I’m resurrecting a CC category / subhead that hasn’t been featured here in quite a while, but it’s for a good cause. I came upon this freakishly long Mini on a Monday morning a few weeks ago and immediately thought of this tagline.
So let’s examine out not-so-little FrankenMini. I was very fortunate in finding this thing on a nice and sunny day and very eager to pose for the camera. Not all that many freaks are like that – they either shy away in a darkened corner, or you have to pay to get a good gander.
The base car seems to be a relatively recent (circa 1990?) “Rover” Mini. In Japan, they were badged as Rovers for some model years. Not sure which exact ones. But it still sounds wrong to be referring to this as a Rover Mini, so I prefer to call it Austin-Rover, which was the official name of the British Leyland rump operation that managed Longbridge when the group was privatized.
It’s not like this is the only four-door Mini ever made. Just browse the web for a spell and you can find a number of others, though no two seem to be exactly alike. Which is a bit odd to me: given how long these stayed in production, how popular they were and how cramped the rear seat is for taller folks (such as Jim Klein and his prodigious inseam), it seems a conversion, with or without a stretch, would be a great idea.
One thing against the stretch is how expensive it is, which kind of defeats the purpose (if not the very essence) of the Mini. That doesn’t mean BMC didn’t try, though: at least one four-door Mini was made circa 1962-63, using the Van / Pickup’s 84-inch wheelbase. This initial trial balloon did not lead to anything concrete and the car was probably destroyed at some point.
The notion of a four-door Mini was subsequently attempted again several times. Japanese Mini fundamentalists have committed several, judging by some of the photos I’ve seen online (top right). When BMW bought Rover, they decided to recreate a four-door classic Mini for the section of the BMW museum dedicated to Issigonis’ little wonder, but used a recent donor car, not a ‘60s original. They called upon Mengers, a German specialist shop who will sell you a like-new four-door Mini if you’re up for it (top left). Other conversions seem more home-made (middle left); some even tried to marry the saloon style with the convertible (middle right), just to make things extra weird. All of these were made by cutting the car, though, as opposed to using a LWB Mini base. And once you’ve cut the car in two, why not go all the way and stretch that to a limo?
The thing about all of these conversions is that they are all different. Some have a thinner C-pillar than the car I found, some have a thinner B-pillar (both being made from scratch on these Mini conversions). Some customizers deleted the gutters, and the rear doors never seem exactly the same from one car to the next, some even going as far as having rear-hinged doors, like an Austin FX4 Taxi…
So I’m guessing that this Maxi-Mini is a home-made creation, though it looks like it was made by someone who knew what they were doing. There are plenty of outfits who would be able to do this kind of work here, it’s just a question of money and spare Minis. And Japan has quite a lot of both of these. Let’s take a look inside, because all that extra length must make this thing quite roomy.
I suppose if you’re going to cut and shut a car and add custom-made doors and all that, forking an extra couple grand for a nice leather interior would be a no-brainer. Love the warm colour of that upholstery and how it goes with that awesome light blue-gray exterior hue. The owner here resisted the temptation to fit a silly wooden dash, which is a commendable display of wisdom, restraint and good taste.
The real show-stopper is at the rear, of course. Now that’s legroom! More space than a Rolls-Royce or anything Cadillac is currently producing. More exclusivity, too. Love the Twin Peaks floor mats. Just add some red curtains, a dancing dwarf and a statue, and turn this into a mystifying backwards-talking Lynchean nightmare on wheels. Not sure what that is at the base of the seat, by the way – a heater, perhaps?
It’s funny that the person who paid for this (or painstakingly made it himself in his garage over the better part of a decade, as the case may be) did not bother removing the donor car’s Rover badge, which always looks so incongruous to European eyes on a classic Mini.
On balance, this looks pretty damn good. The only issue I have with it is the angle of the rear doors’ window frame, which would have looked much better if it had been more exactly parallel to the rest of the C-pillar, or worked better with that seam running down the back end. The B-pillar is also a bit massive, but I suppose that’s harder to address — most of the other conversions have one about this wide.
The real worry would be how the extra length and weight affects the Mini’s legendary dynamics. This one is an automatic, so we’re already talking about a pretty subdued performer. Adding 50% more car to this Mini most probably results in a glacially slow vehicle. The longer wheelbase would probably not hurt the car’s famous roadholding, at any rate.
That being said, giving the Mini a few extra vitamins and ditching the slushbox in favour of a manual would probably suffice to make this car a worthwhile endeavour. The fat B-pillar and weird C-pillar make the exterior a bit clumsy, but that’s countered by the amazing amount of interior space and the overall finish of this car, which was jaw-droppingly excellent.
As a fan of the classic Mini (because, come on, who isn’t?) and a believer in world peace, I say we should all try and get a long. Like an extra foot long. And a couple extra doors, because those lucky rear passengers deserve a means of ingress and egress too. I kind of want one of these now. Who’s with me?