His name is Tigger. But, really, what else would you name something that is orange, has black stripes and is preternaturally cute? Tigger is a Hot Orange, 2006 MINI Cooper S convertible with black bonnet stripes, and his owner, Alicyn Drew of Alexandria, Va., wasn’t satisfied with him just being cute – she wanted cute with an attitude. So, after some engine and chassis mods, and a repaint with a brighter shade of orange, Tigger received a classic hot rod attitude adjustment – hand painted, pin striped flames.
Buy Me! Buy Me!
By 2009, Alicyn had had enough of owning cars that were bland and dull, the kind that inspire about as much passion as your refrigerator – she wanted a car that was fun, one that would rekindle the car passion she once had. Alicyn was the only girl in her high school to take the power mechanics course, which involved tearing down and rebuilding engines, and through the mid 80s, she did most of the work on her and her family’s cars. But, then, a busy life, a tour of duty in the Air Force and the demands of carving out a career came along, and the car passion fires were all but extinguished.
In her quest for driving fun, Alicyn narrowed her search down to two 2006 MINI Cooper convertibles, one a base model (referred to as “Justa” MINI among the MINI cognoscenti), and the other a MINI Cooper S model. Now, MINIs are pretty high up there on the cuteness scale and we imagine that trying to choose between two of them is a lot like going to the pet store to select one of their puppies or kittens. They all will give you their very cutest look that says, “Buy me! Buy me!”
The MINI Cooper S convertible spoke to Alicyn in a language that she understood, papers were signed, money was paid, and the previously unnamed S became Tigger. We have no doubt that Tigger’s supercharger purred all the way to his new home.
Truly innovative automotive design does not have to be complex, as often that which is the simplest offers the best results. In 1959 Sir Alec Issigonis designed the original Mini (note the spelling: Mini = original British car and MINI = BMW design) with a front wheel drive system that placed all of the drive components at the front, giving the small, boxy body the maximum room for passengers. The tiny, economical Mini was an instant success. Owners soon discovered, however, that, in addition to its other attributes, the Mini was just plain fun to drive.
One of those discovering the fun factor was a friend of Sir Alec’s, race car designer and Formula 1 team owner John Cooper. With his predilection for making cars go fast, Cooper soon teamed up with Sir Alec to produce a “hot rod” Mini, the Mini Cooper. Introduced in 1961, the Mini Cooper soon became successful on the race track and as a rally car, winning the famous Monte Carlo Rally outright in 1964, 1965 and 1967. Only a highly controversial disqualification in 1966 prevented the Mini Cooper from complete domination of the winner’s podium in the mid 60s.
Tough Act to Follow
With the thought of gaining a toehold in the upscale sport utility market, BMW, in 1994, acquired the Rover Group which included the Land Rover, Rover, MG and Mini brand names. For a variety of reasons, the purchase did not work out to BMW’s expectations and the company sold Land Rover to Ford in 2000, but retained ownership of the Mini brand name so that it could extend its reach into the economy hatchback segment of the marketplace.
The challenge presented to the BMW designers was to capture the attractiveness, the fun and the joie de vie, the essence, if you will, of the original Mini, while at the same time upgrading the engineering, safety and convenience features to bring the car into the 21st century. The almost universal popularity of the original Mini made it a tough act to follow.
BMW was more than up to the task. Introduced in the United States in 2002, the first iteration of the MINI sold 176,623 cars between 2002 and 2006, topping out at 40,820 cars in model year 2005. The MINI continues to be popular and, as with the original Mini, it can be virtually any type of car that the owner desires – from an economical grocery-getter, to a fire-breathing rally car or track car. Should you doubt the abilities of the MINI as a track car, please take a look at our video to see a John Cooper Works (JCW) GP MINI harass several Porsche poseurs at the Nürburgring.
The Mod Bug Bites
Alicyn drove Tigger for about a year in stock condition, but, with encouragement from her fellow club members of the DC Metro MINIs, eventually succumbed to the modification bug. Tigger now has a 15% reduction pulley for the supercharger, a cold air intake, a Magnaflow exhaust, upgraded brake pads and rotors, a carbon fiber dash and decorative accents, and new rims and tires. Following a tune up, Tigger hit 181.64 hp (up from the stock 168 hp) on the dyno.
The crowning glory for the modifications is the hand painted, pin striped flames in the style of 1950s classic hot rodders and custom car icons such as Von Dutch (Kenneth Howard), Art Himsl, Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, Tommy “Tommy the Greek” Hrones and the Barris brothers. Tigger’s flames were done by Mark Long of Razor Graphics in Fredericksburg, Va. over paint applied by Dale Blankenship at MAACO in Hampton Roads, Va. The new paint is Valencia Orange, a BMW color, and the flame pin striping is a lighter shade of orange and black.
In addition to being Tigger’s mom, Alicyn is a Cognos business intelligence software expert and an accomplished photographer. All of the photos in our slideshow were taken by Alicyn except where noted. She specializes in portrait photography and samples of her work may be viewed on her website, Portraits by Alicyn Drew.
It’s probably a good thing that Alicyn has lots of irons in the fire, as her next mod for Tigger will include some suspension work. “Does the mod work ever end?” she asks. For those like Alicyn who are passionate about their rides, no, it doesn’t. Once the mod bug bites, that’s it – there is no known cure for that big smile on your face while you’re driving.