My first car was a Mini, a 1968 Mini Deluxe built in Australia. Its previous owner(s) had upgraded it with chrome wide wheels, a rorty sports muffler, and a Saas wood-rimmed three-spoke steering wheel, all of which added a lot of street cred in the high school parking lot. But the 2021 DBA Mini Remastered Oselli Edition (whew!) is a Mini unlike anything I could have imagined as a 16-year-old.
The 998cc version of the BMC A-series four-banger under the hood produced 38 hp and 52 lb-ft of torque in my Mini. The DBA Oselli Edition produces 125 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 113 pound-feet of torque at 4,500 rpm from a 1,450cc, near-race version of the venerable A-series engine (an engine introduced in 1951 in the Austin A30 that stayed in production until the last of the original, pre-BMW-era Minis rolled off the line in 2000).
My Mini took about 20 seconds to struggle to 60 mph and had a top speed of 75 mph, though I swear I once saw the speedo needle flickering around the 80-mph mark on a downhill stretch with a tail wind. The DBA Oselli Edition accelerates to 60 mph in 7.8 seconds and has a top speed of 100 mph. It’s unclear how much, because the vintage replica Smiths speedo, with its authentic old-school graphics, only reads 95 mph.
My Mini cost me around $600. The DBA Oselli Edition will cost you more than $140,000 in cash. Yes, you read that correctly. This tiny pocket rocket will set you back more than three times the price of the insane, limited edition, 301-hp, 165-mph 2021 Mini John Cooper Works GP. And that’s before you even begin to tick any of the options boxes.
Who Is DBA? And What Is the Mini Remastered Oselli Edition?
DBA is an abbreviation for David Brown Automotive, which was founded in 2013 and released its first vehicle, the $740,000-plus Speedback GT, in 2014. The Speedback GT appears to be a larger, sleeker riff on an Aston Martin DB5. It is essentially a Jaguar XKR chassis and mechanicals wrapped in hand-shaped aluminium panels. However, company founder David Brown—a genial Yorkshireman and serial entrepreneur whose business interests range from brewing beer to manufacturing construction equipment—is not related to the same-named British industrialist who owned Aston Martin from 1947 to 1972.
The Mini Remastered, DBA’s second vehicle, was released in 2017. This is, as the name implies, a remastered version of the Alec Issigonis-designed Mini, which debuted in 1959 and was produced with only minor changes for the next 41 years. The Mini Remastered features original 1,275cc Mini powertrains that have been completely rebuilt and refurbished, as well as a brand-new body shell from British Motor Heritage, which now owns the original tooling. The interior is swathed in sumptuous leather, has knurled aluminium switchgear, and even has a modern infotainment system with a 7.0-inch touchscreen.
Prices start at around $100,000, plus tax. Nonetheless, DBA claims that four examples have already been shipped to the United States.
The Oselli Edition was announced in 2019 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the original Mini, but the global pandemic intervened, delaying the car’s release. Only 60 will be built, all in Old English White or Carbon Grey with hand-painted graphics and stripes in Competition Red, Royal Blue, or Heritage Green. Oselli? It’s a British classic car sales, service, restoration, and performance engineering shop founded in 1962 by two BMC engineers who thought a vaguely Italian-sounding name was cool.
Oselli designed and built the 1,450cc A-series engine that powers the Mini Remastered Oselli Edition. It’s been bored to the limits of an A-series block—the siamesed exhaust ports on the middle two cylinders were a notorious head-gasket hotspot even on my Mini—and outfitted with two 1.5-inch SU carburetors, headers and big-bore exhaust, and a more aggressive camshaft, all Mini go-fast hardware I could only dream about more than 40 years ago.
Other mechanical changes include a five-speed transmission that replaces the original four-speed, a limited-slip differential, AP Racing front disc brakes, and Bilstein shocks. The standard Mini Remastered has 12-inch alloy wheels, whereas the Oselli Edition has 13-inchers. The tyres are Yokohama A539s in 175/50R-13 sizes all around. The 9-gallon gas tank is on the left side of the trunk, as it is in my Mini, but this car also has an optional 5.5-gallon second tank on the right side.
