Its not the most encouraging anecdote to start a Mini shopping guide with, but its best to take your pink glasses off now. Williams has done it: “I only buy Minis in garages, usually from retired people who appreciate them and know how to take care of them.

The model dates back to 1959, but here we are interested in the latest Rover Mini, also called Mk7, from 1996-2000.

In 1990, the Minis venerable 998cc engine had disappeared, replaced by a 1275cc unit. In 1992, fuel injection was obtained in a single point and then, in 1996, with the arrival of the Mk7, complete multipoint with ignition without distributor, electronic management and a coil per spark plug. The old side radiator was moved forward, the alternator was reinforced and a higher final drive ratio was installed.

With regard to the bodywork, the wheel arches were widened, the headlights were levelled in an adjustable manner and side impact beams were installed. New seats and roof, thicker carpet, new control rods and trims, remote central locking, seatbelt pretensioners and the drivers airbag completed the interior makeover.

The versions included the standard 1.3i, the Cooper 1.3i and its sports spin-offs, and specials such as the Paul Smith, the Classic Se7en and the Knightsbridge. It was all done in response to research that had discovered that the Mini was popular among fashion-conscious professional singles; perhaps the same research that BMW used for its replacement.

Today, a nice Mk7 in the garage looks better than ever. It may not have the seal of a classic Cooper, for example, or a standard version with sliding windows and a cable door opener, but it will pay less (though we found a 2001 Cooper Sport 500 with 500 miles for a price of £28,000) and it will have something that mounts and moves a little better. Buy a good one, instead of a bad one, and its price will only go in one direction, too.

How to get one in your garage

Expert view

Richard Williams, Richard Williams Classic Minis : “I spend 90% of my time looking for good ministries and 10% selling them. Im only interested in well-maintained garage cars because thats what people want and are willing to pay for. For example, two weeks ago I had 17 very nice ministries and now I only have three left. You can buy Minis much cheaper than mine from around £3000, but you may have to spend at least the same again to get a car of this type at an acceptable condition. So when people research your MOT history and find out that it once failed because of rust, not even the expensive bodywork you have made will convince them to buy it. The good ones are out there, but youll have to look at five cars to find one thats worth it.

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