The second day of the MINI Takes The States Tour was a busy one and I’m thrilled to report that I now have a proper camera and no longer have to subject you to pictures taken with my Blackberry. With a drive in an electric MINI and a visit to one of America’s best vintage sports car collections, it was an ideal day for any gearhead.
Hit the jump to see more of Day 2 of the Mini Takes The States Tour
First stop was at MINI HQ in Woodcliff Lake, NJ. A huge number of MINIs had gathered for a meet and greet, as well as the chance to drive the MINI E electric car. Having never driven an electric car before, I jumped at the chance.
MINI set up a test loop consisting of a variety of access roads around the MINI Campus, and while I couldn’t really test the handling, I did get the try out the much hyped acceleration that electric cars are supposed to provide, and yes, the stories are true; there is lots of torque at any rpm. Not only does the car pick up speed rapidly, but it sounds like a Star Wars spaceship as the electric parts get working.
Sure, it doesn’t replace the nice growl of a gasoline engine, but it gives you a different kind of satisfaction as the motor whrrrsss to life and the scenery starts passing you by quickly. My main gripe with the car was the regenerative braking system; as soon as you let off the throttle, the car comes slows very quickly, rather than coasting like a traditional car.
A MINI rep boasted that a driver wouldn’t have to hit the brakes until the very last moment, but I found it very disconcerting. The overall experience was quite enjoyable, however, and I now dread the death of the internal combustion engine far less than I once did.
Our second stop in Philadelphia had us meet up with Philly area MINI owners and MINI clubs at the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum.
The Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum is a “bucket list” activity for any fan of sports cars, vintage racing or automotive history. I took a bunch of photos, some better than others due to the lighting (the museum is in a dim warehouse that doesn’t lend itself well to photography). Later I’ll toss up a large gallery of all the car. In the mean time I’ve decided to highlight some of the more interesting vehicles below.
A 1926 Bugatti Type 35. The Type 35 won over 1,000 races in its day, and won the 1926 Grand Prix World Championship with an average of 14 races per week. Cars like these are the reason that the Bugatti nameplate is so revered today.
The Allard J2 was a popular car in post-WWII sports car racing in America. Although it’s a British car, it uses a Cadillac V8 for power. The big V8 over the front wheels combined with buckets of power made the cars a bit of a handful, but they have a storied reputation, placing 3rd in LeMans in 1950 and first at the Monte Carlo rally in 1952.
Delahaye no longer exists as a manufacturer, but is famous in racing circles for its famous pre-WWII victory against the Nazi-backed Mercedes Silver Arrows racers. Delahaye employed Rene Dreyfuss, a Jewish driver, and Mercedes and Auto Union (another German team, the forerunner to Audi) would do whatever they could to make sure Dreyfuss lost. This included putting noxious chemicals in the exhausts of the Mercedes to poison Dreyfuss. In 1938, at the height of the Third Reich, Dreyfuss beat the Germans soundly, humiliating Nazi bigwigs who were in attendance that day. Dreyfuss ended up serving in the U.S. Army during the war and later became an American citizen.
An Alfa Romeo 8C 2900. Considered one of the most beautiful cars of all time. The 8C 2900 used a supercharged 2.9L inline-8 cylinder engine, and was essentially a Grand Prix car with a custom body over top of the chassis. These change hands for millions of dollars today.
One of six Shelby Daytona coupes. This car is the famous CSX2287, the only Daytona built in the United States, and a car that was thought to be “lost” at one point. This car, like so many others in the collection, retains its “patina” to give it that “just off the racetrack” look. No detailing, no touch ups, just authenticity.
MINI Cooper S Camden – My Ride for a Day
My car for today was a MINI Cooper S Camden, which is a Cooper S with special wheels, paint, interior trim, and an infuriating system called “Mission Control,” which can choose from one of 1500 phrases to comment on how you’re driving. Having seen videos of it in action, I kept it off almost the entire time. Some road-trip appropriate classic rock and the MINI’s turbo 4-banger was all the audio accompaniment I needed for the day. Everyone, from MINI owners to one unnamed MINI rep, made comments about “that stupid talking MINI” (in the words of one owner), suggesting this system was a poor choice on the part of the MINI product planning team. While some of the extra Camden goodies are nice, I’d rather save the $4,500 and buy a regular Cooper S, or put the money towards a John Cooper Works.
Easily the best part of the Camden is that underneath it’s a Cooper S – which is a total blast to drive. So many new cars do everything to alienate you from the driving experience while giving you the illusion of endless straight line speed, the MINI Cooper S is quick enough for any driving, comfortable enough for extended trips and able to give you all of the tactile sensations that you can only get from the cars of two decades ago. The steering is weighty but not overboosted, the shifter is like an XXL size Miata unit and the turbocharged 4-cylinder never feels laggy and has ample torque even while passing trucks in 6th gear. For some unknown reason, however, this $28,000 Camden didn’t have cruise control, something that is unacceptable at this price point and that was sorely missing during my day behind the wheel.