May 07, 2015
Classic MINI Road Trip Across Canada.
Conquering the open road is a passion shared by MINI drivers the world over, and it all started in 1959 as the first classic MINI rolled off the production line and onto the streets.
Shortly afterwards, word about these inventive little cars spread and they were quickly exported around the globe. One of the earliest orders in the marque’s history was placed by John and Maud Field, who drove their classic MINI off the forecourt of Brampton Motors, Canada in late 1959. We caught up with Maud and her granddaughter Sonja Lanchbury to hear all about the trek that took a young couple through the Northeastern United States and Canada in their brand new classic MINI.
“Grandad wanted a new car and couldn’t afford to buy a big American [or] Canadian car, but could afford to buy the MINI brand new and have it imported over.” Sonja explained, but it wasn’t only price that attracted her grandfather to the MINI, “Having a MINI was also something different, having an English car over in the States.” Making the switch from much larger cars turned out to be no problem for Sonja’s grandparents, who enjoyed the reliability and resilience of their new car. “Compared to other cars it was one of the best,” Maud remembered, “no matter what we put it through it always ran.”
The moment they picked up their MINI, Sonja’s grandparents set off to see what their ‘little car’, as they named it, could do. “We left very soon after getting the MINI,” Maud told us, and “Whilst driving in the US people would stop and say ‘what a cute car.’”
Their trip began in Toronto and took them on an enjoyable non-linear tour to Niagra Falls, through Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, then back into Canada as they visited New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia before heading west into Quebec. Following the rambling route they took on a map just shows how much John and Maud enjoyed motoring in their MINI, and Maud admits it made the driving memorable as they travelled through the countryside from one gorgeous landscape to the next.
There were countless highlights from the trip, but the memories that have endured for Maud involve other motorists’ reactions to their new MINI. One such memory is of Dolly Copp campsite, a vast camping ground surrounded by New Hampshire’s tallest Appalachian peaks. “We were camping in the grounds during low season, so there were very few other campers around.” Maud began, recalling the adventure in the White Mountains, “Another couple asked to camp with us, they were scared and nervous being on their own in such a vast site.”
After sitting and chatting with their new companions for a while, Maud realised that the couple’s concern had shifted, “They were amazed that we didn’t have a gun with us whilst we were travelling and camping in woodland areas,” she said, adding that it was apparently the norm for anyone camping to have a gun in the car as protection against large animals, especially those travelling in a smaller vehicle. “[That] baffled us, it didn’t even cross our minds to carry a gun.” She added.
Of course, their trip was not without its challenges and navigating the rugged countryside through the winter was no easy task. “Going over the mountain passes in the MINI, [John] did all the driving and that was a difficult stretch,” Maud remembered, but this adventurous couple just kept going. “We never had a row, never fell out, just enjoyed every moment. Anything difficult was overcome.” It sounds like on their early MINI adventure, John and Maud unknowingly set the standard for intrepid MINI motorists of the future.
When they weren’t behind the wheel, John and Maud spent their time hiking, enjoying the local wildlife and sightseeing. Their sightseeing included a visit to magnetic hill, a unique tourist attraction at which an optical illusion makes a slight downhill slope appear uphill. Parking at the ‘bottom’ of the hill and releasing the handbrake would see John, Maud and their MINI roll slowly towards its crest.
Years after they finished this rambling inaugural road trip, John and Maud moved to England and had their MINI shipped back with them. Converting it to right hand drive allowed them to continue motoring around the countryside, enjoying family holidays in the summers. As the 1970s rolled around, the MINI was passed along in the family to continue making memories.