Dunsmuir Railroad Resort - November 5th to November 7th, 2021

Your Hosts For The Event: Christine & Michael Toibin Simon & Nikki Tildesley Come join us for an amazing weekend up in the mounta...

Gordon & Alison Lee - Member Profile

We had learned about the new MINI in 2003 at the San Francisco International Auto Show. At that time, I was working as a consultant at eBay in San Jose and we were looking for a new vehicle. I was admiring the Honda Element and the Acura RSX. And my wife visited the Audi group and looked at the TT roadster. We sat at a table wondering what this unique vehicle would become. We decided to split up and explore the show separately. My wife said, “I found our new car”.

She brought me to the MINI display and the new 2004 MINI cooper was displayed in 4 colors; Chili red, Liquid yellow, Indigo blue, and British racing green. At first thought, I laughed at it and I expressed that it was way too small. She was so fond of it, she said “it’s so cute.”

At the movies, we had seen the Italian Job remake at the theatre. I told my wife, “see the blue one, that’s what our car is going to look like.”

We had visited an Acura dealership and they offered the RSX fully loaded with a Bose sound system and white leather seats. Reluctantly, I test drove the new MINI at MINI of San Francisco and we had a fun ride around the city. At the time, MINISF wanted a hefty markup of 4 to 5 hundred. I wanted to visit other MINI dealerships to feel out the customer service.

We had observed that most mini owners had bought their cars from East Bay MINI. We drove our 2000 Honda Prelude and we were warmly greeted by Eddie D. We discovered that EB MINI was not charging a markup at the time. We liked the customer experience, so we decided to order a custom built mini with all the options on a 2004 R50 cvt. There were three factors that turned me on in getting the MINI; custom build, state of the art technology, and a chance to belong to a MINI car club. He referred us to contact Norcal minis based in the East Bay. There was a waiting list of 6 months for delivery. Since there were some cancellations, it only took 4 months.

In 2008, we were looking for a bigger car to drive our parents around town and for utility purposes. I had first learned about the new Clubman on motoring file. I thought it was unique to have a suicide door and barn doors. One of the Norcal Mini members had just bought a 2009 silver Clubman and he drove it as a utility vehicle. It sparked my interest even more. We ordered a custom built MINI on the web and we waited about 4 months. I used the clubman for work to set up store displays and Costco shopping. It was quite a challenge to drive a large car like this and then the next day, drive a small R58.

In 2011, Motoring File had just introduced a two-seater coupe (R58) and it was stated that it would be the most aerodynamic mini ever built. When this car was released; MINI-USA changed the naming convention for the two-door coupe to a two-door hardtop and the new two-seater hardtop would become the coupe. To this day, I’ve noticed a lot of people on the road realizing they bought the wrong car and attempted to surf the internet to locate this car on the web. The sport suspension is so tight that I found this car ideal at Thunder Hill raceway.

One year in 2013, the new F56 was being introduced. I was invited to attend a sales event at Mini of San Francisco. Reluctant to attend, I wanted to compare the new changes with the “R” series. There was a mechanic introducing the new F56 and I got to learn about new advances like the micro-hybrid feature; engine stop and start. New i-drive navigation system, Harmon Kardon sound system with DSP; digital sound processor. JCW brakes with 4 pins vs. 2 pins for R series, Dual turbo vs. Twin Scroll, and corner lights for safety in turning. I could not sleep that evening when I thought about the possibilities. I received another invitation with Mini of Concord to test drive the car. I was amazed with the handling, even though the car is longer just under a foot. They tried to sell me a car. I was only interested in laser blue and a special-order configuration. They suggested to vinyl wrap the whole car, and it would only cost $3500. Finally, we researched the car deeply in almost every article on Motoring File and we had made an appointment with Mini of San Francisco for a deposit.

In 2018, I had serviced my R58 for an inspection to take my car on the track. I asked the porter, “what new cars have you got for a loaner?” “We have a black convertible base F57 named “Monica.” Turns out, my car wasn’t going to be ready until Monday. We drove Monica almost everywhere; freeway, highway, backroads. At the end, my wife looks at me in the eye and says, “let’s lease a new F57 convertible.” We built the car online and met with the motoring advisor to place a deposit down. We wanted it to be sporty without the “S”, not sticky on pleather seats, and comfy for potholes in SF with 16” rims. We chose not to attract too much attention. We wanted a car that looked basic, yet surprise onlookers with the dashboard. In essence, this is a car my wife prefers over the other two “S” cars; F56 and R58. Surprisingly, I had a couple of muscle cars, Chargers, and Ferraris desiring to race this adorable little car.

Gordon & Alison Lee

Motor On!!