25 Year Clear: 1983 Austin Mini Cooper

I can’t help but wonder if this barn find 1983 Austin Mini Cooper has been hiding out, just waiting for the day it could legally be put up for sale. As a right-hand-drive, clearly-gray market car, the fact that this Mini has been stateside for years strikes me as odd given the recently-eased restrictions around bringing non-U.S. market cars into the country. Find this curiosity here on craigslist in Virginia with a $3,800 asking price. 

Nowadays, if a car is 25 years or older, you can import it with relatively minimal hassle. However, before that rule went into place, non-federalized vehicles could be subject to all sorts of inspections and fines if not outright export or destruction. Since this Mini has been here for at least a few years, I wonder if it was imported at a time when the process was costly and expensive. The mounting plate for a longer European license plate remains, which could mean it never underwent outright federalization.

This is a right-hand drive car, which isn’t that hard to master (personal experience) provided you can adjust to people staring at you in traffic. The interior looks average at best, but hopefully it’s been stored well enough to prevent any rodent or water damage. It appears the steering wheel is missing a horn button and the rest of the interior needs a good cleaning. The seller does say the seats and headliner are in great shape.

The good news is the seller does have a title, which may put to rest my speculation about any legality issues. The car looks menacing on its aftermarket alloys, fender flares and possibly lowered suspension; given the motors were simple and small, getting it running again hopefully won’t take much effort. The price seems more than fair if there aren’t any rust issues to contend with, so hopefully it returns to roadgoing form soon.


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  1. Rick

    And gone already!

    • John M.

      Indeed. One of the fastest sales on Craigslist that I know of.

  2. Derek

    Not a Cooper though, if it’s 1983. And the horn push is on the indicator stalk. D.

  3. Mark-A

    Was going to say exactly the same thing Derek, they didn’t receive the Name until late 80s or early 90s. The Mini is an amazing car just look up YouTube with them beating Camaros & Mustangs in the Touring Car races, maybe they weren’t the fastest on the straights but even today there’s very little that will hang with them in corners

    • RayT Member

      I’m pretty certain the Mini Cooper was first offered circa 1963-64. I can remember driving a Cooper at a dealership in ’66. I wanted one. I still want one.

      Good job this one is already sold, though the pictures led me to think it was not quite as nice as advertised.

      • Andy

        1962 to 1971 cooper and cooper s, 1991 saw reintroduction of the official cooper name by rover until 2000. To many so called coopers were exported with fake IDs

      • Andy

        1962 to 1971 cooper and cooper s, 1991 saw reintroduction of the official cooper name by rover until 2000. To many so called coopers were exported with fake IDs

      • Puhnto

        I had a 1964 Austin Mini Cooper in 1967. They came in Austins and Morrises in the U.S.

      • Kevin

        1959 first year

  4. Michael

    I served in the USAF in the early 80’s and was stationed in the UK for 2 years. My buddy had a Mini Cooper S with a 1275 engine and dual Webbers. That sucker would scream. I drove a crappy Hillman Hunter for a while, but upgraded to a 73 American Capri.

  5. Adam T45 Staff

    It’s interesting to read about some of the import restrictions that you have had in the USA in the past. Here in Australia there is a bit of a battle going on at present, and this is actually over the import of older cars.

    Our Border Security Force have been given the right to seize and impound any imported cars if they believe (or even suspect) that the vehicle may contain asbestos in the brake linings, the clutch linings, or in any of the gaskets in the car. It is then the responsibility of the owner to have a detailed, microscopic inspection undertaken to verify whether of not the car is clean. Depending on the car, the cost to the owner will be somewhere between $14,500 and $25,000. If asbestos is detected, then it must be completely removed by a suitably licenced contractor before the car is released from customs (or the car will be returned to the port from whence it came). If no asbestos is detected then the car is released, but the owner still has to foot the bill for the inspection based on someone’s unproven suspicions. Border Security are currently holding dozens of cars pending inspection from manufacturers as diverse as Lotus, Porsche and Rolls Royce.

    • Kevin

      Here is an interesting bit of info. Most Minis imported to the US 25 years or older are exempt from Federal Gray Market Laws, such was the case for an 850 Mini I imported from NZ some years back. Purchased a Mini Mayfair 1988 last Aug. in WA state where it was first lic. In the US RHD. Took it to Idaho no worries with registration. Here is the down side, moved to Hawaii, took my beloved Mini only to find they live in the Stone Age. They require that the vehicle meet all FED. Requirements as if it were marketed in the ZuS from new, if it were built after 1966. I’m screwed

  6. Wayne

    I don’t think twin webers, the in thing was either update to a SINGLE twin throat Weber or two 1” and1/2 SUs. Twin webers would drown it.

  7. Jerry

    Definitely not a Cooper S. The Coopers had twin fuel tanks one on the right as well and the rear quarter window frame was stainless the standard mini were black. But the dead giveaway is the lack of two fuel tank filler pipes

  8. MiniGuy

    Not surprising it went so quickly. I have a lot more buyers waiting than I have classic Minis to offer. For many of the Minis, I find new homes before they even make it on my website. (add dot com to my username). If you know of any that might be available, particularly ’59-’67 Mk1 models, please let me know off-line.

    Photo of my personal Cooper S, a keeper…

  9. Jimbosidecar

    My first car was a 1965 Mini Cooper S. Dry suspension and surprisingly almost no rust. It was owned by a Canadian and it threw a rod on it’s way back up to Canada. The owner abandoned it in NH. I bought it from a junkyard in NH for $25.00. That would have been in 1969. I wasn’t skilled enough to get it running so I traded it for a racing go kart in 1972.

  10. AMCFAN

    I purchased a Japanese RHD Toyota Sera from a dealer in New York several years ago. The issue is when you insure it. It has a non standard 16 digit vin. Haggerty as well as other companies are very aware of vehicles brought over prior to being past the 25 year rule that have been sleeping until they are old enough to come out. They required ALL the shipping export documents and a copy of the original title. Luckily the dealer (who was the one that brought it over) had everything. Buyer beware. Just because it has a title doesn’t mean it is legal to operate.

  11. malsal

    Coopers were built from 1961 and did not get factory twin tanks until January 1966 up until then it was an option. They all came with twin 1.25″ SU’s as standard. Depending on which market a 90’s Cooper was exported to most had fixed rear side windows especially in the Japanese market on the a/c equipped cars.

    Like 1
    • Kevin

      1959 first year. Apparently you are referring to cooper S. A STD Mini had single su. Came as 850, 998, among others. 1275 had fuel SU’s. My 1988 from GB has tilt out rear windows same as older models

  12. Daymo

    For those of you who have never driven a Mini, they are soooo much fun. They handle like a go-kart, no matter which one you go for. As well as the normal saloon, they also came as an estate, a van and a pick-up.
    The Riley Elf and Wolsely Hornet used the same saloon body with an enlarged boot and a more luxurious interior.
    A bit like Doctor Who’s TARDIS, they seem to be bigger on the inside with room for four.
    Here in the UK, prices are rising. FAST. Even for basket cases!
    All parts are readily available and if the tin-worm have had their fill, even new body shells are available.

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