You’ve heard me rave about how much I love my Mini Cooper in articles such as What is Great Design? But I’d like to tell you about how I got one, and how I became hooked on them.
I’m not a car guy by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t tinker under the hood. If you ask me how much torque my car has you will be met with a blank stare and a raised eye brow. I’m also not that extravagent when it comes to cars. I am fortunate to have a few good friends with some amazing cars. Porsche’s, Corvette’s, Audi’s, and a few Ferrari’s sprinkled here and there. And they’ve all been crazy enough to let me drive them. When my college pal, and fellow Microsoft alum, let me drive his Ferrari 355 I was visibly shaking and almost threw up thinking that his car was almost worth as much as my house.
As much as I love all of these beautiful, high-performance works of art, I just don’t have the desire to spend that much money on one. The reality of my life is this. I drive to and from work Monday through Friday, 26 miles a day. I’m a commuter. All other forms of driving are done in our family mini-van because I’ve got kids and a wife. So, I have a real hard time dropping $100K on a commuter car. I want to … and maybe I will when I’m 40 … but not now.
Back in 2004 my lease was expiring on my current vehicle and I was looking for something new. A good friend of mine, who owned a Mini Cooper, kept harrassing me,
“You should get a Mini, Terry. You’ll love it. Best car I’ve ever owned. It’s awesome.”
“I’m sure it is, but, uhhh … I’m not sure I’m a … uhhh … a Mini kind-of guy.”
He didn’t stop. He was very persistent. It almost ended our friendship. He finally said,
“I’ll tell you what, Blanchard. Go test-drive one, and I’ll never say another word. Ever. All you have to do is drive one. No strings.”
“Fine! I’ll take one out tomorrow!”
I show up at the Mini dealership. I didn’t do any research, didn’t look into to prices, stats, or reviews. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zippo. Why? Because I wanted to shut my friend up. Plain and simple. The salesman approaches me,
“Hi, interested in taking this bad girl out for a test drive?”
“You bet. But I must advise you … I want to really see what this car can do. I want to push it’s limits.”
“I sure hope so. Otherwise, you’ll offend her. Let’s go.”
Personalizing the car by calling it “her”. Nice touch, salesman. But I’m onto your sneaky sales tactics and psychological ways. Don’t mess with me. I’m here to settle a bet, nothing more.
We get out into to some industrial, low-traffic area and we’re on a straightaway. I tell him I want to test the stopping distance and advise him to hold on. He’s unphased.
I hit the brakes full force while we’re doing about 80 mph (approx. 130 km/h) and the car is at a standing stop in what seems like a nanosecond. Hmmm. Impressive. But, it’s a small car. It should do that. I try to be unimpressed in front of the sales guy. He then points out to me,
“There’s a 90 degree right-hander ahead. Based on your driving, it’s clear you know how to take a corner. You can take this one at approximately 60 mph (approx. 95 km/h). I don’t respond verbally. Instead, I hit the accelerator. Being unfamiliar with the corner, I err on the side of caution. I take the corner around 50 mph, hit the apex perfectly, accelerate quickly out of the corner. Not a single tire squeal. Internally, my mind is saying, “Holy fuck! That was awesome!” The salesman turns to me and says,
“You can do better than that. Go around again. I said 60 mph would be fine.”
I think I was just told. Yup, I was called out. The gloves came off, and he was coming right at me. Alright, let’s go. I loop around and hit the corner again, about 70 mph. There was tire squeal, and I almost swung too far wide, but I kept it off the curb. What I couldn’t do, was keep that huge smile off my face.
We drive back to the dealership and I pull into the parking spot located in front when I utter the worst possible sentence any uninformed buyer can make,
“I’ll take it.”
“Great! I’ll go draw up the paperwork.”
Idiot, idiot, idiot. I’m already devising my exit strategy as I follow him back to his office. Price, maintenance, residual. I keep ticking these items off in my head. One of them will get me out of this mess! Not one of them did. Not because of a super-slick salesman. Nope, just an awesome car, price, experience, and overall joy.
I’ll talk more about the specifics in my next article.