Mini Meet West 2002
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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 given away.

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!!"  Pretty funny!

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 each other.

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!

Proper accomadations
Austin America: The perfect second....and third car.

Jack Redman & his newly purchased 1969 America.
See more of Jack's car on the September America of the month page.

Displaying the Americas.
Trying to re-kindle the flame....these cars are well worth the effort.

Bryan Gillmore has owned his since August 1970.
Meet the owner of the the January 2002 America of the month.

Yours truely!
I had a great time, as did all who attended!

A very nice line up.
All 3 cars were looking great for the people's choice car show.

3 of less than 10 known drivers in California!
Show day and the Americas made quite an impression.

A great show location.
Left to right: My America, then Jack's and then Bryan's.

In line for the big 177 car photo shoot.
There were Mini's as far as the eye could see...and 3 superb Austin Americas!

Rallye route...Balboa Pennisula
Waiting for the car ferry (or is that car fairy?) to Balboa Island.
Balboa Island Ferry
Hey, it really does float on fluid!
Harbor crossing.
"Nice ride captain. Does this thing have hydrolastics?"