As we’re in the middle of a classic car sale fad, it’s as rare as a blue moon to see something interesting and affordable in a daily auction. So when I tell you there was a tear in my glass eye at a recent fleet sale, I’m duty-bound to report it.
The car that brought memories flooding back was nothing more exotic than a Toyota Aygo, that petite car with the pantograph wiper that was a perennial favourite with students and pizza delivery companies. On a 15-plate, it was a 998cc fivedoor finished in diamond white, had covered just 7000 miles and came with a service print-out and spare key.
There are hundreds of these things being driven through auctions daily, so why did this one tug at the heart strings?
Well, way back in the early 1990s, Newcastle’s Rover dealer, Buist & Bramall, decided it wanted to raise money for charity and get noticed among the farming fraternity. If you were a Rover dealer, there was only one car you went large with: the Mini.
The Mini in this case was a successful Limited Edition called the British Open Classic. The USP of this particular model was that it had a full-length canvas sunroof that retracted backwards. As you rolled back this canvas roof, so you rolled back the decades to the Swinging Sixties... or so the dream was sold.
Now if Ted Connolly were still here, he’d confirm that a popular 1960s pastime was seeing how many people you could cram into a Mini. So what better way to raise cash and publicity for the dealership, while ignoring H&S, than making an attempt to break the record of the number of bodies mashed in a Mini?
Under the watchful eye of Grey’s Monument in Newcastle, I was chosen to stand in the front footwell, head and shoulders above where the steel roof would have been. There were a dozen other people wedged on and across the still present back seat. They could only breathe because the Mini has opening rear quarter-lights. The car was slowly filled with girls from the Young Farmers’ Association – standing, sitting, hanging through the rolled-down windows. You could feel the poor car’s rubber cone suspension compressing until the subframes groaned against the bump-stops.
In a surprise turn, the Young Farmers’ rugby team appeared on the scene and proceeded to clamber onto the roof of the car. The team assembled around the perimeter of the open canvas roof, holding hands for balance. By now, the Mini’s shell, weakened from the big hole in the roof, was starting to twist. You could hear the panels popping as the pressings and welds strained against the weight bearing down on them. Eventually we were assessed by The Guinness World Records and declared to be record-breakers. The poor Mini might well have been assessed as a write-off had a loss adjuster been present.
It was all exceptionally good fun and the Mini was sold off to an eager customer – they had waiting lists for that model. Indeed, the roof became an additional option (£680.75 from memory) for the standard cars after that. I dread to think how much that one ‘crabbed’ down the road after its shot at fame.
Back to the auction hall and what marked out this particular Aygo was that it a full-length folding canvas roof, just like the long-ago Mini. On a white body, it looked neat, unique and fun. It undoubtedly was the reason behind the car making top book (£6400 + fees) in a sale where bottom book was the norm.
Incidentally, if you are in the mini-car market, the Aygo is a better buy than the equivalent Peugeot-citroën rivals. It’s got better side pressings, more soundproofing and Toyota’s aftersales as opposed to a punch-in-the-face warranty.
‘On a white body, the Aygo’s folding canvas roof looked neat, unique and fun’