Take me to your dealer

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 October, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 October, 2002, 12:00am

Where do I start looking for a classic Mini?

Locally there are no garages specialising in classic Minis. Try second-hand car dealers, such as those in Kam Tim and the old Kai Tak airport, or check the classified ads. Alternatively, import one from Japan or Britain. For 1960s and 70s models, try Cambridgeshire Classic Cars (www.classiccarspecialist.co.uk), whose owner has been restoring Minis for 20 years. John Cooper (www.johncooper.co.uk) also sells spare parts and later-model cars. Japanese sites (in Japanese) include mini@shop (www.european-ace.com) and www.mynet.ne.jp/~thames.

How much will it cost?

Locally, second-hand Minis are $50,000 to $120,000. In Britain, 1960s and 70s models are about $120,000; in Japan, expect to pay $100,000 for a mint-condition 1990s car.

What about shipping?

If you buy a car overseas in a private deal, you will have to find your own shipping company; expect to pay about $8,000-$10,000. If you buy from a dealer, he can help arrange shipment - for a fee. Once the car arrives in Hong Kong, there are several stages - and government departments - you must go through, including Customs, the Environmental Protection Department and the Transport Department. For detailed information, contact the Vehicle Examination Division (tel: 2333-3112) or visit www.info.gov.hk/td/eng/services/lp_menu_index.html and click Vehicle First Registration. To alter a Mini to comply with government requirements, expect to pay about $10,000 for a new car, and far more for an old one. Go to a professional garage familiar with car-examining procedures.

What should I look out for when buying a pre-loved Mini?

Check the bodywork; Minis are susceptible to rusting around the doors and the chassis. Look for any dents and areas that have been patched up - they may indicate the car has been seriously damaged in an accident. And take it for a test drive to ensure it runs smoothly and doesn't belch fumes. Classic Minis tend not to suffer from major mechanical problems: they're simple cars and easily fixed. If you're not sure what to look for, ask a Mini-driving friend to go along, or join a fan club and ask the other members for advice. If you're buying overseas, ask a friend to check the car for you. Go to reputable dealers: some online auctions are not to be trusted. And never buy a Mini from a photograph alone.

Any tips on maintaining your little darling?

Don't drive your Mini in the rain: the old ones are prone to leaking. And when you wash it, use a bucket and an absorbent cloth rather than a hose. Maintain the chrome with wax, and apply a coat of Waxoyl (available in most petrol station shops) to any cavities in the bodywork to prevent rusting.For spares, try British companies such as Mini Spares (www.minispares.com), Mini Sports (www.minisport.com) and Somerford Mini Spares (www.somerford-mini.co.uk). Newton Commercial (www.newtoncomm.co.uk) is good for interior parts such as original seat covers and carpets.There are plenty of companies in Japan selling spares, but most do not welcome phone or fax orders: you have to go there. View their stock online at www.turtle-trading.co.jp, www.mini-house.com, www.garage-morris.co.jp and www.panrope.com.

Where can I bone up on Mini stats and facts?

There are two monthly magazines, Mini World (www.miniworld.co.uk) and Mini Magazine (www.minimag.co.uk), which have classified ads as well as spare-parts information. Look for them in Page One. Online, try the Hong Kong Mini Fan Club at www.miniclub.hk.com (in Chinese only), a forum for local aficionados, and the following British sites: British Mini Club (www.britishminiclub.co.uk), the MiniClassic Community forum (www.miniclassic.co.uk), the Mini Cooper Register (www.minicooper.org), and the new Mini's official site at www.mini.co.uk. There is a Chinese-language site based in Taiwan at www.tacocity.com.tw/miniclub.

I'm sold: how can I join the club?

It costs $300 to join the Hong Kong Mini Fan Club, which includes your first year's subscription, a monthly newsletter, bumper sticker and key-ring, then it's $300 a year. Download an application form at www.miniclub.hk.com (in Chinese). The club holds activities on public holidays, and meets on the first Sunday morning and last Saturday evening of the month. Give me a call on 9017-2696. And if you're not busy this morning, get your motor running to Luk Keng, Tai Po. We'll be there from 8am to noon.