Off Camber
Off Camber

Enthusiast

A young person's take on the automotive industry and community.

C&C Spotlight: a Mini Clubman GT keeps old school cool

One of my favorite things about Cars and Coffee events is their eclectic nature. Their draw—an open door for all car lovers and enthusiasts—is also the thing that keeps them interesting. Without a specific marque or automotive purpose, there is never a similar mix at any given event.

Whether in the East Bay Area in California or the greater PDX area in Oregon, I don’t think I’ve ever even seen a pair of events where the attendance was similar. For an enthusiast like me—who is borderline fanatical in my love for Datsuns, Nissans, and vintage racing—Cars and Coffee events are one of the few places I can have my eyes opened to a new brand of automotive culture.

Sure, Cars and Coffee is its own kind of culture. It’s nonchalant, non-competitive (this one is very important), and spontaneous. No one attends a C&C event with an air of superiority—well, almost no one.

cough Malibu cough

There are no trophies—which brings project cars, the ugly ducklings of a marque, and—most importantly—drivers. The kinds of cars that are loved and cherished through the act of thrashing up and down canyon roads or performing menial errands, just so their owners can drive them.

One day might see the local Alfa Romeo Club while another might bring a hoard of Gambler 500 participants. The two couldn’t be more dissimilar—but they also couldn’t be more welcomed in my mind.

So I’ll be spotlighting some of these gems that have helped me expand the boundaries of my automotive ideology—my auteology.

The first is this:

At Cars and Coffee PDX two weeks ago, my ‘70s breadbox spidey senses tingled. The hairs on my arms stood up—differently than they already were because I was cold; it was more like they bent into perfect 90 degree angles. In a show full of Subaru and Porsche fodder was a lightweight, halfling champion…

A Mini Clubman GT:

While there are few things I love more than a wagon—a classic wagon is one of them. For me, this Mini hit the spot as I watched it roll in. I spotted it out of the corner of my eye, as it pulled into the lot off the industrial frontage road. The small, yellowed headlights immediately drew my attention.

It just looked so right, parked between two late 2000s sports cars. Mustang GT, Honda S2000—meet your elder. Your far more handsome, interesting elder. The fun didn’t stop with the headlights, though. The riveted flares and aggressively offset ‘Superlight’ wheels made me wonder… what was under the hood?

Finally! The hood was open for a few minutes and I got to sneak in for a quick snap as the owner talked to a passerby.

I honestly didn’t expect what I saw. I mean, Honda swaps are the most outlandish thing I’ve seen stuffed into a Mini. That’s a lie, actually, I did see a Mini at The Mitty with an SBC stuffed in the BACK. That’s a whole other kind of crazy, though.

Three words (do they count as three if they’re hyphenated, English major fail): blow-through turbo. A very small turbo ran through a single SU carburetor*. It was so British my coffee spontaneously turned to Earl Grey.

My mind was blown.

Not only was this Mini old school—it was the kind of old school you just don’t see anymore. The kind that people only did back in the day because, you know, they were back in the day. Computers, boost controllers, O2 sensors… none of that existed when people used to do this. To think, someone not only went to the trouble to make this Mini look the part—they made it go the part, too—made it hands down the most interesting car of the morning.

*Fun fact: I actually used to have dual sidedraft SU carburetors very similar to these on my Datsun 510 wagon. Hitachi developed (read: knocked-off) SU carb design, which were then used on several Nissans including the SSS Bluebirds (410, 510, 610, and 710 generations) and the 240z, 260z, and early 280z. End fun fact.

Matthew DockeryWorld of Speed