Home » Why I Went Back To An Old Love, Even Though I Knew I Shouldn’t

Why I Went Back To An Old Love, Even Though I Knew I Shouldn’t

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“What fresh hell will today bring?”, wondered our anti-hero as he stared ruefully out of the window, exhaling cigarette smoke. If you’ve been tuning in recently (and if not why not?), you’ve read that here at Casa de Clarke things have been a little, well, rough. To recap, in the last few weeks, on the way to the Historic Masters Grand Prix festival at Brands Hatch the Ferrari took an almighty shit on my Visa bill to the tune of nearly £1,800.

Shortly after, my special little best buddy Mr. Tigg crossed over the rainbow bridge. Then I had an unscheduled trip to the emergency room in the back of an ambulance, with crippling abdominal pains. And finally, my long anticipated trip to the Royal International Air Tattoo was a total washout and I scraped a wheel on the Honda Civic Type R press car I was driving.

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In between all of this, there’s been continuing family drama and ongoing house redecorating. If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have any luck at all.

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How did I deal with all this existential trauma? Normally like any not-that-well-adjusted person I would replace my feelings with new clothes and boots. Mind you, if I WAS well adjusted I wouldn’t have found a home here.

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But my wardrobe Is already bursting and I don’t get much of an opportunity to wear all the boots I do have. No. On the advice of my therapist Dr. Torchinsky (at least the hand-crayoned certificate hanging on his basement wall said he was a real doctor), I got a new car. Is that not the Autopian way of medicating away bad emotions?

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I’ve been driving my 2010 Range Rover Sport for about 18 months, having traded in my 8J Audi TT for it in December 2021. The Audi was a car I liked but didn’t really love. When I bought it I really wanted a Golf GTi, but for the same age of car they were thousands more expensive.

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I reasoned the TT was a GTi in a cocktail dress, but that didn’t really turn out to be the case. So the decision to get into a Range Rover was threefold: they can be spectacular value for money; it would be more practical for taking Mother Dearest (who is disabled and used a mobility buggy) out, and I needed something a bit more practical for clearing a load of crap out of the house.

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The old saw about Gaydon’s finest being a wheeled hell portal to emotional and financial ruin? I got mine a bit under book (£11,000) and used the money saved to get the timing belts done. When it came time for the yearly MOT inspection, a wheel wobble under hard braking had appeared which necessitated the fitment of new lower suspension arms on the front. And the nearside rear brakes had seized so it was new calipers and discs across the back axle. Because mine was a late second facelift I was able to fit a box that provided Apple CarPlay through the existing touchscreen. All in I spent about £2,500 over the time I owned it. But there’s only room for one high-maintenance drama queen in my life, and I’m it. But it never left me stranded and was a brilliant daily. I completely understand why people say there’s nothing like driving a Range Rover.

So why get rid of it? The reality was it was now more car than I really needed, and through no fault of its own it was becoming financially inconvenient. In the UK every vehicle under 40 years old has to pay something known as Road Tax. This was historically used for the maintenance and upkeep of the nation’s highways, and to fund new road construction. These days it just goes into the big pot of tax collected by HM Treasury. The rate you pay is based on when your car was registered, and its carbon dioxide emissions. For the Range Rover, this was £675. Per year.

Worse that than that, because Land Rovers and Range Rovers are particularly attractive to the criminal community, the yearly insurance jumped from around £300 last year to nearly £900 this year. Despite the fact I just turned 50 and live in a quiet middle-class town full of coffin dodgers. This is why I disabled the passive entry on the first day I had it. Oh, and the wheel wobble had returned.

On top of all this, there’s the looming specter of Ultra Low Emissions Zones (ULEZ). The one in London is due to be expanded all the way out to the M25 orbital motorway in August, and other large cities around the UK are following suit. The Range Rover, being an older Euro 5 compliant diesel (it doesn’t have any kind of urea additive system) doesn’t qualify for an exemption so is liable to be charged.

