Putting ‘replica Ferrari’ into EBay is not a good idea. Unless of course your eyesight is such that a 1997 MR2 with a glassfibre bodykit does actually look like a Ferrari. The history of motoring is scattered with the worthless remains of cars that somebody somewhere thought would be considerably improved by pretending to be something that they definitely weren’t.
Nobody in their right mind, you would think, would settle for a replica when the real thing is so much better. And I wholeheartedly agree. For instance, we could have added a Cobra replica to our fleet years ago, but so far I’ve resisted. Yet my resistance may be about to break because we have added a replica. But a good one, a very very good one. When it comes to replicas the new Rule of Great Escape dictates that one exception proves the rule. Minis. Everyone wants a Mini Cooper, at least everyone who has ever watched The Italian Job does, and frankly, who hasn’t? Consequently the cost of proper original Mini Coopers is astronomical – £5,000 will just about buy you barn find basket case, £20,000 is nearer the mark for a decent one. Compared to standard Minis of the period or even 90s Mini Coopers, the price for an original, genuine car redefines the meaning of Premium. So when it came to thinking about what to add next to the Great Escape classic car hire fleet and the word ‘Mini’ came up we faced a dilemma. For a £20,000 investment we’d need to hire the car out at somewhere between £200 and £300 a day. For a Mini. We realised that wasn’t going to work. We looked at later 90s Coopers. Despite the popularity of our 2000 model at our Northants site we wanted something different – simpler and closer in feel to the original. Which meant treading a well worn path and creating a Cooper replica. Taking a standard classic Mini and Cooper-ising it is relatively easy and would enable us to offer a classic Cooper experience for less than £100 a day. A result for us and our customers.
Cooperising a standard Mini is a pretty simple task. Aesthetically original Coopers looked much like the standard cars, which was really one of their main attractions. In fact, VW may stake claim to the GTI phenomenon but they simply stole the idea from Morris by creating a faster car that looked much like the rest of the range. Mechanically the cars are also pretty similar with any modifications being relatively straightforward. We chose to concentrate on the aesthetics changes rather than mechanical for two reasons. Firstly, a Mini is about corners not straights, so any improvement in speed is a bit pointless. And secondly, the standard engine is so reliable that any modifications potentially risk that – as the Mini would be a hire car we felt this wasn’t a risk we wanted to take. We may change our minds in future but for now it’s about simple fun.
We found a car that had been professionally restored and Cooperised but needed finishing. Fortunately it was white with a black roof, a simple, stylish combination that we feel works well for classic car hire. The interior was still standard Mini so we fitted new red carpets and a new interior – classic Cobra bucket seats with a matching rear bench. The emphasis throughout is on simple, stylish fun that is true to the original Cooper ethos. And now it’s ready to be tested. It may not be a Cooper but when we can hire it for a fraction of the price of an original, who really, honestly actually cares? I don’t and I have never been a replica fan. But I absolutely love our new Mini (and, whisper it, I’ve never been into Minis). In fact, if it’s free I take it home – my two mile commute transforms from a windy country road into a stage of the Monte Carlo rally. Well, a bit anyway. The Mini is available to hire from our Cotswolds classic car hire site and is in immaculate condition. But don’t let that put you off – just jump in and enjoy. Hire costs £95 for 24 hours or £160 for 48 hours and includes a full 24 hrs use for every hire day, unlimited mileage and full UK breakdown cover. Comprehensive insurance for 1 driver is included in the price and extra drivers can be added for £25 each. To find out more visit http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk or call 01527 893733.