With COVID restrictions in mind, local day-trips have become enticing this year. Over the weekend, my girlfriend and I embarked on one such spontaneous jaunt to Nantucket, Massachusetts, and with cases dropping in the state, we boarded the Grey Lady III en route to one of my favorite places in New England.
When arriving on Nantucket, eager ferry-goers are used to being greeted by friends in Land Rovers, Gelandewagens, Land Cruisers, and Jeeps, as they get picked up at the dock. But this time, something a little different immediately stood out; as we retrieved our bikes (our transportation for the day) I counted six or seven different MINI variations in the pickup line. That’s strange, I thought. I expected to see more FJ40s than Clubmans. But beyond that, I didn’t think much of it, and we rode out of town towards those famous Nantucket beaches.
For those who want some context for the high-dollar, vintage SUV culture of the island, Nantucket is a summer home for the 1% of the 1%. Folks with 150-foot yachts and nine-figure account balances—and, at times, the preppiest Brads and Chads this side of Wall Street. For me, the appeal is more in the unprecedented scenery, surfing, and classic overland, than the people. ACK, as the island is nicknamed (inspired by its airport code), is stunningly beautiful. Endless beaches, amazing food, and unique architecture are island staples.
As we navigated the narrow, bumpy streets of old town, I began to notice even more MINIs of all shapes and sizes lining the streets and pushing the limits of BMW Group’s versatile, front- and all-wheel-drive platform. Hardtop, Clubman, Countryman; one after the other passed us on our way out of town.
As we biked toward Cisco Beach, I started thinking about a MINI as an “Island Car.” Nantucket is known for its elite property owners, narrow cobblestone streets, classic overland vehicles, and over-sand beach driving. When you think about it, a MINI actually fits those needs well. With the exception of beach driving, which can be achieved with subtle modification and All4 all-wheel-drive, nearly all of MINI’s current lineup would be perfect.
From what we saw, the Convertible was the most popular choice, followed closely by Countryman, Clubman, and Hardtop. After the weather that weekend, I can see why the roofless variant was most common. However, each provides appeal for Nantucket’s notoriously posh clientele: easy to run to the shops; easy to to get to the beach; easy to do almost everything an island vehicle should.
While it checks the functionality box, there is an area of the island where I wondered if MINI would have trouble. Most island visitors and owners are all about status—that’s what brings out the highest density of fully-restored Toyota Land Cruisers and Land Rovers you’ll find anywhere. How much do you have, and how can you show up your neighbor, is the name of the game.
While you might not turn as many heads with your Union Jack-emblazoned MINI Hardtop (aside from mine), you’re certainly not slumming it, either. While the phrase “cheap thrills” isn’t usually appropriate for a car with a $30,000 to $50,000 MSRP, it’s bang on in the context of quarter-million-dollar restored SUVs and bespoke European luxury cars. Choosing a MINI may not be a status symbol, but it is logical, adequately stylish transportation that doesn’t betray your level of means.
The beauty of the MINI is that you don’t have to take it all that seriously, and that’s where I see the most appeal. The car breaks the status stigma around island autos. I firmly believe anyone can have a bit of fun in a MINI, and the “Go Kart Feeling” as BMW Group marketing would say, is what makes them so popular on the island. Even in Nantucket’s culture of G-Classes and FJ60s, the MINI is still an icon of fun.
And that’s the whole point of vacation, isn’t it? A fun, “who cares?” attitude, not a competition. Even our rhetorical friends Chad and Brad might give their stamp of approval as you cruise by their yacht in your Caribbean Aqua Metallic convertible, blasting the latest Taylor Swift album. “Hey, that looks fun!”—Tucker Beatty
[Photos courtesy Tucker Beatty.]