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Mother Dearest (who lives in London) is housebound now, but I took a trip down to the big smoke to see my beloved West Ham United play a European semi-final at home and had to pay a £12.50 ULEZ charge for the privilege. Because you pay for every day you drive in the zone, a weekend trip earlier in the year for the Royal College of Art grad show cost me £25 (the day I drove in and the day I drove out). The stupidity of all this is highlighted by the fact the Ferrari, which probably gets 15 mpg around town and you can actually smell the unburnt hydrocarbons coming from the exhaust pipe, will be exempt this year on account of it being 40 years old.

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But the truth is I had never really gotten over the enforced breakup with one of my old flames. I know you’re not supposed to go back to an old love, but what if you have unfinished business? I usually get itchy feet with my daily drivers after about three years. My 2010 Mini Clubman, which I bought shortly after starting work at Land Rover, had been cruelly wrenched from my life after I wrote it off after little over a year into our relationship. I was driving back from seeing The Alarm in Birmingham, it was dark and wet and the road was unfamiliar. I crested a hill to be surprised by a small roundabout, which I clouted and it bounced me off the road and through a fence.

It was a low-speed impact (none of the airbags fired) but the front suspension damage was extensive. I absolutely adored that little car, and the feeling of yearning for another one never really left me. During the intervening years, I kind of kept half an eye on the classifieds in case another popped up, but I could never find one in exactly the right spec: black on black, with black exterior trim, roof rails, big wheels and Bluetooth and iPod connectivity.

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The issue is the first- and second-generation MINIs were offered with a bewildering array of options packages, and nailing down exactly what you’d be getting without physically seeing a car for sale you couldn’t be 100% sure. I was going to have to compromise. The trim surrounding the tailgate and upper rear bumper could be changed, but this was more faffing about than I really wanted. The roof rails couldn’t easily be added without pulling out the headliner and a cursory Google revealed it might involve removing the curtain airbags. Again, more hassle than I was willing to entertain. A Bluetooth/iPod integration retrofit would be next to impossible, so that left the wheels. If I could find one with all the above, I could change the wheels at a later date. And then as if the universe was sending me a message, three candidates popped up on Autotrader.

The first was a mega spec that included a full-length panorama sunroof and no doubt hideously dated iDrive, but the dealer was in London and wouldn’t entertain taking the Range Rover in part exchange because you guessed it, ULEZ. The second was local, and I did go and look, but it didn’t have Bluetooth/iPod integration. The third, which is the one I bought, was cheaper and had 20k miles. I took a bit of a bath financially, but the MINI is £150 a year to tax and the insurance is less than £300 a year. So I’m already a thousand pounds in front for the year, not counting any economy savings (the MINI should get 40mpg. The Range Rover was usually about 30). And the MINI being petrol and Euro 4, is ULEZ exempt.

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How is it these little cars have chiseled their way into my hard, black heart? For a start, I love the way they look. As I’ve discussed before, the current generation of Minis are a bit overdone – lots of trim pieces and vents, and they have been stretched to fit over a platform from the next size class up, leaving them with slightly odd proportions and surfacing. The second generation R55/56/57 are much more successful, building on the themes of the R50 original, while slightly increasing the size and accounting for passenger impact regulations which necessitated an increase in hood height.

They are brilliant fun to drive, being taut, responsive and lively. Insert go-kart cliché here, but it’s true. And like the original 1959 Mini, their handy size means the road is suddenly a lot wider. The engine isn’t the most refined unit ever but it’s willing and has a nice little step in the powerband as it gets on the cam. They’re packed full of fun little touches from the hidden glovebox to changeable color interior lighting, and the barn doors on the back. Even the third door, which conventional wisdom would have is on the wrong side for RHD markets is incredibly useful because I can use it to chuck my jacket and bag onto the back seat. The interior is a cozy, nice place to be, and the whole car has a premium, solid feel because it’s essentially a FWD BMW.

