Lodging Planner for Lake Tahoe Weekend Run - May 18 - 19, 2024

Saturday and Sunday overnight run to South Lake Tahoe. Enjoy the backroads, less traveled, and even more scenic than your usual run up the f...

Larry Anderson - Member Profile

Larry Anderson

Larry, standing out in a crowd!

Hey everyone! I currently live in San Ramon, CA, but have lived in the SF Bay Area my whole life. I grew up around cars (dad is a legit motorhead from Merced and always had some sort of big block Chevy engine in various states of assembly lying around), but I never really was a “car guy” until much later in life. So how did I get into MINI’s? 

In 2005, my then boss proclaimed he was getting a brand-new car. This was an event in itself, because he’d been driving the same Mercedes E300 since I first met him in 1996. What was he getting? A MINI. “A what??” we all said. It was then that he shared with me the MINI experience; how he shopped for it, his test drive, how he got to watch the build happen in real time, everything. 6 months later, a blue R52 with a blue top showed up in the parking lot. We all oohed and aaahed, went for rides… and then more and more of them started popping up. Eventually 6 of my co-workers also had MINIs and you couldn’t walk from the parking lot without tripping over a couple of them.

Shortly after that I decided it was time to find my own MINI. I popped up AutoTrader and started my hunt. Not knowing much about the specifics of MINI’s at this point, I thought I’d keep things simple:

- stick with a first generation…
- gray (dark silver) would be nice…
- had to have the supercharger because vroom…
- gotta be a stick…
- had to have leather seats…
- navigation would be great…

Score! An almost fully loaded R53 showed up at East Bay MINI. The only options missing were powerfold mirrors and power seats, and the price had just been dropped by 5K. Made an appointment and headed on over, keys were grabbed and we headed out for a spin.

Soon I would experience the moment that hooked me as a MINIac. Our test drive took us down the side road running alongside I580 East (west of the El Charro exit), at the end of which was a dead end. The salesperson instructed me to turn around, hit the gas, and go as fast as I was comfortable, BUT… I couldn’t let it dip below 50 for the sharp left turn at the end of the street. Since I have my mom’s lead foot, we were shortly running at about 90. The corner was coming, so left off the gas a bit, downshifted (clumsily since I hadn’t driven a stick in more than 5 years), and at about 55, turned the wheel left. The car executed the turn perfectly without rolling, without any squeal or other protest. The “go-kart” handling that had been described to me was legit. Needless to say, I went home with the car and started enjoying the heck out of it.

Here he is in his dusty glory. Sadly, I only have this one picture of my first MINI to remember him by. However, the license plate, frame and bumper sticker were transplanted to the next MINI:

While the first MINI was fun, I wanted something that I could truly call my own… which is when in 2012 I decided it was time for an upgrade (I was getting seriously envious of the Gen2-owning members of the club). Went to my friendly neighborhood auto broker, put my R53 up for sale and ordered my new MINI: a 2012 John Cooper Works Clubman, British Racing Green II with Recaro seats, rear spoiler, black rally stripes, checker vinyl roof graphic and manual transmission. After a painful 4 months of waiting, RetroMINI made his entrance in August of 2012 (RetroMINI because of my fondness for classic videogames, if the license plate frame wasn’t a dead giveaway). Here he is the day I picked him up:

…and here he is in his current, meaner configuration (this was taken in 2016 at MTTS):

RetroMINI has seen over the course of his 8 years and 80k miles:

- 2 1/4 MINI Takes The States (4 stops in 2014, full coast-to-coast in 2016 and 2018)

- At least 30 US States

- All the usual breakdowns the Gen2/N14 engine is famous for (turbo, high pressure fuel pump, gas tank pressure regulator, 2 windshields, 2 sets of brake rotors), but is aging gracefully just the same

- More runs and twisty roads with NorCal MINIs and friends than I can count

My time with the club:

I found out about NorCal MINIs quite by accident. When I had my first MINI, a couple of co-workers told me about a run sponsored by East Bay MINI and thought I would see what all the fuss was about. That was when I met a bunch of the OG NorCal MINI’s crew; a quick jog around the Pleasanton/Livermore area was all it took for me to understand what the best part of owning a MINI was; the community and friendships that come with it. I joined right after that event and have been a member since 2010, director since 2019, and somehow have managed not to get kicked out of the club for my constant, biting sarcasm.

I can’t wait to get back out on the road with all of you in the near future. Stay safe and healthy everyone!