Feb. 28, 2004 — When Rod Davis of Wildomar, Calif. called MiniGuy three years ago, he said he’d retired and was looking for a Mini to build into a vintage race car – and take to car shows. On the left, is the ’63 Cooper that Rod adopted and brought home.
Or go direct to: https://youtu.be/zCEz5HIF1xY
Rod, then 64, walked away from the crash without a scratch!
The roll cage was a custom one he designed and fabricated, and it did its job well. When the Mini stopped tumbling, it lay on its mangled roof. Rod unbuckled his harnesses, then promptly landed on his head and tumbled out the now-open door. Rod said he had some bruises from the safety harnesses – and that it was quite a ride – to say the least…
UPDATED 2012: The Travel Channel did a great feature looking back on the 2003 accident, including interviews with Rod Davis and Alan Berry, as well as Jeff Garstecki, who supplied the in-car camera that caught the amazing footage of Rod’s Mini flipping 5.5 times. The feature also includes computer simulation of the crash, other videos of the aftermath, including the tow truck hauling the severely broken Mini away. Also shown is vintage-racing footage, and some old photos from from the long-time racing buddies. It’s six minutes long – and very well done!
Or go directly to: https://youtu.be/zCEz5HIF1xY )
Well, the original Cooper shell was toast, so Rod’s racing buddies
found him a donor car- a ’67 Cooper S – and the painstaking process began again.
This time around, there’s more emphasis on “go” than “show”, so Rod put a mere 720 man-hours into it, and, well, we won’t say how much cash. Running under the same number, #130 – now in a more angelic Old English White – makes its race debut on March 6-7 at the HSR West vintage races at Willow Springs. Go get ’em, Rod!
p.s. – Rod, don’t forget that old racer’s mantra: “Remember, keep the ‘shiny’ side up, and the ‘greasy’ side down.”
For more information on HSR West Racing, see: www.hsr-westracing.com
Feb. 11, 2004 — While I still have the first car I ever owned — my ’64 Chevrolet El Camino I bought in ’73 — the first Mini I ever owned is this ’66 Austin Cooper S. It was Island Blue with an Old English White top, but it looks darker in this pic, which was taken the day I bought it. I tried to drive it home from Long Beach, where it lived with its owner the previous 10 years. The former owner’s partner in the restaurant business, Tony Swizler, is well known in the Mini community. Tony owned this “S” for 20 years before that. If I recall correctly, Tony said he drove this Mini to the first-ever(?) Mini Meet in Lake Tahoe, or somewhere up that way.
When I got it, it was essentially a vintage race car that had been somewhat converted back to street use. Basically, the things that could be done to the engine to make it go faster — had been done to it. And everything to make it corner better, had been done.
Consequently, it was a blast to drive — but not very practical as a daily driver. I literally took to wearing earplugs if I took a drive of any length!
That’s why, when someone calls me today asking about a Mini, one of the first things I’ll ask is, “How do you plan to use your Mini?” For me, this particular Mini was not practical for commuting, and driving every day — and that’s what I intended to use it for.
Why is my Mini on the tow truck? Well, I blew a tire, and — of course — there was no jack, and no spare!
This car now lives in Oregon. Anyone seen it lately? I’d love to hear updates about my “first love”…
Ventura County Star
Shifting Into Neutral
Auto sales slow as consumers appear to be ‘shopped out’
By Roger Harris, firstname.lastname@example.org
December 15, 2002
Michael Lewis doesn’t have to offer buyers cash-back incentives, zero
percent interest or other special deals to get them interested in his cars.
Buyers come from all over the country to buy the classic Mini Coopers and other vintage cars offered by his Ventura dealership. Some buyers drive from other states to spend $20,000 on a 25-year-old car.
Others wait patiently for Lewis to arrange for a customized classic Mini to be shipped direct to them from England.
“It’s a longing for the good old days, the memories, that brings them in,” said Lewis. “It’s the whole retro thing. People who want a Mini are willing to do what it takes to get one.”
Lewis won’t say how many cars he’s sold since his first sale four years ago, but he characterized business as brisk and climbing.
Mainstream car dealers only wish they could attract customers the same way.
Ventura County sales have slowed noticeably this year despite the
never-ending incentives offered by automakers.
Nationally, the sales drop was even more precipitous in November compared with the same month a year ago. General Motors saw domestic sales drop 18 percent, Ford was down 20 percent and the combined market share for all U.S.
automakers fell to a record low.
In Ventura County, 3,588 cars and trucks were sold in November, down 25.2 percent from November last year, according to John Masterson, president of Western Automotive Consultants in Ventura.