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So what does my new (old) paramour need? As of this moment, nothing mechanically. But there are a few cosmetic wants. The bonnet badge is a bit scabby and faded so a NOS one is on the way. The flap over the vanity mirror on the driver’s side is loose, so I’ll need to replace that before it falls apart in tribute to old British Leyland build quality. But I’ve spotted a complete black headliner and interior pillar trim set including sun visors, on the dreaded eBay for £300 which I will keep an eye on and hope the price drops a bit. And I wouldn’t mind swapping the silver trim on the dashboard for gloss black either.

But these visual tweaks are as and when. There’s nothing preventing me from enjoying the car as it is. (Editor’s Note: As a former two-time Mini owner myself, let me just add: for now. —PG)

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Fortuitously, I kept the special Lightning to USB/Aux Y lead (£60 from your friendly BMW dealer) so I can connect my phone and the car sees it as an iPod. The romance is all set to be rekindled.

But obviously the first change is going to be bigger OEM wheels.

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Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
10 months ago

Heh, I was wondering when PG would insert an editor’s note about his bad luck.

Good luck!

Glutton for Piëch
Glutton for Piëch
10 months ago

Adrian, I am disappointed. It’s GTI. It’s not a Peugoet. I see a lot of people do this, but I expected better from you. ????

Thanks for coming to my TedTalk.

Hiram McDaniel
Hiram McDaniel
10 months ago

Love the R55 Clubman. I owned three of them. Well, technically I owned the same exact car three rimes. Yes, I sold it and them bought it back. Then sold it, bought it back again. I have since sold it again, but this time it left the east coast to go live in LA with its new owner, so I will be less likely to get a chance to buy it back again.

HalloweenPentastar
HalloweenPentastar
10 months ago

Coffin dodgers? LOL.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
10 months ago

> the decision to get into a Range Rover was threefold: they can be spectacular value for money

For your mechanic, for sure.

> ongoing house redecorating

How many shades of black does Benjamin Moore offer in Britain?

Last edited 10 months ago by Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Zeppelopod
Zeppelopod
10 months ago

Adrian’s the resident Hotblack Desiato.

The World of Vee
The World of Vee
10 months ago

I had a Clubman S that I put WAY too much money into tuning. Taut and exceptional and pulling over 320whp by the time I was done with it made it the perfect city car here in NYC. I sold it and got an E63S wagon but the new owner loves it like I did and hopefully he has it for years to come. They really are the best

Fe2 O3
Fe2 O3
10 months ago

Two things really struck me while reading this:

1) You and that TT looked really good together and I really want to know why you ended up disliking/discarding it.

2) I can’t for the life of me see how you can approve of the looks of this elongated and van-like “Mini”.

Steve Lee
Steve Lee
10 months ago

I still miss my 09 R55 every day. So much fun to toss it around corners. If you’re doing it right, you’ll get the oil warning light to come on as it all sloshes to one side. And as a non-S, got fantastic mileage on the highways while also encouraging you to wind it all the way up to get it moving around town.

FndrStrat06
FndrStrat06
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Lee

I miss my ’07 R56 every day as well, transmission issues and all. If I had the budget for a 2nd weekend car, it’d be a MINI.

Marc Fuhrman
Marc Fuhrman
10 months ago

Congratulations on the new car. I’ve toyed with the idea of getting one of the retro Minis, but shied away due to potential mechanical issues (rural mechanics tend to turn their noses up at European stuff).

Mike F.
Mike F.
10 months ago

Sounds like swapping the Land Rover for the Mini has resulted in an instant upgade in standard of living, what with all of the beer money that’s been freed up. Looks like a great find! And I agree – when times get difficult, nothing soothes like a new vehicle.

Gubbin
Gubbin
10 months ago

Awww… in black, it looks like a li’l puppy that will someday grow into a hearse.

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
10 months ago

Congrats on the new car! The part about people loving range rovers had me at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhpDg4XVUrg

Definitely swap out those blobby saggy 5 spokes. Life is too short for boring wheels, and wheels/stance make or break the car. Cheers!

Lockleaf
Lockleaf
10 months ago

After doing headgasket on my nieces R50 S Turbo, I realized I didn’t care how fun they were. I won’t own anything I hate working on with as much passion as I hated that car.

