An early Mark 1. One owner, 31k miles from new, and dusty. Over the phone it was too good to be true. In person, walking into the climate-controlled warehouse corner where the car had resided for the last five decades, it was oh-so true. The car was immediately recognizable as special, and the fact that it had been completely hidden from the public eye, or sunlight even, for so long only amplified that. We had an idea of the kind of scene we would be walking into when we arrived, as Marvin, the owner, had told us over the phone that he’s been buying cars new since the late 50s, driving them for a handful of years, and parking them indefinitely in a warehouse. But what we stumbled into was even more impressive than we were prepared for…
While the 1275S was the real apple of our eye, the whole lot was pretty excellent. The 911 next to it? Marvin bought it new in 1984, drove it 9,000 miles in six years, then parked it. Top down, windows down; “It must’ve been sunny the last time I drove it.” The totally rad, doesn’t-get-any-more-80s-than-this Shelby Omni GLHS? Also like-new with just 9,000 miles from new. The motorcycles—tasteful, low-mile imports. Rows of them. Pre-war BSAs, 70s Japanese two-strokes, and the full catalog of Motoguzzis. As hard as it is to believe, at a whopping 31k-miles from new, the Mini was the highest-mileage vehicle in the room by a healthy margin.
We spoke with Marvin at length about the 1275S, the car that has long claimed the top spot on a seemingly never-ending list of cars he’s owned over the course of the last sixty years. He told us of how the car was actually a replacement for his 1071S, which he totaled in dramatic fashion when he rolled six times while chasing a friend in another Mini. He tells us about contacting Walker Imports on Cicero Ave just days after the wreck and placing an order for the new, incoming 1275cc Cooper S. Three months later, in September 1964, the first 1275Ss arrive stateside and Marvin takes delivery of his car. He was actually told that his car was one of the first three 1275Ss to ship to North America, with the other two cars having been destined for the east coast. Though we cannot verify the validity of that claim, the car is an extremely early example, the 680th produced (build date August 28th, 1964), so it’s certainly possible. This car was actually so early in production that it predated the 1275’s signature Hydrolastic suspension, which ups its rarity even further. The more desirable “dry” suspension, the new-for-’64 1275cc engine, optional dual fuel tanks and wider wheels, and in the fantastic Old English White over red colorway, this Mini truly does tick all the boxes.
Marvin drove the car actively throughout the 60s and 70s before last parking it in 1990. According to him, the Mini could really do it all. He recalls the car muscling its way through two feet of snow in the famous Chicago blizzard of 1967, and once reliably transporting he and his girlfriend at the time all the way from Chicago to California, down the coastline, and back to Chicago.
With cars like this, while the spec will definitely carry some weight, much of the value is tied up in originality. So, how original is this car? Extremely, just how we like it. The car saw one bare metal respray in 1980 in the same colors, and coincidentally, the gentleman who painted the car back then happens to have been an acquaintance of ours for years. Aside from the one respray, the car really is bone stock. This car has never seen rust repair or damage; Marvin learned his lesson after destroying his first Cooper S, these are cars that deserve to be taken care of. Marvin even had the foresight to hold onto all of the car’s original parts, so we actually have the original tires and carpet saved in a box.
We purchased this car in the spring of 2018, and the timing really couldn’t have been better. Over the course of the last year, these cars have begun to experience a serious uptick in value. The beauty in this isn’t necessarily just that the car is an appreciating asset, we’re planning on enjoying the car for a while longer anyway, but the recent value tick has drawn more Mark 1 Cooper Ss into the market, which gives us an opportunity to learn more about what we have. By looking at what else is out there, we’re able to really see how our car stacks up in terms of originality, condition, and provenance. Looking at the market then back at our car just confirms that initial gut feeling we had last spring; this car is something special.
Written by: Jake DePierro