Mini Cooper by Marty Padgett (4/1/2002)
MINI Cooper S by Sue Mead (5/13/2002)
A broiling sun beats down on the sea of asphalt, the air
itself quivering like a mirage. It’s the type of day you’d like to find a spot
of gentle shade, stretch out in a hammock and sip a little lemonade. But this
afternoon reverie is shattered by the squeal of tires and the smell of burning
rubber wafting on the gentle breeze.
The original Mini Cooper might have been gone and
forgotten were it not for a small cadre of performance fans who kept their old
cars tuned and running—and racing. The pint-sized import was a legend on the
autocross circuit, quick and surprisingly nimble.
The reborn Mini that hit the highway earlier this year
seems to be generating a far broader appeal. In its first seven months in the
U.S., it racked up more sales—about 10,000—than the original Mini did during a
seven-year run back in the 1960s. To keep the momentum going, Mini’s new parent,
BMW, is offering a range of kitschy options—such as a British flag roof decal—as
well as what is likely to be an expanding range of models.
This makeshift track has been laid out to give us a chance to test
the mettle of the Cooper S, the performance version of the new Mini line and the
model that a generation of racers has been waiting for. Like Harry S Truman, no
one’s really sure why the “S” designation was chosen back in 1963, when Mini
first went racing. But words like “speed,” and “sporty,” quickly come to mind.