The charming Mini is available in many different variations, with each one more beautiful than the last
Words by Erin Baker, Editorial Director at Auto Trader
If you’ve never heard of David Brown Automotive (DBA), you’re forgiven: it’s a very small, British car company, based at Silverstone circuit in Northamptonshire, and it builds new, bespoke Minis based on old, original ones, hence the “Remastered” bit of the name. It’s what’s known as a coach-builder – essentially a company that takes an engine and gearbox and suspension, and designs a new body and interior for it.
The fashion for brand new cars that use the skeletons of original ones from decades before is proving very popular, with “continuation models” as they’re called, of various classics such as the Jaguar E-Type, fetching north of £1 million. Which might go some way to preparing you for the price of this Mini….
This is what it’s all about, and entirely what you are paying for, make no mistake. The DBA Mini Remastered comes in many different variations, each one more beautiful than the last. We’ve driven the Cafe Racer and Monte Carlo editions and now this beauty, the Day Tripper. Inspired by the seaside, the bottom half of the body is a matt white paint, and the top half a dazzling marine blue. The interior mimics the exterior, with the seats in waterproof Day Tripper white leather and electron-blue Kvadrat fabric (it’s a luxury wool blend also used by Land Rover). The ceiling is lined in brilliant blue leather with a large electric sunroof in the middle.
The steering wheel is a thin, beautifully varnished circle of wood with a dazzling chrome boss and spokes in the middle. There are knurled silver tips on the indicator and light stalks, more brushed silver on the ventilation buttons and more blue Kvadrat on the dash.
The exterior has chrome surrounds for the bespoke tail lights, an enamel DBA badge and more silver on the fuel filler cap.
The exterior metal work has been de-seamed, which means all the metal joins at the corners have been smoothed out into a rounded surface, giving the car even greater kerb appeal.
If all this sounds no greater than the sum of its parts, the reaction when we drove it down its spiritual highway, the Kings Road in Chelsea, was extraordinary. Everyone had a smile on their face and their phones out for InstaGram.
There isn’t a lot, partly because it’s a tiny car, and partly because you’re paying for beauty, not connectivity. But you do get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, USB slots, DAB radio and a small satnav system courtesy of a Pioneer screen. But this is all about the retro vibe, so the dash is dominated by the original Mini large circular dial showing your speed (not much), with a little dial on either side for revs and temperature. And, er, that’s it. If you forgo your smartphone, you have a digital detox right there.
Let’s be honest: the original Mini, which is celebrating its 60th birthday, was never very comfortable, with that short jiggly wheelbase, and lack of sound deadening or expensive suspension, and so it remains. There isn’t much room for four adults, and not much (leather-lined) boot space either. And all that is as it should be. It’s a Mini. The clue’s in the name.
There’s not much power, either, although there’s 50 per cent more than there used to be; they’ve enlarged the cylinders in the original engine to produce 83 horsepower. And that’s fine – all you’ll be doing in this poppet is wriggling and jiggling around Kensington, and whipping into parking spaces too small for anyone else with an immense sense of satisfaction.
A good job too that there isn’t much power because the brakes are somewhat iffy, for a genuine experience.
And weirdly, there’s a four-speed automatic gearbox where you’d expect a manual one, because back in the Sixties they put one in the Mini.
Ok, here it is: the price for the David Brown Automotive Mini Remastered starts at £82,500 excluding VAT, but our test car, the beach-themed one, will cost you £120,000. You’re paying for 1,000 man hours of craftsmanship, and a high degree of personalisation, and something very rare – only 100 will be built next year, and many of them will be exported to far-flung destinations – examples have already been sent to Hong Kong, Canada and, wonderfully, Laos. Whether it proves value for money is entirely subjective, but it’s certainly a little work of art.