Random cars we like

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ThunderBeast – The Drive


ThunderBeast is our first generation MINI GP. He has just returned from the garage where he has had a full service, two new front bushes, two new front shocks, a couple of oil leaks fixed and a perishing petrol cap replaced. It was good having him back. This is a car that makes you want to write about something as simple as just driving him…

I clocked out of work early, I had suffered enough pain from the cancer in my back. I wanted to rest. First though I was relishing the drive home in ThunderBeast – Our MINI GP1. As I crossed the work car park I clicked the remote and heard a faint click as the remote control opened. My heart matched the click. My mind had been conjuring with a catch phrase for the car. Mini has the “blow the bloody doors off” and Glennister has made “Fire up the Quattro” a modern classic.

I slid into the full leather Recaro seat. “Gun up the GP Ade” I said to myself, at the same time putting the heated seat on to comfort my aching back. The revs as it started hinted at the symphony the car promised to play to me. I reversed out of my parking space slow, real slow, prolonging the moment. Work colleagues were watching me. I was real slow, they were probably wondering where my Trilby was. I crawled past them giving a quick wave.

The road outside the factory was a thirty. Full of pot holes and abandoned cars and lorries on the pavements and road. Schoolkids were passing along. I took it slow to the lights at the top of the road. I was at the front at the lights. I gunned the throttle as I took a right and hit 40 in seconds.The supercharger whined. The Limited slip did its work on the bend. How do I explain the pleasure that move just gave me.

I slowed up to the roundabout then shot through it, stopping on a red light on the roundabout stopping me entering onto the motorway. A green light and I whizzed up to 70 as I went down the slip way, easing off as I did so.The supercharger whined, the exhaust popped as I let off. The car was playing its favourite tune.Driving this is not about speeding, I know how fast it will go, it’s having fun but legal fun.

I cruised along the motorway for one stop.I looked around the cockpit of the GP. Near vertical A-panels gave it a tank like feel. Things looked huge in the rear view mirror and the side mirrors. The gray instruments looked special. The loops of silver gray in the door panels gave it a rally car feel. It feels like a very special place.

Off the motorway now and exiting Upton’s 30 limit onto a 60. Two cars ahead were dawdling along. I lined them up and floored the GP. “Waaaaaaaaaarrrrrp!” went the supercharger as we flew past them. At 60 they were out of sight behind and I reined him in. Again the exhaust popped. My heart was a part of the car. It popped too as it recovered from the “warp” that shot through my chest.

I got home. Peanut was waiting for me on our steps. She hugged me and kissed me. Was she kissing Beastmaster or Steve McQueen? How should I know, I mean inside I felt like Steve McQueen.

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MINI GP First Generation – ThunderBeast Latest Addition to Our Fold.

We have been a part of the MINI community for about 13 years now and most of those who know us, will know that We have always wanted a first generation MINI GP. We have had a fair few MINIs in this time but this one we missed out on having ordered a Checkmate just before this came out.

Every time we have been to a static New MINI show we have drooled over the GPs. Many of our friends have had them, Aston, Chris and Jax and Scream who still drives his today. Chris and Jax gave us an extended test run of theirs allowing us to drive it from Malvern to Cardiff on the back roads through Wales and we were suitably impressed.

Finally, ten years after the GP was launched we were in a position to add one to our small collection. Recently we were holidaying in Italy and by a wonderful coincidence bumped into Scream and his wife Becky and daughter Minnie in the Piazza del Campo in Siena. We lunched, chatted and caught up on the gossip and I mentioned that we were looking for a GP. A few days later Scream messaged me telling me if a friend who had one. We arranged to see it and on Sunday we collected our very own GP. It has been part of the MINI community for many years so many will know the car.

It had a long first drive from Yorkshire to Malvern and it gave us a chance to see what we had. We have a MINI Coupe JCW and inevitably it is that that we draw a comparison too. I have recently blogged that the Coupe is a GP-esque GT. A grand tourer with the sporty overtones of this GP.  Now having both I think that is definitely correct. 

The Coupe is a lot more economical. In truth I feel it is a smidge faster but in handling I think I prefer the GP. It is the mechanical limited slip differential that gets you round a corner so beautifully that just edges the handling in the GP’s favour. The Coupe is a grown up hooligan. The GP is an adolescent hooligan. The Coupe has all the toys for grand touring particularly sat nav. The GP though also has the heated seats and in the case of this one a very nice sounding Kenwood stereo matched to big boot floor mounted speakers. It sounds great, better than the Harmon Kardon on the Coupe but is fiddly to use and lacks the DAB of the Coupe which is so vital for the football.

The GP has a supercharger, the Coupe has a Turbo. One is grown up, one isn’t. One is a veritable musical instrument, one isn’t. Both are immense fun but the Supercharger is in truth the more addictive drug. You can poodle about in the Coupe. The GP whispers in your ear telling you to go faster. 

These are now my children so don’t expect me to pick a favourite they all have their strengths and weaknesses. We have a Paceman SD and an Opel GT and the Elf has CooperBeast a first Generation Cooper. The Paceman is the most comfortable and grown up car of the lot. The Opel, the fastest in a straight line, a fantastic posers car (I do like that) and of course it’s a convertible so has the most headroom. The Cooper is the best in terms of matching the car’s handling to the driver. Of all of them this is the one you can drive flat out for most of the time.

To conclude then, the GP is raw, the Coupe more grown up, both are hooligans, the GP an adolescent hooligan, the Coupe a grown up hooligan. We are lucky people, we have cars that suit all jobs except one. None of them are on the company car tick list for the Middle Class, Middle Manager for his work commute and I think that is just how I like it!

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Car Of The Week – MINI GP

When I first set eyes on the new MINI GP above, I wasn’t really smitten. It was a soft launch with little information and an interior that you could not see and to be honest I was more taken with the original. Now though the car has started to filter onto the streets and I saw it again this weekend at RAF Cosford and this time round I was much more impressed. It has a presence there is no denying that and the rear diffuser definitely looks the business. Continue reading