Probably the best show I've ever attended has been
Mini Meet West 2002. It was put on by MOALA (Mini Owners of America - Los Angeles). This comment is in no way
a put down to other shows that I've attended. MMW was just simply huge, extremely well run, and outstanding!
Please see the pictures posted below.
This was a 4 day event which ran from August 22nd through the 25th. 177 cars attended and these
numbers included 41 "new" BMW MINI's, and three "Variants"...our Austin Americas!! Entrance fees include catered lunch
for 2 days and a banquet dinner at the host hotel. It also got you a raffle ticket which gave you something like a 1
in 4, or better, chance at winning some great prizes. From what I've heard there were several thousand dollars in prizes
Thursday afternoon was check-in day and a chance to meet fellow attendees. The event's host hotel was
the Atrium, located directly across from Orange County's John Wayne Airport. I planned on starting the 240mi, 3:45min journey
at about 1pm. This was likely to put me through the LA area just as rush-hour traffic was starting. Unfortunately, I got a
late start and was almost an hour behind schedule. Then, I hit traffic just 100 miles south in Santa Barbara and again
in Camarillo about 40 miles further south. By the time I got into the LA basin, traffic on the 101 and 405 freeways
was stop-and-go for 5 lanes in both directions. At it's worse, I think I only moved 3 miles in about an hour! I was
seriously losing my sense of humor and began delusional thoughts of simply pulling over and abandoning the America right there
on the 405 freeway. It was insane! I dont know how you folks in LA deal with that every day.
Of course driving an America in this kind of traffic even more tidious because of need to shift
into neutral and release the clutch peddle when stopped. I must have put 5 years worth of wear and tear on the
clutch hydraulics shifting between neutral and first.
My trip wound up taking about 6 hours, but other than a failed starter, the car ran awesome and the
weather was perfect. (More on the starter later.)
A week or so earlier, I had contacted fellow America owners and 1100 email list members, Jack Redman
and Bryan Gillmore, who live in the Huntington Beach/Irvine area. They both planned on attending. Jack offered to let
me stay at his house for the weekend and that wound up being a fun arrangement. Jack is fairly new to America ownership
and has done a great job of rescuing and restoring a car that he bought on Ebay back in late June. We had a great time the
whole weekend chasing through the streets and freeways in the cars. Jack and his wife Mary Ann were gracious hosts to
say the least!!
On Friday, the event started early with an impromptu car show, a swap meet and vendors sale area, an
auto cross, a Funkana, and a dyno session. Other events included RC car races and a scavenger hunt and brush painting of a
"beater" Mini for the kids.
Jack and I found a nice corner for the cars to park in, and put up my shade canopy. For
this event, I had a big "Austin America" banner made, which is a scale replica of the badges used on the trunk and grill. Although this was exclusively a Mini event, people were glad to see the Americas and very complimentary
of their condition. We got to meet and talk with a lot of really nice people, many of whom were previous America owners.
There were some excellent vendor's booths and some good deals to be had. Mini Mania, Seven Enterprizes,
Heritage Garage, Planet Mini, and a few others had booths set up. I worked my way through the swapmeet area and scored
a radiator, "Lucas" headlights, clutch and brake master cylinders and a rear floor mounted ashtray for my AMCO center console.
The autocross was absolutely amazing! It was a short course that took the top drivers only about 37sec.
to complete and I've never seen cars driven so hard!! The Minis lined up like they were going on a casual Sunday drive. Then
one after another, the engines revved to six grand, the clutches were dumped, the front tires started spinning and off they
went. Some were flogged so hard the inside rear tires were lifting off the ground. Its important to note that
none of these were scrappy looking cars that got used on the track. No, these were almost all beautifully restored cars and
everyone of them attended the car show and even the concours judging the next day. I think I stood for several hours and watched
their antics with a grin on my face. It's something I think we'd all like to do, but rarely do any of us have the courage
to just take our car out and drive the hell out of it just to see what it can do. Mini owners are a different breed and this
proved it! They build their cars to drive, and they do drive them...and then some.
