Welcome to Project Barney
One of the wonderful things about daily-driving Barney, a 51 year old Mini, is that feeling I get each day of simply looking forward to driving. I once heard if you don’t look back at your car when you park it and start to walk away, you’ve got the wrong car. Well, I can say I look back at Barney.
Daily Mini motoring means the senses are constantly stimulated.
The sight of the curvature of bonnet and guards through a tiny windscreen, in my case adorned with a boy-racer white roundel, is a constant reminder of the diminutive scale of the Mini. The reflection of its tiny shape in shop front windows, dancing between the glass and door frames, brings no end of joy. The sight of the smiles on children’s faces at traffic lights or the knowing nod of a road worker who gives you a thumbs up while mouthing “niiiiiice,'' makes you feel like you’ve won some kind of life lottery.
The gurgling sound of a 45mm Weber sucking hard just millimetres behind the centre binnacle, feeding fuel into a vast thirteen hundred and ten cc combustion chamber, ready to be burned and blasted through a neighbour-infuriating exhaust system, is a soundtrack I play on repeat. Sound is an immensely variable landscape in a Mini. Your ears are carefully tuning in and out. While reveling in the cacophony of drop gear whines and crackling RC40 snarls, you’re also acknowledging the squeaks and rattles and constantly monitoring changes in their intensity to set new priorities for weekend maintenance.
They say that olfactory response - the stimulation of memory and feelings by associated smells - is a powerful and deeply personal phenomena. For me, the smell of hot engine oil, splattering its way about Barney’s engine bay while rich exhaust fumes seep into the cabin, triggers fond memories of my childhood. I grew up with old MGs and the aromas of grease, oil, hot rubber and fuel - particularly racing fuel - take me straight back to a happy place at each whiff.
Touch is an important part of daily life in a Mini. Plastic is the exception, not the norm in a Mini and this is very much at opposites with a modern car. Metal, in its various stages of decay, is reassuring to the touch and even though Barney is small, he feels solid. The timber accent of a wood-rim steering wheel also adds to the sensory delight and makes interfacing with the road an experience to be savored. On a cold day and a long drive, the touch of the wheel is suitably dulled only by string-back driving gloves.
I am yet to taste Barney. That’s just weird.
So, welcome to Project Barney. Join us over the coming months as we document the next stage in Barney’s development, all aimed at heightening the senses.
Thanks to the good folk at minisport.com.au and Mini Works Australia, Barney will be on the receiving end of some new go fast bits, some more loud bits and some much needed attention from specialists who know what they’re doing.