MINI JOINS THE FORCE.
For most people, passing a MINI on the roads is reason to smile.
But in the late 1960s, for some drivers, it wasn’t always a good sign.
After proving fast and nimble enough to outrace competitors on the track, the MINI sparked the attention of an unlikely fan – the New South Wales Police Force.
At the time, the Police Force used around 450 motorcycles to police NSW roads –but the Mini offered much greater safety and protection from the weather, while still allowing officers to reach high speeds.
In 1966 the NSW Police Force took delivery of six Mini Cooper S’, which were used in a trial in the Special Traffic Patrol.
In 1966, The Hume Highway between Marulan and Gundagai had been identified as one of the worst places in the state for road crashes, and it was hoped that using unmarked Minis to intercept drivers would help reduce the road toll.
According to NSW Police, the Mini Cooper S proved successful it its very first weekend with the force, and the fleet was soon increased.
By 1969, 245 Minis were being used in police duties.
Dana Jennings joined the NSW Police Force in 1968 and worked on general duties across Sydney before transferring to the Special Traffic Patrol.
“In the hands of a good driver, there weren’t many cars that could get away from the Mini Cooper S,” Dana says.
“The cars were on the road for 16 to18 hours a day and they certainly rose to the occasion.
“The acceleration meant you could catch people very quickly.”
In the 1960s, as Dana recalls, there weren’t many long, straight roads in New South Wales.
“On those old, narrow, windy roads, they excelled at cornering and holding the roads.”
“When I worked in the Riverina, we had lots of icy roads, and sometimes we’d be chasing someone and getting up towards the Snowy Mountains.
“But the Mini Cooper S was very forgiving – you could get sideways in it, then regain control again.”
Dana says he always wanted to buy a Mini but never got the chance to – but he still has a soft spot for the cars he spent years driving.
“I have very affectionate, fond memories of the Mini,” he says.
“Anyone that drove the Minis, there’s an affection for them that no other car replaced.
“I’ve driven all sorts of things but none of them make me smile like when I see a Cooper S. I love them, and when I see one I’ll always stop and have a conversation.”