Instead of classic English charm, the interior of the Oselli Edition is race car chic, albeit with a faintly ’60s vibe. Alcantara is used on the deeply dished three-spoke steering wheel as well as the hip-hugging Sabelt seats. The standard interior accommodates four people; our car has the optional two-seat configuration, which includes a half roll cage behind the seats and Sabelt four-point racing harnesses strung from it. The Oselli Edition, on the other hand, is far from Spartan. It has power windows, a Pioneer infotainment system, and air conditioning, just like a regular car. There’s air conditioning! On a hot summer day in my Mini, I rolled down both front windows and popped open the two rear side windows, the throbby baritone from the exhaust filling the cabin.
Issigonis’ Mini was a game-changing design. It pioneered the transverse-mounted engine and front-wheel-drive layout that is now used in the majority of modern mainstream automobiles, allowing the majority of the car’s small footprint to be used to accommodate four passengers and their luggage. It’s also small, measuring 120.3 inches long, 57.9 inches wide, 52.4 inches tall, and having an 80.1-inch wheelbase. In comparison, today’s two-door Mini is enormous—32 inches longer, nearly a foot wider, 3.5 inches taller, and with an 18-inch-longer wheelbase.
I fold myself in through the door and marvel once more at how well this tiny car fits my 6-foot-2 frame. The steering column has been dropped to make it feel less like you’re steering a bus (my car had aftermarket column supports that did the same thing), but the shifter still protrudes from the floor and the pedals are still tightly bunched in the footwell. I sold my Mini in 1977 and have only driven one other original model in the four decades since, but the muscle memory returns in the first few miles.
The race-face A-series must be kept spinning—if it sits below 2,000 rpm for too long, it will gag and sputter like high-performance engines did before fuel-injection and engine management computers. But press the gas pedal, hear the SUs gurgle, and the little engine fires up, happily spinning to 6,200 rpm. The throw of the shifter is long, and the gate is wide—it doesn’t have the mechanical feel I remember, but you always find the gear you want, when you want it. Because the pedals are so close together, heel-and-toe downshifts are a breeze.
The Oselli Edition may only have 125 horsepower, but it feels quick—in fact, its claimed 0-60-mph time is only 2.8 seconds slower than that of the Mini John Cooper Works GP, which has nearly twice the horsepower and a quick-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission. The Oselli Edition weighs just 1,631 pounds, which is 40% less than its modern counterpart.
Low mass benefits more than just longitudinal acceleration: The steering of the Oselli Edition, which has electronic power assist up to 15 mph, is as kart-darty as I recall, with the car responding the moment you pull the wheel off centre. However, there is more roll than I recall. My Mini was equipped with BMC’s innovative Hydrolastic suspension, which included rubber springs all around and a hydraulic fluid damper system that connected the front and rear wheels on each side of the car. The Hydrolastic setup reduced fore-aft pitch and improved the ride while maintaining high roll stiffness. The Oselli Edition, on the other hand, leans noticeably in corners, despite the fact that the body motions are beautifully controlled by the Bilstein shocks.
If I let up on the gas on corner entry, my Mini would snap and spin like a top. The Oselli Edition feels much more tail-happy at first, but it also feels more controllable. Because of its higher rate of roll, you’re more aware of the weight transfer that occurs during transients, and you can more easily modulate liftoff oversteer to get the little car rotated and into corners. If you’re too aggressive with the throttle, you’ll get power understeer, with the front tyres scrabbling for grip. However, once those tyres connect, the limited-slip differential ensures that the little Mini will go exactly where the front wheels are pointed.
It’s a rowdy little thing on the track and a lot of fun on the road, where its small size, high agility, and low mass mean you always have a lot more room to manoeuvre than drivers in regular cars. Sure, there are faster, more powerful, and more gripping modern hot hatches, but few deliver the grin-inducing driver engagement that the Oselli Edition does at speeds that won’t lock you up.
The Oselli Edition is a Mini Remastered, a car that captures the spirit of the original Mini’s giant-killing ability. They say that memories can’t be bought. But, as I climbed out of this thoughtfully upgraded and beautifully built little car, I was once again a 16-year-old kid.