It takes a certain amount of stubbornness to drive a tiny Classic Mini Cooper in a rural area populated with cowboys driving enormous pick-up trucks. The Cooper could fit in a flatbed with plenty of room left over for some hay bales and a few farm animals.
But Ken Hyndman, the Classic Mini pro on Moss’s Technical Services team, has been undeterred by cowboy jeers that they’d seen horse “road apples” larger than his Cooper. After a challenging restoration full of surprises, his car is among the oldest authentic built-for-North America Coopers in the country.
Hyndman caught the racing bug growing up in New Zealand and became an apprentice mechanic. He moved to England in the ‘70s to work for McLaren on Can-Am and Formula 5000 cars, rubbing shoulders with racers like Denny Hulme, Peter Revson, and Jody Scheckter. He later moved to California where he spent 30 years working with foreign cars before joining Moss Motors in Goleta.
For years Hyndman had been seeking a dream project car, scouring used-car publications every week. He applied the No R Rules – no evidence the car was ever raced, rallied, rolled, (w)recked, or rusted. In 1992, he found a 1962 997cc Mini Cooper he thought was “the one,” but it was sold before he even saw it. Disappointed, Hyndman went back to the weeklies, but in a change of fate, the buyer returned it a week later and the owner offered the car to him for $1,500, $300 less than the previous buyer.
Hyndman and his son embarked on a slow part-removal process to estimate the full restoration job. When they removed the doors, they found the hinge mounts were rusted through. The trunk liner was disintegrated – they could see through to the ground. Despite the broken No R Rules, he was committed to his car.
During the fact-finding phase, Hyndman regularly drove his Cooper around the rural Santa Ynez Valley and entered the car in the annual parade. Many people thought the car was cute due to its diminutive size, but Hyndman had to endure endless jokes about it too. One frequent comment had to do with the size of paintbrush he’d need the next time he painted the car (the paint was awful).
In 2006 Hyndman decided he’d had enough and moved the restoration forward. The windshield supports showed some rust so he decided to remove the glass. The roof nearly collapsed from a combination of advanced rust and the heavy weight of a thick layer of filler. He figured a previous owner must have decided to create a custom roofline.
When Hyndman got into the paint prep work, he had to sand through five layers of paint to get to bare metal. Although the car was originally red with a black roof, he went with Audi racing green.
Now Hyndman enjoys his finished Cooper, and it’s the star of the annual Santa Ynez Valley parade. The small-yet-sparkling showpiece gets a position of honor in front of the horses! Road apples be damned.
He thanks Joe Hinkens at Mainline Autobody in Santa Maria, Gary Semerdjian at Imported Auto Service in Santa Barbara, his wife Judy, and his family for their help and support.
If you have any questions about your Classic Cooper, Ken Hyndman is your man.