The future offers little sign of a quick comeback.
Westlake Village market analyst J.D. Power and Associates recently lowered its estimate of next year’s light-vehicle production in North America to 16.1 million units.
“With a slowdown in sales going into 2003 being the primary driver, we
expect production to be down nearly 350,000 units, or 4 percent, in the
first half of the year compared with the same period in 2002,” Jeff
Schuster, director of North American forecasting at J.D. Power, said in a recent report.
Analysts and car dealers say sales are slow because of the sluggish economy and consumers who are “shopped out” after more than a year of non-stop incentives offered by car makers.
“I expect to see sales in the county definitely down from a year ago,”
Sales last year and the first part of this year were strong for many Ventura County dealers because automakers offered a number of incentive packages to entice reluctant buyers. The incentives, including the return of zero percent interest and zero down payments, brought out tons of customers, but dealers now are starting to pay the price for that increase, Masterson said.
Jeff Sukay, vice president of Kirby Jeep Oldsmobile Suzuki in Ventura,
called sales about average. Robert Gregory, owner of Paradise Chevrolet in Ventura said this year’s sales will be about the same as last year.
“The theory is that anytime you offer incentives, you’re robbing sales from the next month or the month afterward,” Masterson said.
Automakers don’t seem worried about the theory.
Earlier this month, the Big Three automakers –Ford, General Motors and DaimlerChrysler –upped their incentive offers in an effort to boost year-end sales.
GM, for example, extended its so-called “Zero, Zero, Zero” program to offer no down payment and no interest loans for five years on 13 sport-utility vehicles.
Chrysler is offering either a $2,500 rebate or zero-percent financing for up to five years on minivan purchases through Jan. 2.
Ford lengthened the term for interest-free loans from three years to five years on the Explorer, and it boosted cash-back offers to as much as $3,000 on some models.
In years past, automakers would stop the incentives after a few months and sales totals would cycle back to normal levels. But automakers have piled on the incentives for more than a year. Eventually, the incentives will lose their effectiveness, Masterson said.
“The day of reckoning is coming. At some point the manufacturers will reach their limit and have to pull back,” Masterson said. “The question is who gives out first: the buyer or the manufacturer?”
It may be consumers. Buyers already are “becoming numb” to incentives that average $2,000, Schuster said.
“(Incentives) definitely aren’t having the impact they used to,” said Steve Cavanagh, vice president of Vreeland Cadillac-Pontiac in Oxnard.
The benefit of incentives is inconsistent, Sukay said.
“I can’t tell you that it’s driving traffic,” he said. “Some days we see it, and some days we don’t see what we saw last year.”
Although it’s impossible to say what the future is for automakers’ incentive programs, some car dealers say they are here to stay.
“I assure you the manufacturers will continue to do incentives. … There’s absolutely no way to get out of them,” Gregory said.
Copyright 2002, Ventura County Star. All Rights Reserved.
Photo Credit: James Glover II / Star staff
Photo Caption: Michael Lewis, owner of MiniGuy/Lewis Motors, has turned a one-time hobby involving these tiny British cars into a nationwide business of obtaining and then selling the unique vehicles. His sales showroom is in downtown Ventura.
Ventura County Star
His once little car hobby now a big Mini business
Want a Mini Cooper? Just go see Michael Lewis
By Roger Harris, email@example.com
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: www.miniguy.com
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.
(The article later ran in syndication throughout the United States. Here’s a version that ran on the East Coast)
Love affair with Mini bolstered by new version
By Susan Carpenter
SPECIAL TO THE DAILY PRESS
October 26, 2002
Michael Lewis has some problems with his car. He can’t go anywhere without being stopped to talk about it. He can’t wipe the smile off his face when he’s driving it. And he hasn’t been able to restrict himself to owning only one.
Lewis’ car or, rather, cars are classic English Minis, 1960s and ’70s micro mobiles that are so narrow they could drive on sidewalks, so short the only view out the driver’s side window is often another car’s hubcap, and so responsive they can outmaneuver Ferraris.
Since March, when BMW brought out its updated and retooled version of the classic car, Minis – both old and new – have become more popular than ever. Some say it’s SUV backlash, a perspective BMW promotes in its ad campaign, but the car’s true fans know the real reason. Minis are just “so much more fun to drive” than regular cars, said Lewis,
who bought his first Mini four years ago and now runs a vintage Mini dealership in Ventura, Calif. Some of the fun in driving them is nostalgia – the car’s been around since 1959 – and novelty – they’re just 10 feet long and 41/2 feet tall. But almost every driver will tell you the biggest thrill is the handling and performance.
