Friday, August 10, 2012 00:50
You’d think with the world’s finest athletes all gathered together in London to celebrate the pinnacle of human ability, someone would just walk out there and bring back the javelins, discuses (discii?), hammers, and shots the competitors fling downfield in their quest for gold. Instead, along with a fleet of 160 BMW ActiveE models and 40 MINI Es used to shuttle athletes and officials around, three radio-controlled Mini MINIs have been deployed to fetch throwable sports gear so officials don’t have to get up and, you know, do anything.
The quarter-scale MINIs have 10-horsepower motors, vented disc brakes, and beefed-up suspension to carry the heavy stuff. The sunroof opens up to reveal a waterproof storage area that also has holders for javelins. Each car is good for about 35 minutes of running on a charge, and each of the three Mini MINIs covers almost four miles per day in four-hour shifts across nine days of Olympic and nine days of Paralympic competition.
But maybe there’s a more subtle plan at work here. There are no motorsports at the Olympics, but as the youth of the world are seduced in ever greater numbers away from outdoor games and toward computer games, perhaps RC car racing is the Olympic sport of the future. If so, look for Team BMW to earn the first gold.
Monday, January 30, 2012 12:17
The trick to getting started in racing is to get the most amount of track time for the least amount of money. If you’re looking for a fun and cost-effective class to get your start in road racing, consider B-Spec racers, based on small and inexpensive models from Honda, Kia, Mazda, and Mini.
In 2012, B-Spec racers will hit the track at SCCA, World Challenge, and Grand-Am races all across the country. The most popular car appears to be the Mazda 2, the lightest and least powerful of the cars eligible for the class. A $2600 racing kit that includes suspension and brake updates, an oil cooler, and an air filter should go on sale soon enough to help bring the Mazda 2 forward in the pack. Honda Performance Development is offering a kit for the Honda Fit, and similar kits are available for the Mini.
Other eligible cars include the Fiat 500, the Ford Fiesta, the Toyota Yaris, and the Nissan Versa. All are cheap, even new, compared to a dedicated race car. And their relative lack of power compared to bigger cars means you’ll develop your drivers skills faster so that when you move up you’ll be ready.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011 08:00
A few weeks back, I was out to dinner with some family friends and they were telling us about the swanky new down town loft they had purchased after selling their home in the suburbs. The woman, let’s call her Alice, was telling me how she loved that she can now walk to work, but wished she had a small car for running around town in.
Alice explained that, since their children were grown, they had no need for two fancy sedans and that she was looking for a better alternative. I mentioned to her that the two best choices for a small fun city car for any budding hipster would be either the Mini or the Fiat 500. “Oh my God!” Alice exclaimed, “I saw an ad for the Fiat on TV and I thought it was amazing!” Then turning to her husband, “Hey, Jim (fake name)! Didn’t I tell you how cool I thought it was?” Jim simply smiled and nodded in confirmation. No doubt mentally preparing himself for a day at a Fiat showroom, excuse me, studio, sometime in the near future.
The reason I bring this up is that the Fiat 500 manages to fill a few very unique market segments. The first segment is obviously the youth market due to its retro styling, low price, and cheap cost of ownership. The second group is made up of those who need a small vehicle that gets good mileage, but isn’t as dull as a ‘90s-era Civic. The final market niche consists of the 50+ crowd whose vehicles seem to be either flashy I-swear-I’m-not-old cars or the dull, my-kids-have-moved-out-and-the-retirement-home-awaits-me mobile. Fiat, however, has managed to come up with the perfect compromise. The 500 is not an over the top supercar that costs four years’ wages, but it’s not a lame slush-mobile either. “It is a fun, smart, peppy city car.” I said to Alice, “But wait for the 500 Cabrio, that’s the car you’ll want.” More...
Monday, May 2, 2011 06:00
The ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes spent his life looking for an honest man. Had he been born in our time, he’d probably be spending much of his life looking for a parking spot in the city. Now MINI makes that easier to do with a special folding bicycle that fits in the rear so you can park farther from your destination and bike the rest of the way there.
The aluminum-framed MINI bike has 20-inch wheels and eight speeds, and weighs about 24 pounds. It comes with a gel saddle and a stuff bag that hangs off the back. Fenders and a Teflon-coated chain help keep your work clothes clean. The bike folds along the crossbar and the handlebars, the saddle retracts, and the pedals fold up close to the frame.
The MINI bike comes in flat black with silver highlights in the MINI lettering on the crossbar. It even comes with a bell on the handlebar for channeling your inner Pee Wee Herman. The price of not having to hunt for a parking space is about $730, a sum that might send Diogenes looking for an honest deal on a less expensive folding bicycle and a felt-tip pen to write MINI on the frame. www.miniusa.com
Wednesday, April 27, 2011 06:00
It’s easy to think of corporate honchos as greedy, self-important robber barons who brought the economy to the brink of the abyss with their hubris then fled with their million-dollar bonuses to the safety of their guarded mansions. But not all of them are like that. Case in point, Jim McDowell, chief of MINI USA, who went on stage dressed as a member of KISS to announce a partnership with the band to sell KISS-inspired graphic wraps for MINIs, and to auction off four special KISS-themed MINIs on eBay, all to benefit UNICEF.
KISS memorabilia will also be open for bidding on eBay, but the undoubted stars of the auction are four MINI Countryman SUVs in KISS colors, each mimicking the makeup worn by one of the band members, and each signed by all four of them.More...