While the modern Mini Cooper is still fun to drive, it’s not quite as svelte as its classic forebear. And long before the JCW GP came around, classic Minis were slaying it on rally courses. Not every Mini is a Cooper, though—but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. At least, not with this week’s Cars and Bids bargain car, a 1988 Rover Mini Jet Black Edition.
The Rover Mini is a more modern but still fun classic Mini
Today, BMW owns the Mini brand and has been making cars under it since 2001. However, when the original Mini debuted in 1959, it was made under two British marques: Morris and Austin. These brands were under the control of the BMC conglomerate, hence why classic Minis are often called ‘BMC Minis,’ Automobile explains. As for the ‘Cooper’ part, that didn’t come until 1961, when British racer John Cooper got involved in BMC’s rallying efforts.
The original Mini was remarkably long-lived. Although US imports stopped after 1967, production continued until 2000. And by that time, BMC had changed names, first to ‘British Leyland’ and then ‘the Rover Group.’ The company almost didn’t last that long. However, the Mini, though somewhat outdated by the early ‘80s, helped keep BL and Rover alive, Classic & Sports Car reports.
Usually, the term ‘Rover Mini’ refers to the 1990-1996 Mk VI and 1997-2000 Mk VII models, Classics World reports. But technically, any Mini produced from 1986 to 2000 is a Rover Mini. The 1986-1989 Rover Mini is the Mk V model and didn’t offer a Cooper variant.
However, compared to the original Mini, the Mk V Rover models are noticeably more modern. They have better rustproofing, more durable suspension components, and front disc brakes, Motorious and Mini.org report. And they’re still just as fun to drive, AutoExpress reports, if not quite as good or fast as the later models.
The 1988 Rover Mini Jet Black Edition on Cars and Bids
Part of the reason why Rover and BL kept producing the Mini was because of Japanese demand, C&SC explains. Even today, there’s a strong, passionate classic Mini fanbase in Japan, Road & Track reports. And some of these JDM cars occasionally end up in the US. Such is the case with the Japanese-market 1988 Rover Mini Jet Black Edition currently listed on Cars and Bids.
Like other Mk V models, this 1988 Rover Mini has a 1.0-liter carbureted four-cylinder engine originally rated at 42 hp and 58 lb-ft. And it drives the front wheels via a four-speed manual transmission. Admittedly, it’s not fast; 0-60 mph takes about 12 seconds, RAC reports. But in a car as small and light as a Rover Mini, that doesn’t really matter.
Being a Jet Black Edition model, this 1988 Rover Mini has a black exterior and black velour upholstery, complete with red ‘Jet Black’ decals. And it has A/C from the factory. But the car’s previous owners added some modifications, Cars and Bids reports.
This Mini has a Panasonic cassette player with speakers, aftermarket headlights, a Koni suspension system, Minilite wheels, and a skid plate. It also has an aftermarket exhaust, a chrome grille, an aftermarket steering wheel, and wood interior trim. The exterior mirrors are also aftermarket items.
Admittedly, this 1988 Rover Mini Jet Black Edition isn’t perfect. It has some dents, scratches, and scuffs, along with some underside rust. But it has less than 42,800 miles on the clock. And Cars and Bids notes the seller recently replaced the brake master cylinder, steering rack, pedals, and shift rod seal. They performed a paint correction service on it, too.
It’s not a Cooper, but it’s still a classic modifiable bargain
As of this writing, this 1988 Rover Mini Jet Black Edition is listed on Cars and Bids at $8200 with three days left in the auction. Considering its condition, and its relative rarity, that’s a below-average price.
Typically, classic Minis from this era cost closer to $10,000-$15,000 on Bring a Trailer. And while you can import Japanese-market Rover Minis relatively easily, they also tend to be pricier. Importer Japanese Classics sold several in the $10,000-$13,000 range.
Being an older British car, there might naturally be some concern about reliability. But apart from rust and oil leaks, these cars are fairly solid and relatively simple to fix, C&SC reports. Plus, parts are plentiful. The only concern with this 1988 car might be the valve seals, which weren’t compatible with unleaded fuel until 1989. Fortunately, replacing them with modern versions is a cheap fix.
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