It has officially been a month since I bought my MINI Cooper. Viola is an evil little car. I have broken no laws behind the wheel of this vehicle, but boy does she tempt me toward the dark side. There are several twisty, windy back roads in the area that I have always wanted to find some official means to have cleared and make it legal for me to do 90 mph on them for even just ten minutes, but I never had a car that was capable of taking those turns at 90… before I met Viola that is. I haven’t tried it, so I’m not 100% sure, but every bone in my body tells me that this little car could take those turns at 90 without having the passengers leaning to one side of the vehicle, but this is just one of the many evils that she tempts me with.
The other day, I was at a stop light parked next to a Mistubishi Eclipse Spyder. There is a horrible irony in this, in that a friend of mine recently told me that he would love to have a Spyder. Dave, you’re far cooler than this guy so please take no offense. The driver of this car looked like he was all about looking cool, and he revved his engine at me and stared at me and smiled. This informal invitation to race seemed stupid to me. I’ve never raced someone before, but I figured that as long as I kept it legal, it was okay for me to test what my car could do from a dead stop on dry pavement. So when the light changed, I didn’t floor it and in spite of this, the Spyder seemed to be lacking in forward momentum. Maybe his car needed work, or maybe he had crappy tyres, but the Spyder had no acceleration out of the gate. I just calmly stepped on the gas, and calmly accelerated to 35 mph, and by the time I got there, dude in the Spyder was half a block behind me cursing from behind the wheel of his car. God, I love my MINI.
This is the first car I have ever driven that has reminded me of my childhood wish to be as cool as Shirley Muldowney. I got to watch her race at the drags when I was a kid. My dad took me to the drags every summer, and I hated it at first, but when he told me about Shirley Muldowney and I saw the pink dragsters, I immediately became fascinated with them. Funny cars, not so funny cars, fast cars, chutes popping out the back as the engines roared so loud that I thought my ears were going to bleed… and I hated the waiting between the races and I hated the noise, but watching those cars tear ass down the strip with my dad will always rank up there with my most fond memories of him.
Luckily for me, there’s a local racing park here where I can rent time and take my car out for some legal racing, and I have never thought that I might do such a thing, ever, because I saw accidents on tracks when I was a kid. I know how dangerous racing is, even if you’re just doing time trials for fun on a Saturday afternoon, with no one else on the track with you. It doesn’t matter, racing is dangerous. You have a 2100 pound machine, in the case of the MINI, moving at high velocity with steering that is on a hair trigger. If your foot slips off the gas and onto the brake, you’re spinning out and possibly spinning into a wall. And still… part of me is extremely tempted to start doing time trials with Viola… because it would be so damned fun that I have a hard time imagining anything better than setting my hair on fire while behind the wheel of her on a Saturday afternoon.
My car being an evil genius is also about more than just the bad things that she tempts me to do. There’s a rhythm that you get into when you’re behind the wheel of a car that you love, there’s a certain synergy that happens between man and machine that leaves you feeling a certain way about the machine when you’ve finished your turn with it. When I got behind the wheel with Viola the first time, on the test drive, she was a show off. She’d been the dealer demo and you could tell that this car begged for more out of life. That little loop around the dealership was so familiar to the car it was almost as if you were riding the thing on rails, but there was something there, something more. Something that said, “Get me out of here!”
After the paperwork was signed, that is precisely what I did. On the drive back from Tacoma, I learned exactly why my car is an evil genius. Not only does she tempt me to break the law, but she inspires me to tell everyone that I can about her. She intends for MINI Coopers of all shapes and sizes to become the only car in the world, and certainly, for as long as I drive her to me, she will be the only car in the world. Yeah, I have access to two other cars, but nothing else will be my MINI Cooper.