By on October 23, 2015

MINI Cooper S

Imagine if we’d had the internet back in the ’60s. Ignoring all other differences that fast, easy communication would have had on a pivotal time in our history, I’m most fascinated by the important stuff, like how it would have affected the way we buy cars.

Back then, one could walk into the dealership and check various boxes on an order form, specifying the exact options desired. Want a manual transmission, big-block wagon with non-assisted drums all the way around? Sure. Under-dash record player? Absolutely. But that wasn’t efficient, and eventually we got a few option packages and some dealer-installed bits.

MINI (gotta make sure we capitalize that) is one of the few mainstream OEMs that lets us relive those checkbox glory days.

I recall when the MINI first hit the scene. I fired up IE6 and optioned up a base car (under $20,000, if I recall) to well over forty grand. Yikes. But it was harmless fun, and a memorable way to connect with the MINI brand. Not too long after, my dad and stepmother took delivery of her new Chili Red Cooper S, much like the one we’re looking at today.

This 2004 MINI Cooper S is a limited edition Monte Carlo Rallye edition, which apparently adds driving lights, a plaque, and handsome dark grey alloys to a standard S. Honestly, I love those wheels. They add a bit of aggressiveness not found in the standard-issue rollers. These hot hatches have proven quite competitive in autocross competition, too. The price might be a bit steep at $9,995 for an 11-year-old car, but finding clean, unmodified examples is becoming challenging. I can see these early cars becoming more collectible at some point.

I know that if she ever decides to sell, I’ll be quite happy to buy my stepmom’s car.

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22 Comments on “Digestible Collectible: 2004 MINI Cooper S...”


  • avatar
    Halftruth

    9,995 or Make Offer. That sweetens it a bit. Mileage is decent too. 18.6 mpg though.. ouch!

    • 0 avatar
      RangerM

      I’d be curious about things repaired. I’ve known three people with these cars and the complaint was always the same–the cost of repair seems to be $1000 (or more) every time.

      • 0 avatar
        LeMansteve

        $1,000 is easy if you go to BMW/MINI the dealer, even for relatively small stuff. My dealer wanted to charge me almost $700 to replace the leaky thermostat on my E46. Outside the dealership, the Genuine BMW t-stat and coolant can be had for about $110. The markup on parts and labor must be incredible.

    • 0 avatar
      RELove

      Loved my 2003 S JCW, fun, handled well and seemed well-built. I belonged to a MINI club with lots of members, so I got to hear all the stories. Mine never got over 17mpg even if I drove it slowly and smoothly – although it was much more fun to slide every corner and embarrass kids in much “hotter’ cars – or so they thought. From watching others in our group I decided to unload the car fearing the future repairs could break the bank.

      Still a really fun car, but I’m kicking myself for selling my ’07 S2000, and better car by far, much faster, even more fun with the top down, and seemingly a real blue chip investment car.

  • avatar

    MINIs are great because they can generally be bought dirt cheap and still have a premium cache to demand a decent transaction price.

    Though very tidy, that MINI has a rather steep price. In contrast, I just sold a ’10 Cooper S convertible w/31k for $14,0 and a ’13 Cooper base hardtop w/24k for $13,0. I could see a nice JCW with that mileage going for close to that, though.

    Also, few cars have such a drastic change in personality with wheels than a MINI. The base 15″ chunky 5-spoke alloys are downright embarassing.

    • 0 avatar
      vvk

      > The base 15″ chunky 5-spoke alloys are downright embarassing.

      I think 15″ are perfect for this car, especially the low belt line original.

      Besides, that was the only way to get the spare tire.

      I have upgraded by 325i from 17″ to 16″ and my 550i from 19″ to 17″. Both cars feel infinitely better. I look at Minis (or any other car) with large wheels and think “moron.”

      • 0 avatar

        There is a particular 15″ wheel design on the base, base Cooper hardtop (or at least WAS) that is the dopey one I’m referring to; I think its called “5-Star Spooler Design Light Alloy Wheel.”

        The other 15s in general are actually very befitting of the car and size-appropriate. I credit MINI for offering only alloy wheels and not trying to foist steelies with cheap knockoff covers here in the States.

    • 0 avatar
      statikboy

      Flybrian, the two statements in your first sentence appear to be contradictory.

      • 0 avatar

        I try to turn things super quick as long as profit is there. As a small independent, I really have to just turn, turn, turn. There was money to be made on both those MINIs, but I went for quick sales because I can always find another one. Also, I will say I still made a good profit on both, so you can imagine what I had to pay for either. Very good deals.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Nice to see ya Flybrian, hope your absence is related to selling everything on the lot and making bank.

  • avatar
    Quentin

    My wife has owned a 2005 MCS since new. Her’s is pepper white w/ black roof, mirrors, and bonnet stripes. The only options she went for were the pano moonroof, driving lights, fog lights, aux input, 6MT, and LSD. Sticker was $23k. Almost 11 years and 76k miles later, she still has and loves it.

    Most first gen new MINIs look pretty rough these days (broken/missing trim, sagging suspension), but the one above and my wife’s look factory fresh. We had it detailed last week and it literally looks immaculate. Other that one large power steering issue that MINI paid in full this past spring (yes, on a 10 year old, 75k mile car), we’ve had very little to complain about. Part of me thinks that now is the time to get out (especially if we could get $10k for it!) and the other part of me is very nostalgic to the point we’d be OK throwing money at it as it eases into old age. My wife’s interest has been piqued by the upcoming 2016 Clubman. We plan on driving it this winter. If it comes in AWD and drives better than the Countryman – a car my wife did not like – we might finally part with Pepper.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Collectible? More Riley Elf or Wolseley Hornet.