While the autocross raged on, a Funkhana course was set up. Jack and I entered it with my
car and ultimately wound up taking 2nd Place in the Long Wheel Base (LWB) car catagory. Actually, I think that equates
to a last place, because only 2 LWB cars participated. It was alot of fun and I got to drive blindfolded.
Try that sometime while your navigator shouts directions. "Left, left, left......Right, right, right. STOP!!"
Saturday morning started at 5:30am when Jack woke me up to attend the "Donuts Derelict's" car show.
This is another impromptu car show that is held in the parking lot of a local donut shop. Apparently it's been going
on for about 15 years. The local street rodders and custom car owners just gather every Saturday from 6am to 8am for
coffee and donuts. The 200 space parking lot is full by 6am! When was the last time you attended a car show that
had 200+ entrants? A few minutes after Jack and I arrived, 30 or so Mini's showed up and parked in a long line.
It was very impressive! Then, as fast as it had started, the show was over and everyone departed.
Then it was time to set up for the MMW car show. We met Bryan Gillmore at the fairgrounds
and were somehow given one of the most choice locations. Right on a corner and underneath some nice trees. It
just doesn't get any better than that! This was my first time to meet Bryan and seeing his car in person was a treat.
It is still just as it was when he bought it back in August 1970. The 3 of us spent a couple hours polishing and really
enjoyed the show. It was amazing how many Mini's had gathered in one location. They were literally everywhere.
Following the show, every car gathered for a huge panoramic photo. This turned into quite a logistical
challenge for the MMW crew because they had to stage all 177 cars in one area and then, upon instructions from the photographer,
move them to another location. I think the whole process took nearly 2 hours...or at least it seemed like it.
The finished photo is supposed to be 4' long and about 1' high. I can't wait to see that. The three of us somehow
got positioned at the back row and center stage. So, we're just swimming in a sea of Mini's.
The banquet that evening was fantastic. The food was excellent and the prizes and awards were
literally piled everywhere. I received a first place plaque for the "Mini Variants" class and Bryan received
second place. While picking up my plaque, I managed to kick 2 other plaques off the podium area and right into the swimming
pool. Luckily they floated, but somebody got a soggy award. We'll see if I get invited back next year?
I also won a raffle and the prize was a nice floor jack in it's own carry case, a big box of Meguiar's car care products and
a 1:28th Hemmings Motor News Model Truck.
By the time Sunday rolled around, I was beat! Jack and I got up early to take some pictures of
his car for the September America of the Month page and I headed for home. I hadn't planned on attending the Sunday
road rallye, but got talked into it while stopped at a gas station. I got to the start site just as the last few
cars were leaving and joined in on the fun.
It was a great rallye and I finished.....last, or second to last! I think I was 5+ minutes too
fast on the Time/Speed/Distance portion, but who's counting? Apparently they were! The entire course was about
38miles, but it took several hours to complete. At one point we were all stopped in the city of Balboa awaiting our
turn on a small ferry that only held about 4 cars at a time. Needless to say, it was quite a wait and the Mini's were
lined up for several blocks.
After the ferry ride, the 3 other cars that I was with caught up to the camera crew that were filming
the event from the back of a convertable Mini. We put on quite a show for them, racing around the camera car and chasing
Following the rallye, I faced the long drive home. Fortunately, the traffic was great and the
trip was only 4 hours instead of 6.
Now, about that failed starter, I mention earlier. To begin with, I rebuilt this starter
back in 1984 or 85. I started to get a hint of trouble a couple of months ago, right after my little crash. The
starter wouldn't crank, but if I moved the starter cable just a little, it would begin working fine. Well, of course
since I was going to a show it had to completely fail. And, of course the cable movement trick stopped working...and
of course I didn't buy a swapmeet starter for $15 when I had the chance. No, I'm too stubborn for that! So, each
time I wanted to start the car, I had to lightly tap on the big starter cable post with a wrench. That would get me
one chance to start the car. That's how I spent the weekend....tap-tap-tap, w-w-w-r-r-r-r, v-a-a-rooom!
I took the starter apart after I got home and found the brushes were simply worn down to nothing.
A $10 set of brushes and an hour's time fixed it good as new!