Mini Cooper - drive it before you die


By Peter Griffiths

LONDON, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Britain's best-loved small car, the classic 1960s Mini Cooper, has been named as the car everyone should drive before they die.

The humble four-seater, nicknamed the "Flying Shoebox", beat the mighty McLaren F1 supercar into second place in a top 50 compiled by one of Britain's top motoring magazines.

"You just feel good driving a Mini Cooper," Auto Express' motoring editor Tom Barnard told Reuters. "You can go around corners fast and zip through traffic."

With its friendly looks and relatively fast performance for what was first dubbed a "housewives' car", the Mini Cooper became as much a symbol of swinging London in the 1960s as the mini-skirt and flower-power.

It was exported round the world and won an army of celebrity fans, including British comedian Peter Sellers and Beatles stars John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

Perhaps its most famous appearance was in the 1960s heist film "The Italian Job" starring British actor Michael Caine.

It was the first British car to win the European Rally Championship and triumphed four years running at the Monte Carlo Rally in the mid-1960s.

"It is an enduring masterpiece and even now is a hoot behind the wheel," the magazine said. "Everyone should drive a Mini at some point in their life."

The second-placed McLaren F1, which has a top speed of 240 mph, was described as "uncompromised engineering purity".

The German-built Porsche 911 C2 came third after winning praise for its "blistering performance, wonderful handling, perfect steering and a seductive exhaust note".

The Model T Ford came fourth for "bringing motoring to the masses" while the sleek Citroen DS, once the car of choice for French presidents, came fifth.

The highest Japanese entry at 14 was the Subaru Impreza, which made its name on the world's rallying circuits.

Seeking to cover every driving experience, the judges recommended people try a traditional London black taxi (31st place) and a five pounds old banger bought at auction (43rd).

Limping into last place was the Sinclair C5, the ill-fated electrical tricycle launched in Britain in 1985.



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