Andrew Ross is Mini guy. The first car he ever owned, while still living in his native Australia, was a Mini. He’s worn a necklace with a Mini charm on it since high school, collected some 300 toy Minis, and owns two life-size examples of the marque: a yellow and black 2003 Cooper S, and a “classic” 1978 version painted Ford orange. He sums up his fascination with the diminutive cars thusly: “It’s not a Camry. There’s nothing wrong with Camrys; they’re fine cars. But they’re boring. I want something that stands out.”
Ross, a 43-year-old “computer geek” with the school district, moved here in 2001 and bought his Cooper S in 2002. After deciding that BMW hadn’t screwed up the reincarnated brand, he sought a way to connect with others who felt the same way he did about Minis. Two months later, he organized the first meeting of Sin City Mini Club. “There were three people at the first meeting,” he recalls. “At that point, there weren’t that many [cars] yet.”
There are about 100 members now. The youngest is 16, the oldest more than 80. And the cars they’re enthused about are commonplace. You see them everywhere. Which raises a question: Why join a club to celebrate the ordinary?
Answer: It’s not just about the cars (though Ross says they do have a cult-like following, with many an owner lavishing time and money to double the horsepower or apply extravagant paint jobs). It’s also about connecting at a personal level, about making friends. At least three couples have met and married through the club, he says. Ross himself met a woman who helped babysit his two young daughters when they were sick and he couldn’t take time off work, and now has Mini-driving buddies all over the Southwest.
Sin City Minis puts on an annual event called A Mini Vacation in Vegas that draws participants from around the world. This has extended Ross’ social network. “I can walk into a Mini shop anywhere in the country and have people say, ‘Andrew! What are you doing here?’ That’s cool. I get a kick out of that.”
It’s like Facebook, except your friendships aren’t merely virtual. You can kick tires and have a beer with them. That’s needed in a place like Las Vegas, he says.
“Las Vegas is kind of a hard place to meet people, to make friends. You join a club, you meet people and you have something to talk about, a point of reference you might not otherwise have. Even if you meet people you don’t get along with, at least you have an outlet.”