When Mini has a birthday coming up, something incredible is usually about to happen. The 60th anniversary has been no different, celebrated with the Incredible Mini Tour across England – the birthplace of Mini. We recruited the ideal driver for the 2019 tour; Dimitri “Dee” Fragos from Athens, Greece is a man whose life overflows with passion for Mini. And then there are the wonderful fans who have answered our call to welcome Dee along the way, tell him their Mini stories and even offer him a bed for the night. The route for the tour was therefore dictated not only by Mini history but more particularly by the fans.
Dee set off on his Incredible Mini Tour in a white classic Mini. More than 700 miles across England lay in store. Almost every day he was greeted by a Mini fan. Take David in Brighton, one of life’s less patient Mini enthusiasts, who bought his first Mini at the age of 15. Or Vaibhav in Huddersfield, a budding race engineer. Or Oxford native Ben, a keen-as-mustard classic Mini racing driver whose garage is at least as impressive as the sensational 1963 Morris Mini Cooper ‘S’ FIA inside it. Dee stopped by at both fan clubs and a suitably riotous Mini Festival in Beaulieu, where he even met Mike Cooper. He then cruised around London’s Mini landmarks and recalled how the Queen was won over by the Mini’s charms on a drive with Alec Issigonis. At the British Motor Museum in Warwick he clapped eyes on the original Mini driven by Hopkirk to an utterly astonishing victory in the legendary Monte Carlo Rally in 1964. Dee visited the old factory site at Longbridge, where the first wave of Minis rolled off the production line in 1959. In Liverpool he picked up the trail of The Beatles, Mini drivers to a man. And then it was into the present day (and many days to come) with a pilgrimage to Plant Oxford, where every Mini is customised and robots beaver away far and wide. So it was that the Incredible Mini Tour shone the spotlight on the history of the brand, but more vividly still on the lives of Mini fans in the here and now. The stop-offs on Dee’s journey, the engaging get-togethers and any number of out-of-the-blue experiences can all be revisited on Instagram @official_miniclassic via the Incredible Tour highlights. And a film brimming with impressions of the tour hotspots will be available on our BMW Group Classic YouTube channel from August.
Dee’s story: from the birthplace of Dee to the birthplace of Mini.
The relationship between Dee and Mini dates back to before his birth, when – still in his mother’s womb – he was whisked across Athens in his grandfather’s Mini 850 to the hospital where he would emerge into the world a short time later. Needless to say, Dee has been a massive Mini fan ever since. He duly inherited the yellow Mini and embarked on his dream career as a mechanic. And now, in an extraordinary show of commitment to the cause, he has shared his enthusiasm with the international Mini community. Dee’s story is recounted in full as part of our “Our Brands. Our Stories.” film here.
To the Incredible Mini Tour and beyond.
Mini fans signed up as hosts for the tour in large numbers, but sadly some would have sent Dee on a rather too distant detour from his trans-England route. But no matter; we can bring you their captivating stories from Germany, Australia, Mexico and Belgium right here.
Moritz says his Mini Cooper R56 always brings a smile to his face. Even when he’s using it to carry a full drum kit to his next gig – just like Ringo Starr used to do when playing with the Beatles. Mini is something that runs in Five Lakes Region the family for Moritz; he also likes to get behind the wheel of his father’s Mini Cooper S.
Taking the scenic route with Mini.
According to Moritz, the Five Lakes Region in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps is quintessential Mini terrain. He loves to take his car here for a quick spin, and feels like king of the road as he weaves his way up and down through the mountain scenery. “Fun at the wheel, comfort despite all the sportiness, and the sense of freedom and love,” is how Moritz describes what it feels like to drive. And he goes the extra mile to capture the feeling in photographs, making sure he’s always in the right place at the right time. He artfully shows off his Mini from its best side with panoramic landscapes as a backdrop and in the most stunning natural lighting. So it comes as little surprise that the 20-year-old is hoping to eventually get a job that involves cars – preferably Minis.
Morris. Now there’s a surname. Out of the Morris Motor Company came Mini. And out of Karen and Peter Morris has grown an avid collecting operation. They began amassing classic Minis 40 years ago, but soon found themselves having to sell on the best examples after parenthood imposed rather different vehicular demands. That was until a rough old Mini 850 crossed their paths in 2009 to revive the flames of car-collecting passion. Peter had always restored his Minis himself, building up his knowledge base as each car came and went. His skillset now comprises welding, metal-working, engine repairing, upholstery stitching and painting.
A collection of distinct charm.
Karen and Peter Morris now own 23 roadworthy classic Minis, including two Mini Vans, two Mini Pick-ups and an array of Mini hatches dating from 1961 to 1970 – most with the sliding windows for which they appear to have a particular soft spot. Alongside the fully functioning Minis are a handful of others awaiting restoration. To distinguish between their ranks of classic Minis, Karen and Peter give each car a name, creating a Mini story all of their own. The names refer to the places they found the cars, e.g. Yak (from Yackandandah), or first owners, like Daryl (named after original custodian Darrel) and Derrick, an English Mini Panel Van from 1963 which rates as one of the Australian couple’s most extensive restoration projects.