Lockleaf
Lockleaf
10 months ago
Reply to  Lockleaf

It might have been an R56…

Albino Kangaroo
Albino Kangaroo
10 months ago

How true is “…the whole car has a premium, solid feel because it’s essentially a FWD BMW.”

Flatisflat
Flatisflat
10 months ago

An R55 Clubman is the only vehicle I’ve bought twice, for similar reasons as yourself wherein my first one was taken from me prematurely. The 2nd I’ve owned now for nearly 7 years.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
10 months ago

My good friend had a first gen Cooper and a second gen JCW. He called the first one Le Frit, due to it’s oil consumption and the second one Stockholm Syndrome.

Chronometric
Chronometric
10 months ago

The breakup was sudden and tragic but I just couldn’t stop thinking about her and those big wheels.

MiniDave
MiniDave
10 months ago

My 2009 Clubman S (R55) that I ordered new is coming up on 110K miles, and it’s been a terrific car, I will keep it forever at this point as the value is so low that it’s not worth selling to get something else, plus I still really like the car. MINIs do become part of your life somehow…..(I also have 3 classic Minis!)

Rusty S Trusty
Rusty S Trusty
10 months ago

There are so many cara that I can’t help but want even though I should know better. I just can’t help but love them. Mini Coopers, some Mercedes coupes, the last gen rwd BMW 2 series in a manual, the Giulia, the 2 fast golfs (golves?), any one of the most modern non suv/crossover Jags, etc… It would take just a little push, a hint that the repair costs are overblown or reputations of unreliability are overstated and I’d grab one up in a heartbeat.

Oldhusky
Oldhusky
10 months ago
Reply to  Rusty S Trusty

We traded a last-gen manual M235i in after owning it for a couple years for a lightly used Golf R, which we still have. Both have been wonderful, although i can’t speak to the long-term ownership experience of the bimmer.

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
10 months ago

I hope you never need a new set of door seals for the right hand side. Those crappy rubber strips cost me $656.00, plus tax. That said, you’ll probably need a set in a few years. They pretty much all tear eventually.

I love your new Mini. Mine was red, but otherwise very similar. Despite the fact that it tortured me, I’m still watching the used markets carefully with intent to buy.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
10 months ago

When I skimmed first and saw the TT photo, I was momentarily confused, excited that seemingly Bauhaus was getting back together again.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
10 months ago

May all your future problems be mini. That didn’t come out right, did it?

NewBalanceExtraWide
NewBalanceExtraWide
10 months ago

Keep the boots on the ground and the earbuds towards the sky, and keep on keeping on. Maybe update the bio to reflect the new ride.

Trust Doesn't Rust
Trust Doesn't Rust
10 months ago

Great pick. My wife and I are looking to get a summer home and we need a car for tooling around. An R56 is on that list…she just doesn’t know it yet.

A close friend of mine had two R53’s, an R56 and then I bought an F56. As unpopular as this may be, the R56 was my favorite. Just a bit bigger and more refined than the R53 and well-proportioned overall. Like your TT, I liked but didn’t love the F56.

All that being said, I hope things start turning around for you very soon. I’m also just starting to come out of a shitstorm of what-the-actual-fuck events, so I can empathize with your situation.

3laine
3laine
10 months ago

As unpopular as this may be, the R56 was my favorite.

Agreed. The styling of the R56/55 is the best (F56 got longer overhangs and somewhat overstyled, R50/53 styling is too two-dimensional, for lack of a better description, IMO), but R56 still has the raw feel of the R50/53.

The F56 is the best CAR, but not the best MINI. It’s reliable (!), rides better, interior is better quality, etc. But it’s less raw and less independent/unique.

Brynjaminjones
Brynjaminjones
10 months ago
Reply to  3laine

I totally agree.
I’m not generally into MINIs, but IMO the R56 is a styling masterpiece. It just looks so right, and is aging so well.

I also got to drive one for the first time a few months back, and it was such a fun vehicle!

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