Over half a decade since he drove a TVR clean across the globe, Ben Coombs introduces his next big project.
All hail the Mini6000 Expedition…
The build-up to every road trip is different. Some happen spontaneously, the car waiting outside and the destination down the road coming together in a moment to trigger the adventure. Others take some planning – the weekend getaways and the European tours, which are at their best when they follow on from a few evenings’ spent pouring over maps, and thumbing through guidebooks. But there’s one more category. The ‘trip of a lifetime’ category, or to use a more in-vogue term, those trips which achieve ‘bucket list’ status. These are the big adventures, the drives which are years in the planning, and require a huge effort to bring to fruition. I’ve made several such trips over the years, with one leading to another, and years of planning separating each trip.
My last big trip of this magnitude was the Pub2Pub Expedition, a 27,000 mile drive in a TVR Chimaera from the northernmost bar on the planet, to the southernmost. This odyssey took eight months to complete, and ended in the spring of 2018. And with its end, naturally I began to cast around for the next big adventure.
But after driving clean across the Americas in a TVR, what could come next? Another long journey? I’d already crossed Africa and Asia on previous trips, and crisscrossed Europe many times, so where could such a new journey take place? Simply setting off on another long drive would feel somewhat samey, wherever it went. But if not a long drive, then what?
And so, my mind turned to other possibilities in the world of automotive adventure, and settled on another motoring dimension – elevation.
I began to wonder, how high could I take one of my cars?
Just like the idea for Pub2Pub came to me while sat at the bar of a Dartmoor pub, so the idea of Mini6000 appeared out of the blue, back in 2018, after I’d got back from the TVR trip. And just as Pub2Pub took many years of work to bring to fruition, the same is true of Mini6000. The simplicity of the idea – to take a Mini to an altitude of 6000 metres – belies the work involved in making it happen.
In the end, it took over five years.
When I first came up with the idea of Mini6000, my plan was to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Mini by taking my classic Mini to an altitude of 6,000 metres. The Mini was first released in 1959, meaning the drive would have to occur in 2019. But things are seldom simple. After a decade rotting in a barn, my Mini required a huge amount of work before it could return to the road. Money was tight as I’d just set up Pub2Pub Adventures, and as 2019 rolled on, other projects came along which meant the trip simply wouldn’t happen that year. And then, 2020 happened. My travel business was shut down, and my income dropped to subsistence levels. I had only one thing remaining at my disposal – time.
I started putting that time into rebuilding my Mini. I stripped the car down to its bare shell, and taught myself to weld as I cut out rust and replaced it with fresh metal. This continued for 18 months, and by the time I had a solid shell, around a quarter of the entire body was new. With funds so tight, I couldn’t afford a proper respray, so I gave it a go myself, and then began the reassembly, restoring the parts which could be salvaged, or replacing those which couldn’t, as I went. I’d never restored a car before, and so the Mini was a labour of love. Every spare penny I had went into it – and there weren’t many of those. But eventually, after over two years of work, Daisy the Mini was back on her wheels. And she wasn’t standard, that’s for sure. As the rebuild had progressed, the idea for Mini6000 was always there in the back of my mind. And so the result of the rebuild was a Mini with an overlanding and offroading bias. A supercharger was fitted, to cope with the thin air of altitude. Underbody protection was added, height-adjustable suspension bought and a winch fitted to the front. A roll cage went in, a roof rack and roof tent added, the cooling system was upgraded, and the build was topped off with the shortest final gearbox drive out there. In short, it was a Mini with a purpose which finally eventually emerged from the workshop as funds allowed and Covid restrictions lifted.
But what of the Mini6000 goal?
The classic Mini was already 63 when the build was finished. However, the most legendary Mini of them all – the Mini Cooper S – hit its 60th birthday in 2023. And so a new plan was born. To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Mini Cooper S by taking the freshly rebuilt mini to 6,000 metres above sea level. With this in mind, work stepped up a gear. A team was assembled, the high roads of the world were researched, and the challenges of altitude investigated. And back in the autumn, Daisy the Mini was loaded into a shipping container and dispatched to South America, where the Andes offer the only roads in the world which we found that breach the 6,000 metre mark.
We’re in the early stages of this latest adventure now, and in the next blog post, I’ll let you know how it’s gone so far…