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Reader test: Mini Cooper S JCW GP

2008-05-08 09:25

Adrian Ma Sing

500 words sounds like a lot to describe a car and I suppose it would be, if you had an ordinary car to talk about that is... It would certainly never be enough for my limited edition Mini Cooper S John Cooper Works GP, but I'll try.

Not much mention has been made of this car in "hot hatch" circles. There are only 29 privately-owned examples out of 2 000 worldwide in SA. This edition signalled the end of the first-generation New Mini at the end of 2006, but I'm going to let you in on a secret - I'm glad I bought this car.


Beating off the "competition"

For me, the pleasure I get out of punching my GP through the gears at full chat on a deserted, well-paved bit of black stuff with lots of twisty bits thrown in far exceeds the pleasure I get from reluctantly accepting the inevitable challenges that are thrown my way from the barbarian hordes who comprise the GTI, ST, OPC, MPS, RS F1, Type-R clan.

It's just that my car and I don't need that. The closest and unfortunately, the corniest, I can come to describing the relationship between me and my GP is by paraphrasing Jerry Maguire - it completes me.

Yes, the ride is hard, almost unforgiving, but the payoff! Wait until I can ditch the Dunlop run-flats for some serious rubber! That should signal petrol-head heaven!

The figures for the GP read as follows: 0-100 km/h in 6.5s, a top speed of 235 km/h, 165 kW and an unladen mass of just over a ton. Makes for great reading if you're into that sort of thing.

What those figures don't tell you, however, is how a car drives. To put it simply, I drive my car and my car drives me. At the same time I know my skills as a driver (with precious few track sessions to my name) means that my quest is to one day synchronise my limits with those of the car.

A special car indeed, the GP eschews irritating standard equipment such as rear seats, sound-deadening insulation and automatic aircon. That, combined with aluminium suspension arms and unique lightweight alloy rims (if you kerb a wheel, you will need to provide proof of ownership and VIN number to get a spare!) all weighs in - pun intended - to better the holy grail of performance, otherwise known as the power-to-weight ratio.

Something special

And what would a car like this be without the requisite styling to identify it as something special? There is nothing understated about the GP and it stands out from other Minis much as "Big" Joe van Niekerk's presence at a dwarf tossing competition would.

From the Chilli Red side mirror housings and deep front splitter, to the massive "tuning-fork spoked" 18-inch rims, not to mention the requisite Recaro sport seats and Impreza STI-esque genuine carbon fibre wing, this little car goes as it looks.

And finally, the sound... That supercharger whine and over-run exhaust burble and pop. Like Dracula's children of the night; what sweet music they make.

I would also like to mention that I am not just another blind acolyte of a particular brand of car.

I have always been an enthusiastic follower of anything with wheels and a motor, and have previously driven only Alfa Romeos.

These include a 1983 Giulietta 2.0l and two GTV6s, one of which was among the last 200 limited-edition Auto Delta cars produced in SA.

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