Mini United 2009 - A not-so-mini get-together
New and old Minis gather in celebration of the brand's 50th anniversary
Northamptonshire, England - You'd expect the 50th birthday celebration for the iconic Mini to be celebrated in style. And though the reincarnated Mini's owner hails from Germany, you don't need a giant British flag on the roof to know where its heart lies.
The festivities of Mini United 2009 were held at the famed Silverstone circuit, located a couple of hours north of London. Spanning three days, it provided a chance for all to see the iconic car in various forms over the past half-century. Over 10,000 Minis - old and new - flocked to the circuit, along with 25,000 of the car's biggest fans.
Though the Mini is a British icon, Mini United is a truly international affair with owners from 40 countries and many cars boating stickers from road trips across Europe and as far afield as Russia. That's some serious distance, even by North American standards! Clans gathered and allegiances formed, with rowdy Mini fans congregating around their model or national flag of choice. A combination of cold beverages and searing sunshine added to the party atmosphere.
A little something for everybody
Photo: Dan Trent
The classic Minis obviously attracted the traditional car nuts; its production run stretched from 1959 through to 2000 with a total of 5.3 million cars made. The new Mini crowd may be more youthful and with trendier haircuts, but the passion for both are the same - ditto the obsession with personalization.
Both camps were catered to with evening entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights. First up was dance music star Calvin Harris, the party supported by DJs transforming the Silverstone paddock into a makeshift dance floor. Following the presentation of a specially decorated Mini to Olivia Harrison (Beetle George Harrison's widow) was a Saturday night performance by Paul Weller, which harked back to the Mini's 60s heyday. This car, designed by Olivia, will be auctioned off for charity later this year.
Photo: Dan Trent
Daytime activities were numerous too, with rounds of the German Mini Challenge series taking place on the Silverstone race circuit. Hard-fought, wheel-to-wheel racing in identical Mini Challenge cars went down well with the crowds, many of whom took up the opportunity to drive round the track in their own Minis, albeit at a slightly more sedate pace behind a pace car. Unlike the racers, all made it round the track without ending up on their roofs.
Elsewhere on the sprawling Silverstone site, owners were encouraged to show their cars on a special stage under the banner 'Flaunt Your Mini'. Modified Minis, old Minis, fast Minis - all were given a warm reception.
Show and go
Photo: Dan Trent
Highlights included a Suzuki 4x4-based Mini off-roader, a seriously spruced up classic Mini van and a Greek Mini enthusiast who'd spent three days driving his scissor-doored $100,000 modified new Mini all the way to Silverstone, a trip that included a day and half on a ferry and a trek across Italy, Switzerland and France. Other displays included the six-wheeled, Jacuzzi-equipped six-metre Mini XXL limo built in 2004 to celebrate the Athens Olympics and representations of the Mini's Hollywood profile with the Austin Powers' Mini, and the original red, white and blue trio of classic Minis from the 1969 classic The Italian Job.
Photo: Dan Trent
Maybe it was the beer, maybe it was the sunshine or possibly just an excuse to get up close and personal with complete strangers, but a gang of Italian visitors decided to see how many people they could cram into a Mini Clubman. Confusion reigned. Did they manage 21 or was it 23? Nobody was sure but everyone was having so much fun it didn't seem to matter.
Happy birthday, from Mini
The event was also host to the announcement of three special edition new Minis to celebrate the 50th birthday. The luxurious Mayfair 50 edition boasts a special Hot Chocolate paint finish and new Toffee Metallic trim on the grille. Good enough to eat? Maybe. Meanwhile the White Silver Camden edition offered a rather more modernistic vision of modern Mini ownership.
Performance fans will be catered to by the John Cooper Works World Championship 50, which is limited to just 250 units. The somewhat long-winded name reflects a seriously special car dripping with every conceivable extra from the options list, not to mention a host of carbon fibre trimmings from the hood scoop to the door mirrors.
Even the organizers had to acknowledge the fact the infamously unpredictable English weather seemed to have joined the party; one German blogger on the official Mini site posting "God must be an Englishman," after enjoying two days of sun-soaked partying.
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