High-end customised Minis are nothing new. In 1960s swinging London, the likes of Hooper, Radford and Wood & Pickett made them for the great and the groovy, including Peter Sellers, Twiggy, Steve McQueen, Mary Quant and all of the Beatles. Ringo Starr’s W&P Mini famously had a hatchback to carry his drum kit.
In recent times, David Brown Automotive revived this tradition with the Mini Remastered. Hand-built at Silverstone using a British Motor Heritage shell, it combines sixties style with bespoke luxury. My 2019 review described it as: ‘more pint-sized Rolls-Royce than rebadged Rover’.
Baby, you can drive my car
There is another side to modified Minis, however – one focused on speed and excitement. That’s the raison d’être for the new Mini Remastered Oselli Edition, a pocket rocket that prefers country roads to the King’s Road.
David Brown’s showroom in St John’s Wood is a minute’s drive from Abbey Road studios, where The Beatles recorded most of their music. Here, country roads are in short supply, but the Oselli Edition, replete with red stripes, black chrome trim and 13-inch Enkei alloy wheels, turns plenty of tourists’ heads as I drive over the famous zebra crossing.
Get your motor running
Mini tuner Oselli also dates back to the 1960s and its 1,450cc motor boasts twin SU carburettors, ported and polished cylinder heads, a spikier camshaft and a strengthened crankshaft.
The result is 125hp at 6,200rpm: 70 percent more than a regular Mini Remastered and good for 0-62mph in 7.8 seconds. Top speed is around 100mph.
Helping corral those extra horses are a limited-slip diff, four-piston AP Racing front brakes (the rears are still drums), Bilstein dampers and a five-speed gearbox. And those big ‘60’ graphics? They’re a nod to 60 years of the Mini in 2019 – before the pandemic delayed David Brown’s production plans – and the fact that 60 Oselli Editions will be made.
Leader of the pack
You can spec your Mini with rear seats, but the two-seat version seen here is infinitely cooler. With its powder coated roll cage, four-point harnesses and Alcantara-trimmed buckets, it feels like a pukka road racer.
That said, you still enjoy plentiful luxuries the Fab Four were denied, such as central locking, keyless start and touchscreen infotainment with Bluetooth and DAB.
As a former Mini owner (my first car, in fact), the Oselli’s close-crammed pedals and semi-horizontal steering wheel seem instantly familiar. It’s been a long time since I started a car using a choke, but the A-Series bursts rambunctiously to life, then settles to a strident idle. Exhaling through an upswept centre-exit exhaust, it sounds rorty and raring to go.
Dancing in the street
At 780kg, the David Brown weighs around 100kg more than a classic Mini, which blunts performance a little. However, while slower against the clock than today’s hot hatches, including a modern Mini Cooper, its zingy throttle response, skateboard ride and gung-ho handling add plenty of subjective speed. Even at 30mph, it feels rapid.
Even so, I’m relieved to finally cross the M25 and can let this track-day tearaway off the leash. The snappy gearbox keeps you busy and the power steering demands a firm grip to stay on-course, but you’ll never get bored. Throw the Mini into a corner and the rear starts to slide before the diff pulls things back into shape. Like an arcade racer, it feels hard-wired into the road.
Overall, this is quite a different proposition to the Mini Remastered: faster, feistier and less suited to daily driving. It does have a similar price tag, though, at £117,600, or £129,600 for the car tested.
If that sounds steep (and it does), remember that Peter Sellers paid £2,600 for his iconic Hooper ‘wickerwork’ Mini. In 1963, that was half the price of an actual Rolls-Royce. The same applies to the Oselli Edition in 2021.
Tim Pitt writes for Motoring Research
PRICE: From £117,600
TOP SPEED: 100mph
FUEL ECONOMY: N/A