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Daniel's Mini adventure
The Mini name is synonymous with Oxfordshire, not least due to the success of the BMW generation car which has been such a resounding success over the last decade.
But Daniel Budd is one of the few to admit to not being too keen on Cowley’s current pride and joy — it is just too ‘new’.
That is because he is an aficionado of the original car designed by engineering genius Sir Alec Issigonis — in fact he is such a fan that he set up his own business dedicated to the Mini, which first hit the road in 1959.
And it seems he is not alone. The Real Mini Company is snowed under with work.
It only moved to its current premises in Berinsfield just before Christmas and already it has had to install mezzanine platforms to accommodate growing numbers of customers’ cars.
Mr Budd, 30, said: “We are very happy here but we are pretty much at full capacity. We will soon have 12 cars ‘upstairs’. There is so much work coming in and most of it is generated by word of mouth.”
While the business started as a hobby around his job in commercial sales with the Lex dealership, he soon found people knocking on his door asking for him to service and repair their Minis.
Then he saw a Mini available as a Japanese import with air conditioning and a high specification. He bought it from the auction, imported it and found it to be in excellent condition.
He was then able to re-sell it for much more than his purchase price and the Real Mini Company was born soon after.
Having taken premises in Stokenchurch, Buckinghamshire, rapid growth prompted the move back into Mr Budd’s native Oxfordshire at Berinsfield.
As far as marketing is concerned the RMC visits two shows a year — the Gaydon Mini Festival and Mini in the Park at Santa Pod in Northamptonshire and advertises in Mini magazine.
Mr Budd admits that the majority of the work is not from the local area.
In fact, the firm’s four staff have just completed the restoration of a car for a customer in the south of France and have just taken delivery of a project from Bahrain. It seems word of mouth can travel around the world.
The staff include Les Carter, 62, who worked on the original Mini production line at Cowley in the 1960s.
Mr Budd grew up with Minis — his father Ralph ran a business dedicated to the cars and is still involved. He also races them — and has done since the age of ten, along with brother Charlie.
The cars are prepared at evenings and weekends. In fact it is something of a family obsession. “My first car was a Mini and I have always had one and my sisters also own them. My little girl, Millie, is six and she is always on about Minis,” added Mr Budd.
Restorations of the cars can take up to six months and currently 12 are undergoing major work, although not all cars are worked on at the same time. There is also a three-month waiting list.
But the business also offers cars for sale as well as general servicing.
The company operates a finance package where owners pay what they can afford on a monthly basis interest-free ranging from £300 to £2,000. Work is then carried out accordingly.
Some customers pay up to £20,000 for a fully restored car equipped to their own specification but Mr Budd reckons they can be a good investment with values of cars that were once a common sight creeping up all the time.
“We have done some one-off body kits and installed big sound systems. We do whatever the customer wants,” said Mr Budd.
One car currently awaiting work is a genuine 1959 model, while there is also a 1968 Cooper and three 1275 Clubman GTs.
While the cars are becoming a rarer sight on the road, parts are in plentiful supply and the RMC is supplied directly by Witney-based British Motor Heritage, which manufactures Mini parts to original specification.
Ultimately, Mr Budd never grows bored of Minis and that infectious enthusiasm means the business is continuing to grow and he is considering another move to larger premises in Oxfordshire, having only been in Berinsfield six months.
He said: “I am looking at creating more space as I do not want to start turning work down.”
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