A FRIEND'S PERSPECTIVE OF THE VANCOUVER MINI CLUB
by Ken Friend
In 1972, a couple of enthusiastic Mini owners got together and came up with the idea of starting a club for Mini owners. The purpose of the club was to share technical information and ideas and generally expound on the virtues and fun of owning and driving a Mini. The idea came to fruition in 1973 and after some sparring with Victoria over the official name, the Vancouver Mini Club (VMC) was born and registered as a non-profit society.
A friend of mine and fellow Mini owner was approached in the street and invited to join the new Mini club, he accepted and became the 17th member. He recruited me and I joined less than a week later as the 33rd member. News of the club traveled fast and in no time at all the membership was up to 80. A club logo, consisting of a black and orange oval border with a Mini in the center surrounded by flames, was designed and soon adorned crests and decals. This original logo was much flashier than the current design which shows a Mini centered in the the outline of a Mini. A monthly newsletter called the MiniScooper eventually followed.
The club soon became aware of other Mini clubs in the US, organized under the banner of the Mini Owners Of America (MOA), and that we had missed a Mini convention staged by this group in Reno, Nevada in the same year. After finding out what was involved, we quickly formulated a plan to put on the International Mini Meet 1974. UBC was picked as the location and Gage Towers as the accommodations. Molson’s sponsored the event with a wall of beer and radio station C-FUN did some promotions and participated with their event vehicle, a VW Thing. A slalom, rallye and a concours were held. The most interesting Mini to show up was a bright orange, lowered, flared, alloy bodied, chopped Twini roadster with two turbo charged engines. It was a remarkable feat of engineering! Our meet was the forerunner of the annual Mini Meet West which was to become ‘de rigeur’ for Mini enthusiasts.
The VMC started meeting casually every Sunday at the Brentwood Shopping Center and held regular formal monthly meetings at various locations on the third Wednesday of the month. When Sunday shopping arrived, the Sunday get togethers were moved to the nearby Brentwood Lanes bowling alley which also provided shelter when the weather was inclement. On any given Sunday 20 to 30 Minis would show up and a local cruise would often ensue. These soon became organized Sunday runs to places like; Birch Bay, Pemberton, Allouette Lake etc. Then we started organizing weekend camping trips to places like Cultus Lake, Deception Pass and for over 10 years we made the annual trek to Kelowna for the Knox Mountain Hillclimb. While camping we perfected the art of cramming 20 Minis into 2 campsites. Our convoys were a sight to behold with 20 to 30 Minis snaking along the highway but not necessarily staying in line, if you catch my drift. We got plenty of stunned looks and stares from everybody including the police.
In addition to club organized functions, our members have taken part in local motorsports events, such as; shows, slaloms, rallyes, hillclimbs, road racing, ice racing and even drag racing. We participate in local fund raising activities like the Kid’s Kruise for less fortunate children at Christmas time and we run the fledgling Pat O’Brien Rallye to raise money for the Heart and Stroke Fund in memory of a dedicated and hard working member. When not participating, members could often be found helping to organize and stage events at venues like Westwood and Portland International Raceway. Some members were into customizing Minis and showing them at custom car shows in Vancouver and Seattle. Now a days, there are a proliferation of car shows, the most important of which are the All British Field Meets in Vancouver and Portland, the Picnic in the Park in Victoria, the new BC Place Classic Car Show and of course, the big event dedicated to Minis, the Mini Meet West.
The Mini Meet West typically attracts between 60 and 130 Minis of all marques and variants, 850’s to Coopers, S’s, Mokes, Vans, Wagons, Pick-ups, Elfs and Hornets and some of the strangest conversions you’ll ever see, Mini tow trucks, 4-wheel drives, 5th wheels, limos and so on. These meets attract fanatical Mini enthusiasts from all across North America, Mexico and overseas from England and Australia. A different club and city host the event every year. MMW’s have been held in Denver, San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Long Beach, San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, Reno, Portland, Flagstaff, Olympia and Seattle. The VMC has hosted the MMW 4 times; in Vancouver in 1974, Richmond in 1978 and 1981 and Whistler in 1991 and was the co-host for the Portland meet in 1988 along with the Oregon Mini Society (OMS) and the Seattle Mini Owners Association (SAMOA). We are the host club for the 1998 MMW, again in Whistler, which in addition to celebrating our favourite car will celebrate the 25th anniversary of both the VMC and the inaugural MMW itself. There is a similar meet on the east coast, aptly named the Mini Meet East. It is normally held on a different date so die hard enthusiasts may attend 2 meets in one year. In 1984 and 1989 the West and East Meets were combined as special events and held in Denver and again in 1994 in Grand Island, Nebraska to celebrate the Mini’s 25th, 30th and 35th birthdays.
The 1997 MMW is going to be put on by the MOA, San Francisco club in Vallejo just north of San Francisco. Everybody is welcome, whether you own a Mini or not. The usual events, that have been the same for almost 25 years are planned, concours, slalom, rallye, funkhana and awards banquet and whatever extraneous fun and frivolity the host club can conjure up. Funkhana! You ask, "What the hell is a funkhana?" Well, it’s a cross between a slalom and a rallye where the driver and a co-pilot must perform inane stunts that may involve throwing water-filled balloons etc. while navigating an obstacle course which may require driving blind folded or balancing on a teeter totter. It requires speed and accuracy as points are deducted for missed stunts and the runs are timed. If you are a dedicated MINIac suffering from MINIitis, don’t miss the MMW. I’ve been to almost every MMW since 1974 with the odd MME thrown in for good measure and I have always had a fantastic time, getting together with seasoned and budding Mini enthusiasts, alike.