AT FIRST glance, Peregian Beach resident Greg Clare’s unusual 1974 Mini Clubman is confusing: Is it an ugly rust bucket or a beautiful honest masterpiece?
The tiny ‘brick’ – with its mismatched dented panels, cracked and flaking paint, and abundant surface rust – is about as far as you can get from a gleaming red supercar, yet this street machine is perhaps even more unique, incredibly special to its owner, and attracts finger pointing and smiles wherever it goes.
As for Greg, it’s more than just his car – it also represents his bold response to some personal struggles and health challenges. It gives him joy in the times he’s feeling down.
The young car enthusiast revealed that creating such an unusual car has had unexpected positive impacts on his health.
“I just fell in love with it. I’m not sure exactly why, but I liked the character of it, it’s got a story to tell,” he explains of his instant attraction to the old Mini.
The car’s past life is obviously chequered: it seems the owner died, and his widow had it dragged out of a paddock and sold to a Mini enthusiast, but then it was simply stored in another paddock where it sat for some six years, until late 2020 when Greg saw an ad for the sad looking rust bucket on Gumtree.
Having just graduated Year 12, he had made plans to attend schoolies with his classmates, but those plans fell through, leaving him feeling abandoned, with some unexpected time to kill, and his wallet full of his ‘schoolies savings’.
And as often is the case in life, that unexpected hiccup turned into something special.
“I’d always wanted a Volkswagen Beetle ever since I was little, but the price of them has gone up, and basically, it was either a beetle, an old Landrover, an old escort van, or a Mini, that I wanted to buy, and I just saw this and I fell in love with it straight away,” Greg explained with a grin.
“I bought it during Covid, off the internet, sight unseen, from a bloke in Orange, New South Wales, for $1800.
“At the end of 2020, I had knee surgery, and my mental health was not so great, and it was quite hard on me,” he explained.
“It’s been a new challenge, and no matter how crap or down I feel, if I go and hop in and drive the Mini, people will smile and wave, and, honestly, I love that… It helps me.”
“It was pretty much a parts car at that stage. My parents weren’t best pleased, but I told them the number plate that I thought I’d get for it, and as soon as I told them, they were all on board.”
That numberplate, of course, reads: ‘MR834N’ – in the realm of modern texting, it translates to ‘MR BEAN’, perhaps the world’s most famous Mini owner.
The car’s unique ‘characteristics’ add mystery to its past:
As for the overall finish, there’s not a panel on the Mini that is perfect, not one square inch that’s not in some way afflicted by scratches, dents, rust or bog filler.
“This is real. It’s not been made by somebody skilled with an airbrush. It’s time that’s done this, and I just like it,” Greg said.
So, obviously, the young apprentice cabinet maker, who spends his workdays fitting out caravans, had a lot of work ahead of him to get the cute little junker back on the road.
“I’ve had to learn as I go, from talking to other people, and, you know what they say, soaking it up like a sponge,” he said.
The engine was rebuilt by Readspeed Mini Mecca in Brisbane, who also helped out with other improvements beyond Greg’s fledgling expertise.
As for the flag on the roof, Greg admits a bit of a dodgy home-made paint job, to match the rest of the finish.
“It’s the Union Jack. You’ve got to have it on it, I’m sorry,” he said with a laugh.
The Mini has been dubbed ‘The Bean Machine’ or, alternately, ‘Steve’ as in Steve Clubman, a made-up name that sounds like a real person who could actually be a Mini expert.
“It’s got a new bonnet, new floor, new brakes, new suspension, new gearbox, new engine, basically the mechanics of it is new, but the body of it is a bit battered and old, but, like I said, it’s got a story to tell,” Greg said.
“I love it when people look at it and say, ‘How’s that still on the road?’ …and you can always tell when people have read the number plate, because they point, and they laugh.”
Greg plans to reupholster the back seats and add new carpet, and completely redo the Lucas electrics, which had a reputation in the 1970s of simply giving up without warning.
So, if you see ‘The Bean Machine’ zipping around the Sunshine Coast, make sure you give Greg a wave.
“It’s not a garage queen – I drive it every day, to work on weekends,” he said proudly.
“I’ve had someone ask if I can take them to a wedding in it. Another person said, ‘I was born in one of those’ – and I didn’t know what to say to that.
“I get ‘thumbs up’ all the time, people waving, all that kind of stuff; it gets a lot of smiles per miles.
“Who would have thought an old car like this would bring so much joy?”