Nelson: The Story Of My First Car

Nelson the red Mini

Seeing as I had my very first breakdown when driving Nelson the little red Mini recently, I thought I’d share the story of when he first came into my life. Y’know, to celebrate the momentous occasion of driving along the A286 and suddenly hearing the exhaust scraping along the road underneath the car…

I’ll be honest, I’ve never been that in to cars but when it came to getting my first car, I knew for some time that I wanted a Mini. Why? Well, being under 5ft meant to me that a car any bigger just wouldn’t suit me or feel as comfortable to drive. Also they’re super cute and retro looking JUST LOOK AT HIM.

At a push, I’d go for a Fiesta because that’s what I learnt to drive in, but really deep down…my heart was set on a Mini. Preferably in red. My Dad remembered this, and when he helped me go car shopping, he had it in his mind that nothing else would do. More so than I did in fact, because as all people do when they pass their driving test, they just really want a car to drive in like right now plz.

Lucky for us both, we managed to find a great independent garage in a place in Halnaker, near Chichester. Me, my mum and my dad went along to check it out and this was when I first laid eyes on Nelson.

It wasn’t love at first sight tbh – he had Union Jack wing mirrors and racing stripe decals and I ain’t about that life. Despite that, it was still sad to leave without him. We decided to check out some other garages on another day first to avoid jumping into something too quickly. But there were no other cars that compared. Nelson and I, we were meant to be.

Fast forward to me and my dad returning to the garage in Halnaker and taking Nelson out for a test drive. Having only just passed my test and never driven in a different car, I was a bit nervous and so my Dad decided to take him for a spin whilst I played passenger. After all, I wouldn’t necessarily know if the car handled badly or anything like that. Dad’s assessment was that he drove like a dream and so we pulled over, switched seats and I did the last little leg of the drive back to the garage.

The love still wasn’t there yet though, as I stalled him almost instantly (let’s put it down to nerves). I knew that wasn’t going to stop me though, so we paid the deposit and that was that – oh, and we also asked nicely for the decals and wing mirror caps to be sorted. And that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship…

Or not. Fast forward a few week’s and I’m driving Nelson fairly regularly to work. As driving was and still to a degree is a trigger to my anxiety, I was driving him to work with my Mum and she would then drive him back home again. It really took some time to get confident driving him as he handled so differently to the Fiesta – my only frame of reference.

Tears were had on a few occasions, and it did take some time to get used to driving Nelson. He was a little bit sensitive and prone to kangaroo-ing, or rather I had some adapting to do because the clutch was not at all what I was used to! I stalled him on more occasions than I can count, and he’s taken a few bumps along the way too (including reversing into a wooden post, knocking off the wheel arch trim).

But guess what? I love him now. He’s my vessel for getting from A to B, and rumbling along on faster roads is a joy. Being stuck in traffic or driving down endless roads with a speed limit of 30 is not quite so fun, but you can’t have it all.




  1. September 8, 2017 / 11:08 am

    I had my heart set on a blue Renault Clio for my first car, and I got it! Like you, I would have settled for anything just so I could start driving on my own. But I’m so glad I got my dream first car. His name is Ralph. I do love Mini’s, especially in red. They look lovely!

    • Cat
      September 9, 2017 / 7:34 pm

      Yes! Another person who gave their car a name…it seems sadly rare these days! Red is the best colour for a Mini if you ask me, as I’m sure blue is the best colour for a Clio 😉

  2. November 26, 2017 / 9:57 am

    Love your car! I really wanted a mini as well but ended up with a citroen ds3 in red! I went looking at a 2014 mini but it was a bit out of budget and also had the union jack on the roof… which i think was a bit too extreme to be removed, unfortunately, haha! And trust me, I had the stress of a new clutch as well!

    • Cat
      November 26, 2017 / 10:11 am

      Thank you! He is a lovely car 🙂 I like the look of the Citreon too! Mini’s are super expensive…mine is a 2006 so it’s old as balls but still runs well (now a few niggles were fixed anyway!). Removing the ‘racing stripes’ from mine left damage to the paintwork so I can only imagine what a nightmare removing a whole roof decal would create! It’s funny how now I’ve been driving Nelson for a while the clutch is not an issue at all…but dreading ever driving a different car!

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