  • avatar
    PeterKK

    MINI’s are cool. I believe I could actually talk my wife into one of these at some point. Post school obvs.

  • avatar
    Windy

    InDecember of 2003 I ticked all the boxes I wanted on a 2004 MCS and had it alive at he start of March.
    With all the things I wanted it was almost $28,000 but I got a car just the way I wanted it for the first time in my life. Manual 6 speed, glass sunroof sections, leather interior, sport suspension, heated seats, BRG with white roof and hood stripes, 17″ wheels Harmon siriusXM radio and aux and Nav system, extra set of 16 inch wheels with full snow tires

    It has been a total Joy and I have had to replace just 3 non consumable parts out of warranty
    a visco elastic engine mount that was leaking about 3 years ago and a right from suspension part done in by the broken down edges and pot holes on the secondary roads of Maine and this fall another part of the right front suspension fell to the same environment

    it lives in a heated garage under my house and is my only car (well I have the 1948 CJ 2A Jeep my dad bought the year I was born but its just use for picnic jaunts and Parades these days) I do change my Oil etc each spring and fall and give it a lot of TLC in the wash and wax department and I have an under the car spray bar I built hooked up to a steam pressure washer that I drive it over in my barn once a week in the winter so no rust problems…

    The independent Garage that does my serious work http://atlanticmotorcar.com has been fabulous and I am very lucky to have such a resource, tells me that the 04 and 05 MCS has been a sweet spot in the MINIs they service as the supercharged engine has been better than the later Turbo charged ones.

    Now as to milage… driven with a heavy left foot on the back roads I get about 28MPG (91 octane) but on the long trips to New Mexico to visit Family each year I get 37 to 38 on the interstates with 93 Octane fuel)

    All in all this has been the best car I have ever owned (and other the a SAAB 99EMS bought off of a dealers lot in the 70s the 2ed I have bought as a new car) and at 12 years old next march I have just started to think about any future car I might want. What drives those thoughts are all the new electronic toys that have been developed over the last decade but if I ever do get another car it will be aimed at what a driver entering old age might need such as an automatic transmission and the blind spot warning gadgets and the MINI will remain in my garage as a car for fun as long as I can use the clutch with my left foot.

    I turned down an offer of $8,800 from a mechanic at the above cited garage this summer so I don’t think the one cited in the article is priced out of the world for one well maintained and optioned with low miles.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      Wow, good mileage. We can’t seem to break 29mpg in our 05 MCS under any condition. Funny that you mention the tech is the only reason you are considering a new car. My wife said the exact same thing (plus she went from a recent grad to a mom of 1 in the decade since). She gets in our Rav4 Limited and the bluetooth automatically starts playing her iPhone music, it has navigation, blind spot, rear view camera, etc.

  • avatar
    TybeeJim

    I picked up an ’07 Cooper S two years ago. It had 50k on it and set me back $12,0. It has 73k on it now. When I got it there 3 outstanding recalls never performed. BMW/Mini did all of them for free! Since then it’s been only oil changes and tires. The wrench at Mini says it is rare as it has one of the last very aggressive mechanical LSDs. It’s BRG over black, leather, chrome, pano, and last month I got the JCW upgrade (exhaust, intake, flash) installed on sale for a paltry $900. It’s my daily driver and runs like the proverbial “scalded cat”. Take off all the “nannies” and it’ll smoke both front tires w/o a clutch drop. Looked at the new ones and mine is the keeper

    • 0 avatar
      carguy

      Agreed – that generation Mini Cooper S has a lot more character than the subsequent models. The cast-iron block Chrysler mill may not be the smoothest but the power delivery is great and the super charger wails like a banshee with it hair on fire.

  • avatar
    cretinx

    These cars are maintenance nightmares, bordering on lemons.

    The asking price on this is about double actual transaction values.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Sounds in keeping with the old Leyland beauty spirit.

  • avatar
    scuzimi

    I owned 3… ’02/s ’03 ’04/s. The ’02 was a nitemare, gave the ’03 Cooper to my daughter, it was a good car but a slug. It went 245k. My ’04 was a great car but at 20k the engine died, fixed under warranty twice in 6 months then it went to 145k with no problems other than 3 cracked windscreens. Got 28mpg under spirited driving. Once on a trip to MINI’s In The Mountains in Colorado we got 34.1mpg. Kept the car until 2012, sold it for 12k, bought it used for 17k with 3k miles on the OD.

    Hated the cars after 2006, fugally and now just tasteless. HATE the 4 door and really hate the new Clubman, BMW has totally f’d the cars up. Thought I’d own a MINI for the rest of my life, nope!

    I now own a 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth. It’s been a love/hate car but so far no problems at 30k. The MINI is a way better handling car out of the box (stock) than the Fiat but I added an 28mm anti torsion bar and its better now. The MINI is a more comfortable car and better built but the Fiat has that 1st gen MINI (2002-2006) raw handling feel that the 2007 forward MINI’s have lost, I think.

    Nice to see one of you auto journalist finally spelling it correctly. Mini is the Classic, MINI next gen.

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