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Student of the classics


"Jac had two owners before me," she says. "Betty is an adopted child; we don't know anything about her ... she's been abandoned. Betty's my favourite but Jac is not allowed to know." In case you can't tell, Yongsiri has an obsession with her Minis. Betty, is a purple 1977 Leyland Clubman LS that she bought about two years ago for $5000.

A friend took the honours in naming Yongsiri's pride and joy when she couldn't come up with the right name to suit her new baby.

And with this very close connection to her motor vehicle, you can understand her distress when returning to her car after work and discovering Betty had been tipped over.

"I saw it on the surveillance camera — five blokes rolled her," she says. "I was in tears, devastated. I thought my life was over."

The upsetting event occurred last November, making Betty a complete write off, although Yongsiri says it's now in the shop being repaired and she will restore it.

Yongsiri couldn't bear the thought of living without a Mini, so invested in Jac the Turtle, another 1977 Leyland Clubman, the S Version, this time in green and costing $4500.

"Jac was named because the number plates are original, JAC278, that's what it was sold out of the factory as. And Turtle because it was green and slow," she says laughing.

The industrial design student thinks her obsession for the classic cars from the 1960s and '70s was with her when she was born.

But the first evidence of her interest was about the age of eight. "When I saw them when I was younger, I said I was going to get one when I could drive and I did," she says.

"There used to be Minis that would park near my house and I always admired them."

And she finds there are still youngsters out there who get a bit of a kick out of her dream car. "I get a lot of looks," she says.

"Primary school kids love it, jumping up and down and pointing and smiling."

And Yongsiri says it also attracts attention from the older generation.

"They stop for a chat and say `When I was your age, I had a Mini'," she says.

When Yongsiri first bought her Mini, she decided to become fully involved with her passion and joined the Mini Car Club of NSW.

And while she initially received a welcome reception, the Mini fan from Parramatta says some people doubted her commitment.

"There are very few girls," she says. "When I joined the Mini community, everyone was really happy to help. Then some of the guys were kind of like `it's a girl, she's not going to last'.

"I was thinking maybe the Mini wasn't right for me but I wanted to prove them wrong and stuck with it. Now it's like a passion."

Yongsiri can now change the oil, air filters, spark plugs and her boyfriend will soon teach her how to change the wheel bearings.

She can perform what she calls "basic things", which is enough to impress a lot of other male and female car owners.

"There's no power steering in any sort of old Mini," she says. "You can put air con in it yourself but it costs a bit and the uni budget doesn't afford that sort of thing."

She's even got her mum interested in Minis and is currently trying to convert her sister, who's of the opinion "they just break down".

And having already achieved teaching her sister to drive a manual transmission in a Mini, she's not far off her goal.

When it comes to her friends, they've learned to respect her undeniable passion.

"My girlfriends just laugh and say I'm always a different, special child. I can't see myself driving anything else but a Mini. There's nothing else that I would be proud of driving."

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