Tip of the Quill: A Journal
Coming soon: our new ride.

Yesterday Laura and I finally pulled the trigger on something we’ve been thinking about for a very, very long time: our first-ever new car.

MINI Countryman Cooper S All4

I’ve been fantasizing about this literally for years. I’ve never owned a new car – I’ve always been blessed with a long string of free or close-to-free cars, hand-me-downs from a father for whom the term “car enthusiast” falls way short. At one point, I think Dad owned 40 cars in various stages of disrepair and disassembly, scattered across our barn, my grandparents’ barn, the barn at the company where Dad worked, my grandmother’s detached garage… At one time or another, “Fred’s Fleet” has included everything from a forklift to a 1940s American La France fire engine. I myself learned to drive on a WWII Willy’s Jeep, in which one had to turn the key and then push a button on the dashboard to start the engine. Dad’s passion has always been for finding interesting old cars in junkyards (or, more recently, on eBay), dragging them home from far-flung parts of the country, fixing them up, selling them for a modest profit and then restarting the cycle. I’ve benefited greatly from all of this (thanks, Dad!) by getting to drive, at various points of the last 16 years:

  • WWII Willy’s Jeep
  • Chevy Citation
  • Ford Escort hatchback
  • Ford Thunderbird
  • Ford Taurus (1 of 2)
  • Ford Taurus (2 of 2)
  • 198x Mercedes Benz

Of these, the last was far and away my favorite, but when Laura and I linked up back in Boston her Ford Escort (itself a hand-me-down from her own family) became our primary vehicle. Alas, the mechanic’s skill is not a hereditary gene, and since I haven’t lived within short driving distance of my parents’ place in Ohio for fifteen years and it’s highly unlikely I’ll have the spare time anytime soon to learn how to do anything past the most basic auto repairs (e.g., replacing a burnt-out taillight), it’s well worth the extra cash to buy a set of wheels with a really, really nice warrantee. Add to that the knowledge that whatever I buy I’m planning to drive for at least a decade (our current car is coming up on 15, and the poor thing’s wheels are about to fall off), I knew I wanted to buy something I’d still love to be driving in 2021. Something classy, something fun, something with personality (my personal backlash against driving two Tauruses in a row, not-that-I’m-not-grateful-Dad), something big enough to be useful as a family car but small enough to have a huge MPG.

Enter the MINI Countryman.

I’ve loved the MINI for years. I’ve had a little red Burago 1:18 model MINI Cooper on my desk for a decade or so, my favorite author has owned (and blogged about owning) one since 2007, and another of my industry beacons bought damn near the one I had my eye on just a few weeks ago. Alas, when I first tried to sit in a Cooper I was crestfallen, because as a six-foot, two-hundred-and-*coughcough*-pound man, I don’t fit in a Cooper very well. When I first heard they were introducing an SUV, I was ecstatic. I stalked the development of that car mercilessly on MINI sites like motoringfile.com, started bugging our friendly neighborhood MINI dealer (in our case, the one in Tacoma – and yes, I know there’s also one in Seattle, but we made friends with the guys in Tacoma first) back in October or November of 2010, demanding to know when they’d have one on the lot. I carefully and politically and graciously outlined all the reasons why I wanted this car to my dear, sweet, loving and ever-patient wife, and she eventually consented to test-driving one, and didn’t hate it. I then spent months crunching the numbers and playing with the Configurator at miniusa.com and got all the paperwork in order…

…And yesterday we went down to Tacoma and finally placed the order.

Now comes the waiting, and as any Tom Petty fan will tell you, that’s the hardest part. Sucker will take about two months to build, so it’ll be here right around the end of July. It’s going to be a long two months, not least because our current car is giving us fits and because I’ve got wanderlust something fierce. We’ve explored a good chunk of Seattle in the last year, and now I want to go take some weekend trips without worrying about whether the car will die an ignoble death on the way home. I want to go see more of Canada, more of the Washington coast, more of the small towns and countryside and so on and so forth. To say that I can’t wait is an understatement. (Man, I thought it was hard to wait for a laptop to get built and delivered!)

So, yes. New car. MINI Countryman Cooper S All4, in Oxford green with a black roof, complete with MINI Connected on-board computer system (of course). Expect a very excited update when the thing arrives!

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