Morris 850 Day puts smiles on faces.
Karen and Peter share their passion for Mini generously. On Father’s Day weekend each year, for example, they host Morris 850 Day. 2019 brought the seventh edition of the event and saw the couple’s entire collection taking to the road. Friends, family and neighbours are all invited, and all have the chance to get behind the wheel of the classic Minis themselves! And it goes without saying that other Mini owners from the region also join in, the Morris classic Mini collection having acquired cult status.
Marco has been a big Mini fan ever since he was a young boy, when he collected Miniatures in all sorts of colours and sizes. He was particularly captivated by the classic Mini, despite it being something of a rarity on Mexico’s roads. His favourite film was, of course, The Italian Job. His decision to study automotive engineering eventually brought him to England, the home of Mini. Once there, he immediately set out in search of his dream car, finally settling on a red classic Mini Mayfair from 1992.
World trip by container ship.
After completing his degree in England, Marco knew one thing for sure: he had to take his Mini Mayfair back to Mexico with him. This was no mean task, as organising transport was more complicated than expected and his flight home was fast approaching. At last, he managed to arrange shipment aboard a container vessel. His Mini sailed from Southampton to Europe, Africa, South America and finally Mexico, exposed to the elements throughout the voyage. Two months after leaving England, Marco was at long last reunited with his beloved Mini Mayfair when it arrived in the port of Veracruz. Today, he lives in the Mexican city of Córdoba, where he regularly causes a stir with his classic Mini. Complete strangers get so excited at the sight of his car, they want to take photos. Sometimes, this makes him feel like a bit of a celebrity.
Aged 16, Gunther the skateboard-toting teenage revolutionary, headed off to Hastings, England for a language course. As it happened, a convoy of classic Minis had the same idea (just not to go on a language course, as far as we know) and he watched in instant adoration as the cars sashayed past. Years later and now with a family of his own, the image remained lodged in his head. So off he went in search of a classic Mini to call his own. In Wuppertal, Germany, he finally came across the perfect car: a black Mini Cooper. Holger, the seller and a Mini fan, soon hit it off with Gunther. The two became friends and have remained so to this day.
Perfect in imperfection.
Gunther didn’t need his perfect classic Mini to be “too” perfect, if you see what we mean. Gunther was looking for a Mini in sound condition with a few nice extras, and he wanted to work on it himself. After all, getting it up on a ramp would provide him with as much pleasure as driving it. And so, four years after buying the black Mini Cooper, Gunther set about it with his spanners. The brakes were repaired, the ignition coil, distributor and cabling were replaced. The carburettor currently lies in pieces in his garage. He’s already looking forward to taking it out for a spin along country roads near his home, immersing himself and his family in waves of go-kart feeling.
Pride and pleasure.
Gunther’s black Mini Cooper is a real gem and has been immortalised in Jörg Hajt’s book “Das Neue Große Mini Buch” (The Big New Mini Book), indicating a wider following.
Pieter’s life changed aged 22 when he bought a frog-eyed classic Mini Mayfair. The Mini needed no more than a little TLC, but Pieter was already in the grip of restoration fever. While his next purchase – a 1967 Mini – remains spread across his Garage awaiting re-assembly, several other restoration projects are on hand to deflect attention, such as a Mini City E from 1983, a 1999 Mini 40, a Mini Cooper 998 MK1, a MK1 RHD 850cc, a Belgian Mini MK2 and the vestiges of a Mini Van. Only on occasion does he sell on a Mini he’s restored.
Word spread about Pieter’s hobby and soon down-at-heel Minis were being donated to the cause. Rescue acts were performed on Mini MK3s, Mini Clubmans and Innocenti Mark 1s. A couple of sorry MK4s, though, have served only as parts bins. Pieter’s passion was such that his father didn’t need to consult his son before snapping up a Mini Moke for him as an impulse purchase in Portugal. Clearly, Pieter soon it back in top condition. 15 years on from his first Mini, he now owns 17 classic Minis ranging from a bare chassis to fully restored models and racing conversions.
A talented racer.
Pieter also had another dream: to take a classic Mini out on the track. So he prepped a Mini (his 998 Mini Turbo) specially for drag racing. But the itch still needed scratching. So after a long search, he also found a Mini Miglia and a suitable racing engine with which to make his debut – as part of a team of drivers – in the British Car Trophy in 2016. That was followed by an outing in the Mini 7 Racing Club. Turns out he had some talent, and in 2018 he finished third in the British Car Trophy. But his racing career never really got lift-off, the funds and time required to take this hobby to the next level proving a deterrent; he could never give up restoring cars in favour of racing them.