis is 35 years old and lives in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. He is a digital communications specialist and CEO of an agency. A perfect job in a country that has the best-developed fibre-optic network in Europe and where over three-quarters of the population owns a smartphone. The classic Mini, a child of the analogue Swinging Sixties, might seem a bit incongruous here, but in fact the contrary is true: a Mini is small and likeable. You don’t have to be wealthy to afford one. You just sit behind the wheel and smile. This has held true for more than 60 years, since the car was first launched in 1959.
Mindaugas discovered the classic Mini because a good friend of his took him along to a Mini meeting in Poland in his 1986 Austin Mini. It took seventeen hours to get there – enough time to fall in love. But it took another five years for Mindaugas to find his 1996 Mini Cooper and do it up the way he wanted. Since then, the two of them have been a team, a perfect match.
Minipeople. More of a family than a club.
Minipeople Lithuania is the only Mini club in the country. This is hardly surprising, since the Mini was not allowed to be sold here during the Soviet Union era. There are only around 100 classic Minis in Lithuania today and a quarter of them are owned by club members. The members know one another. Most of them are friends and there is a proper family atmosphere. Mindaugas calls it ‘a cosy people club’.
Five or six times a year there are group outings, usually for a day. Then the grown-ups get to try their hand at go-karting while the little ones paint a real car. Afterwards, they sit down to share a good meal – and plenty of laughter, of course. Travelling in a long line, like colourful beads on a necklace, the classic Minis meet with thumbs-ups and smiles everywhere they go. It just goes to show: you don’t need to have sat in a Mini as a child or have gone on your first date in a Mini to fall in love with it.
In Lithuania, it’s difficult to find a classic Mini outside of the club scene. They are usually imported by the fans themselves. One of the club members has now specialised in Minis and offers professional assistance with technical problems, servicing and restoration work. That makes life easier for all those who don’t have the skills or inclination to start tinkering with their own cars.
The annual International Mini Meeting (IMM) will take place in Lithuania for the second time in 2025. It was first held here in 2015. Mindaugas and his friends want to participate in the tender to organise the IMM again and make it, as they say themselves, even better – bigger, funnier, crazier. In other words: totally Mini.