“We’re gonna turn left,” Chris Travers announced as he approached a corner in his classic Mini Cooper S, speeding up rather than slowing down to take a turn at 40 mph. There was no burning rubber, no plume of smoke from the transmission. Just the echo of a scream as Travers’ passenger recovered from the maneuver. Travers was showing off his ride at a recent meeting for the Mini Owners of America-Los Angeles car club, whose members own the originals and the reissues. Shrugging off the move, he said, “You didn’t hear tires squealing.”
Travers, 52, has owned his Mini for 61/2 years, but the love affair began many years earlier, when he saw the 1969 Michael Caine film “The Italian Job.”
“When I saw that chase scene where the (Minis) made the getaway through shopping mall sidewalks and stairways, I thought, that’s the coolest thing going.”
Many of the classic Cooper S’s, the sports cars that are the most coveted of all the Minis, were and still are being raced. As a result, many have been destroyed. But the new ones are helping to fill that gap. When BMW first announced it would be reissuing the car – originally made by British Motor Corp. and branded as either Austin or Morris Minis – dealers began compiling waiting lists, which quickly grew out of control.
At Nick Alexander Imports, one of the few BMW Mini dealers in the Los Angeles area, 2,500 people were on the list by the time the car was available, even though the dealership will only be receiving 350 this year. Some customers are combing California for Mini dealerships with cars available. With a base sticker price of $16,850, the cars are so popular that many dealers are asking thousands of dollars over sticker, charging as much as $27,000 – and getting it.
The Mini’s popularity doesn’t surprise Dan Pund, associate editor at Car and Driver magazine. “You build up equity over the course of years in a particular name and people associate certain characteristics with that name,” he said. “If you had a fairly successful vehicle over the course of several years, bringing it back is ready-made marketing.”
It’s a formula that worked for Volkswagen when it reintroduced its bubbly new Beetle in 1998. The original Beetles were, at one time, the best-selling import car in the United States. Volkswagen sold more than 4.9 million of them here, but the company stopped distributing them here in 1979. By the time the car was updated and brought back to market, people were so misty-eyed and nostalgic for the little Bug that they’ve since snatched up more than 320,000 of them.
In the United States, Minis are far more obscure than the Beetle. They were sold in the United States from 1959 to 1967 only. In Europe, they are much better known. By the time the company closed its doors in October 2000, 5.5 million of them had been sold worldwide – mostly in England, other parts of Europe, Australia and New Zealand – but only 10,000 of those were sold in the United States.
The new BMW Minis are built in the same plant as the old Minis but are substantially different. The BMW is bigger than the classic: It is 2 feet longer and 6 inches taller. It also comes with a number of safety improvements over the original – air bags, side-impact beams, crumple zones. To many classic car aficionados, the only thing the new and classic Minis have in common is the name. But it is that name that is getting more and more attention.
The new BMW is not only raising the car’s profile in America but prompting a mini-resurgence in the original cars’ sales.
Though he declines specifics, Lewis says he has sold more Minis in the first nine months of 2002 than he sold in all of 2001. It’s rare, he says, that he sells fewer than one a week.
Many of the people who are buying them are those who’d always thought about owning one but never got around to it.
“My earliest recollection is seeing one (on TV) going around the track beating the pants off a Corvette. I’ve wanted one since I was about 12,” said Antonio Rico, 34, who two years ago became the proud owner of a Mini as old as he is – a Cooper built in 1968.
“My parents had one of these. My first car when I learned to drive was one of these,” said Mike Walsh, 41, who grew up in Britain and bought his vintage powder blue Mini a year ago.
“The new one coming along was probably the impetus I needed to buy this one,” said Walsh, who lives in Garden Grove, Calif. “When they announced it, I thought, ‘What better time to buy a classic one than now?’ ”
It’s a common sentiment, even among new Mini owners. Bill Sepaniak of Long Beach, Calif., has the Mini bug “big time,” he said. He and his wife each own a new one. They are so enthralled with the cars that they are importing two of the classics from Italy.
“Two years ago, some people would say, ‘Cute car. What is it?’ ” Lewis said. “Now, pretty much everybody knows.”
Susan Carpenter is a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, a Tribune Publishing newspaper. Copyright (c) 2002, Daily Press
Ask about our “inch-by-inch” tour of the car over the phone, and how we can send you dozens of close-up digital pics, even arrange for an independent mechanical evaluation of the car on your behalf.
References gladly provided.
Call us for car-transport rates, they are much cheaper than you think and we handle all the arrangements!
Recent Mini adoptions have gone to:
Others have gone to:
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Catalina Island (ie: off California coast)