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2nd- newspaper article in Ventura County Star newspapers

Ventura County Star,1375,VCS_128_1610885,00.html

His once little car hobby now a big Mini business

Want a Mini Cooper? Just go see Michael Lewis

By Roger Harris,
December 15, 2002

A few years ago, Michael Lewis satisfied a long-held desire to own a classic Mini Cooper, the tiny British car that looks like a lunch box on wheels.

He brought it home, parked it in his garage, worked on it, admired it, drove it.

He basked in the glow of a thousand questions whenever he pulled his Mini into a parking lot and the curious ambled over to take a look.

Eventually, another Mini lover made Lewis an offer he couldn’t refuse and he sold the car.

But the Agoura Hills resident wasn’t Mini-less. He purchased a second Mini. And a third.

He kept buying the cars and before he knew it, his hobby was a full-time business.

When he launched MiniGuy/Lewis Motors about four years ago, Lewis found a ready market of collectors, classic car racers and drivers who simply liked the old car feel.

“I have more buyers than cars,” said Lewis, who previously was the news
editor for CalStart, the Pasadena-based advanced transportation technologies consortium.

Virtually all of his customers find him on the Web.

“I ask them what features they want and their budget,” Lewis said.

If he doesn’t have what they want in stock, Lewis can call a Mini builder in England and have one put together with the features the buyer prefers.

“The Mini is the Mr. Potato Head of cars because all of the parts are the same,” Lewis said.

Lewis recently arranged for a Mini to be put together in England and shipped directly to Galveston, Texas, where the buyer will pick it up.

Lewis buys the cars wherever he can find them and sells them to buyers
throughout the United States.

Some buyers travel a long way. A serviceman stationed in Oklahoma is going to pick up a Mini over the holidays and drive it home, Lewis said.

Lewis’ showroom at 75 W. Thompson Blvd. in Ventura is filled with 20 different Minis. Another dozen Minis are aboard ships headed for U.S. ports or sitting in a warehouse waiting to clear customs.

Lewis has sold hundreds of the tiny cars with 10- or 12-inch wheels, including Morris Minis, Morris Mini Coopers, Mini Coopers, Austin Coopers, Morris Mini Minors, Morris Mini Travelers (a woody wagon), Austin Minis, Mini pickups, station wagons and more.

Some of the cars he’s sold have interesting histories, like the Morris Cooper S that once was a police pursuit vehicle in New South Wales, Australia.

Depending on the vintage, model and other variables, the sticker price for the Minis on his showroom floor run from about $5,000 to about $20,000.

Although small, the Minis typically can carry four adults and cruise comfortably on the freeway at 70 mph. Some of the cars, like the Cooper S, have bigger engines and can hit 100 mph, Lewis said.

Some buyers want a fixer-upper.

“I have a customer who doesn’t want a perfect car, ” Lewis said. “For him, it’s taking a dead car and bringing it back to life that’s exciting.”

For some buyers, like the four sets of fathers and sons that have purchased Minis, it’s a bonding experience, he said.

But all Mini buyers share a love of how the vintage cars look, feel and

“They’re just unique,” Lewis said.

On the Net: MiniGuy/Lewis Motors:

Copyright 2002, Ventura County Star. All Rights Reserved.

Note: this photo is not the one that ran in the article. See picture in 1st article above.