I know what you are thinking… a Mini isn’t exactly a Gran Tourer made for swallowing up the kilometres. But hey, in the 1960s many a family would have holidayed in similar cars (probably not even as fancy as a Cooper S), so who was I to complain? And besides, it promised to be an adventure.
At 6am on Friday, following some choking of the twin 1¼-inch SU carburettors, I arrived at the starting point – the Grasmere One-stop. Soon I was joined by a cream race-prepped Cooper S sporting a very cross-sounding crossflow 7-port aluminum head and twin Weber carbs, an 1100cc MG Midget and a MkII 1000 that was freshly built to 1275cc Cooper S-spec and enjoying its run-in drive. In true economy-run style, all the cars were filled to one click on the automatic stop, so fuel consumption could be measured. In the case of the Cooper S pairing, this meant adding juice to both the left- and right-side tanks.
As the autumn sun rose, we set off for Bloemfontein. The Cooper S pairing, fitted with longer 3.1:1 diff ratio, proved the most comfortable at the speed limit but word from the owner of the MkII was that the standard 3.44:1 was not overly busy and more than up to the task of highway cruiser. The Midget also seemed up to the task – that was until 30 kilometres from Bloem, when it rolled to a stop… it seems a 25-litre tank is just not large enough. But this was not entirely unexpected, and a Jerry can in the boot had been pre-loaded with 10 litres.