I bought my first Mini, a 1966 Morris Cooper S, from the BMC dealership in the fall of ʼ66. I went there to buy a sports car, maybe an Austin Healey Sprite or an MG Midget, but then I saw all the brand new 1967 Austin Cooper S’s on the showroom floor. The price for a new one was $2400. You could buy a real car for that so I asked if they had any used ones and they showed me one in the basement. It had 35,000 miles on it plus a set of worn-out Dunlop SP41’s. The car was brought over from Europe by a serviceman when he was released from duty. He had traded it for a new Austin Healey 3000.
Later that same year while returning to Seattle with my wife, Sandy, after visiting relatives in Salem, Ore., for Christmas vacation… We left at about 5pm on Sunday, Christmas Day (dumb idea), having to be back at work the following day. Nice trip, until about 17 miles south of Olympia (read: boondocks), my good old SU fuel pump packed it up.
After pulling off the freeway and jacking up the left side of car with the factory jack (which lifts the whole side of the car), I realized I didn’t even know where the bloody pump was, let alone not having a flashlight to see it. It was about 8:30 in the evening (read: dark). I waited for a cop to come along (usually it’s the other way around!) and after about an hour I gave up on the cop and started flagging down any car. A Rambler finally stopped and backed up to about 3 feet in front of the Mini. He said I could borrow his flashlight to find the pump. Well, it didn’t take long to clean the points off and jury rig it to work. I really wanted to be sure it was alright so I started the car. It worked great! But as I let it down off the jack, I forgot that I had left it in gear (first, no less), so as soon as the left side front tire touched ground, the car lunged off the jack towards the Rambler’s bumper. I jumped into the car and jabbed at the brake. Too late! My poor Mini hit the Rambler. The damage didn’t look too bad – a broken headlight and a bashed in grill, but (here it comes) it sure was running funny. After investigating, it turned out to be a broken distributor cap. The rubber rain boot kept it together enough to barely run.
Just then a cop drove up, so the Rambler and I exchanged the customary information for a wreck and he drove off, leaving me and the cop. So while I sat in the warm cop car, my wife Sandy sat wrapped in a comforter trying to stay warm in the Mini – and rather pissed off. The cop said, “Gee, now what are you going do?” And I said, “How the hell do I know?” He told me he could take us to the next exit or make a call for me.
Just then I remembered a card I had found in the door pocket the first time I cleaned the car. It was a SAMOA club card with Jerry Everett’s name and phone number on it. So I told the cop to call Jerry and ask if he could find someone with a distributor cap to rescue me. It turns out the Mini club was having a Christmas party at Jerry’s house in Renton. After awhile, Olympia radioed back that help was on the way. The cop said, “Well, there you are,” and left.
After about 45 minutes, a red Mini with lights-a-flashing and arms-a-waving came past us heading southbound at about 80 mph to the next exit. Soon Jerry and a bunch of club members pulled up behind me and said, “Get out of the way, kid,” then proceeded to fix my Mini right before my eyes. Jerry said, “Why didn’t you say you needed a headlight? We could have brought one of those too.” After all this, they also followed us all the way back to Renton. Needless to say, my first encounter with the Mini club was an endearing one. It feels really good to belong to a club with that kind of devotion to a car. Yay, Minis! -Al Beebe