Club takes enthusiasm for British Mini to the max.
They were there again this year at the Greenwood Car Show, iconoclasts amidst the American land yachts and muscle cars: the Seattle Area Mini Owners Association (SAMOA). The club’s members brought 22 cars, enough to complete a block-long display of eccentric ingenuity.
The Mini was conceived in the wake of a fuel shortage in England in the late 1950s (resultant from the Suez Canal crisis) by designer Alec Issigonis for Morris Motors. He was later knighted for his creation, which itself became the template for a new breed of automobiles featuring front-wheel drive, a transverse-mounted small displacement engine, a short wheelbase and a good use of interior space.
But it’s not good fuel economy or ease of parking that motivate the affection of Mini aficionados for the venerable British micro-car that first came off the line on Aug. 26, 1959, as much as it is the joy of driving.
Mini stalwart Don Dixon points to the 1963 Austin 850 he resurrected to the road, after it spent years in his brother’s driveway. As he sees it, “Smaller can be more fun.”
That was part of the reason Brian Slominski, SAMOA president, and his wife, Elise, became Mini aficionados. It also helped that Brian’s father, Michael, had several examples in his rotating collection of vintage cars.
“My dad lit the fuse,” Brian says. “It was the most interesting car of the old cars he had, which included a 1955 Chevrolet and several Ford model A’s (four-cylinder engine) and B’s (flathead V8). Like me, he was the youngest guy in his club.”
Michael Slominski, up from Phoenix for the shows, says, “I had a Mini back in the ’60s, when I raced an Austin-Healey Sprite in SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) races; but then, my brother died in an auto accident, and my parents took my competition license and said I was too young to race.
“But I always had cars. I belonged to the Antique Auto Club of America when I had Model A and B Fords — five-window coupes with rumble seats. We’d take a load of kids out, off-load them, and take another load around the neighborhood.”
The Mini has a similar zeitgeist, he says. “I watch people look at the car, and when I tell them, ‘Go ahead and sit in it,’ their faces light up.”
This year, SAMOA celebrates 50 years as a club. Minutes recorded of the first meeting indicated nine people attended.
At a recent meeting, membership was noted at 75 paid members, plus six lifetime members.
Ed Sauer, who joined back in 1967 and is still a member, got interested in Minis as the result of reading Sports Car Graphic and Road & Track magazines, which led him to buy a new 1967 Austin Cooper S from Roland Motors on Pike Street on Capitol Hill, where he was pointed in the direction of SAMOA.
“It was a bunch of kids from the University of Washington,” Sauer recalls. “Minis were easy to get and park. A lot of people auto-crossed them on weekends; shopping malls weren’t open on weekends. A Ford dealership over in Eastgate let people autocross on their property. There were also autocrosses down at the Boeing Space Center in Kent.”
Sauer, retired from the graphics department of the Seattle Times, currently owns a 1972 Austin 1300 GT, which he calls Mr. Mustard due to its color, that he drove to the Greenwood show; he also owns a 1968 Lancia Fulvia and a 1963 Riley Mills Mk II.
Sauer believes the range of age and experience among the club’s membership benefits everybody.
Michael Slominski says, “I belong to several clubs, which include the Arizona Mini Owners, and this is the best club with which I’ve been affiliated. It’s not just the cars; it’s the style of the people. If one guy has a problem, five guys show up to help, and they have a good time doing it.”
Keeping their Minis running depends on sharing information, as well as expertise.
“There are formal tech sessions found at meetings,” explains Brian Slominski, “and informal tech sessions among members. We get most of our parts from England and they’re amazingly affordable. You might get a generator for $35 or a radiator for $11.”
How has SAMOA survived 50 years? “It’s about more than a car,” says Slominski, who figures to remain a member for life. “It’s an identity.”