1978 Austin Mini Cooper Mark VI - $15,900
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Thanks to the unique suspension, the tires stay planted and the low center of gravity and miniscule curb weight combine to make this car a blast to drive.

There have been tens of thousands of words written to describe the impact the legendary Mini had on the automotive world. It was the prototype for every front-wheel-drive car that followed, a successful rally racer, and like the ubiquitous VW, was built in countries all over the world for a myriad of different applications. And throughout it all, it remained true to its roots: practical, economical, and one hell of a lot of fun to drive. Built by guys who loved to go fast, there was just no reason why an economy car couldn’t also be entertaining and the very things that made it so thrifty were also things that made it a blast to drive. Production lasted from 1959 until 2000, an extraordinary run by any measure, but throughout the unique Mini shape remained and all the things that made it great only got better with age.

This handsome Aquamarine Mini was legally imported and carries a valid Ohio title and is registered as a 1978 Austin Mini Cooper, so you will have zero title issues. However, we believe it to be a later 1991-1992 Mark VI delivered new to Japan, which is why it includes a fuel-injected 1.3-liter engine, factory A/C and disc brakes. What this means is that you’re getting the latest and greatest of the original Minis, a car that’s been properly maintained all its life, and which drives like a Mini should—better, even! Since southern Japan has a climate similar to California, it shouldn’t be a surprise that this car remains completely solid and extremely straight with none of the usual issues associated with the Mini’s monocoque body. It has been repainted at some point and the dark turquoise finish looks appropriate—fun but not too far over-the-top. White stripes and a matching top are traditional Mini styling cues and the fender flares are factory equipment, added with the introduction of the Mark V Mini in 1984. Big, round headlights, the familiar grille, and the stacked three-element taillights all make this car instantly identifiable, never mind its diminutive size. Finish quality is quite good, although it does show some signs of use; after all, you can hardly blame a guy for wanting to drive a car that’s this much fun. It has never been wrecked, panel fit is quite good, and it obviously shines up beautifully.

The gray cloth interior is a lot more up-to-date than you’d expect for a ‘60s icon, and the comfortable buckets, leather-wrapped wheel, and surprisingly plush carpets all make it a much more livable machine than it was originally. You won’t feel like you have to give anything up to have fun in this Mini. Of course, right-hand drive is part of the package and we’d argue that if you’re going to own an icon, right-hand drive is the only way to go. In reality, you’ll get acclimated to it quickly and it does not feel at all odd except perhaps when ordering lunch at the drive-thru. Your left hand will have no problems mastering the 4-speed manual gearbox, which has great action and well-spaced ratios, and pedal layout is conventional so no surprises there. Gauges are surprisingly comprehensive, including a tach and temperature gauge, and the remainder of the controls are about what you’d expect for a British car designed 60 years ago. Of note, this one carries fully operational factory A/C, which is reasonably effective but probably won’t win any awards in the Florida heat. There’s also a newer Alpine AM/FM/CD stereo head unit with MP3 capabilities and it sounds decent. The upholstery is surely original and in good condition, although it seems likely that the carpets have been replaced at some point. The rear seat area is actually a bit more spacious than you’re expecting and the trunk offers decent capacity plus a full-sized spare hidden underneath. The Mini really is a miracle of packaging.

Early Minis had to make their mark with their awesome handling alone, but the 1.3-liter inline-4 with fuel injection makes this one as quick as it is nimble. The fuel injection also means it starts quickly and idles properly every time, and there’s a good whack of low-end torque that was always missing in the carbureted cars. The layout remains familiar to any Mini fan, with the transverse engine driving the front wheels, a side-mounted radiator that seems rather incongruous but was effective for more than 40 years, and an alternator that only seems gigantic by comparison. This later model also shows a modern dual master cylinder with power assist for the front disc brakes, an aluminum box for the EFI’s brain, and factory A/C plumbing fed by the compressor buried down low in the front of the engine bay. Everything works and it drives superbly, making plenty of power even for today’s traffic—you’ll probably surprise a lot of bigger cars with the scoot in this Mini! The engine is always willing and once you master the shifter you’ll discover that it just loves to run. Parts are still plentiful, service is easy, and even in the US the Mini remains affordable to buy and own.

Of course, the Mini’s big claim to fame is handling, and there’s quite a bit of truth to the idea that it’s fast because you don’t have to lift for corners. Thanks to the unique suspension, the tires stay planted and the low center of gravity and miniscule curb weight combine to make this car a blast to drive. Flick the wheel and the car responds, going exactly where you point it. Thanks to upgraded 13-inch wheels and relatively big tires, there’s heroic grip and the power front discs are plenty strong for the car’s weight—besides, it always feels like you’re going faster than you are anyway. You will note that it carries a stock Y-pipe with catalytic converter, so it’s emissions legal, and a newer exhaust system with stainless muffler and polished tip to give it a snarky exhaust note. There are recent components in the front end and the floors reflect its no-snow history because they’re 100% solid and show no signs of rust or rot. Even the spot welds on the rockers are still clearly visible. 13-inch wheels look like vintage Minilites—obviously the ideal wheel for these cars—and carry 175/50/13 performance radials.

This little car is every bit as cool as it looks and probably even more fun than you imagine. It’s led a good life and comes to us from an experienced Mini enthusiast who knows these cars inside and out, so it’s sorted and ready to play. Driving an icon is always a lot of fun, and you’ll be amazed by this car’s agile feel and still-relevant practicality. And we promise everyone will want to talk to you about it—a Mini generates more attention than anything else you can drive, no matter how much you spend. IF all that sounds like your kind of fun, this is a great choice. Call today!

Harwood Motors always welcomes and encourages personal or professional inspections of any vehicle prior to purchase.

Vehicle: 1978 Austin Mini Cooper Mark VI
Price: $15,900
Stock Number: 116104
Mileage: 86,948 km
VIN: XL2S1N300015408
Engine: 1.3 liter inline-4, EFI
Transmission: 4-speed manual
Gear Ratio: 3.444
Wheelbase: 80.2 inches
Wheels: 13-inch Minilite aluminum
Tires: 175/50/13 performance radial
Exterior Color: Aquamarine
Interior Color: Gray cloth
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