A WANNABE car designer had a real Mini adventure when he was given a VIP tour of the car giant's headquarters.
James Newton, 12, his parents Pete and Paula and brother Peter, 10, were invited to the BMW Group's Oxford Plant and met managing director Frank Bachmann. And the family were put up in a top hotel and given use of a Mini Countryman for the week.
The dream trip was arranged after James, who is a Mini fanatic, sent off designs for a futuristic Mini to the firm when he was 10 years old.
He said: "I love Minis. I have Mini wallpaper, Mini posters, Mini books and even designed my own Mini in Lego.
“When I was about 10 I designed a futuristic Mini after watching Back to the Future and it hovered and I tried to make a prototype but couldn’t find anything strong enough.
“I sent my designs to the designers at Mini Headquarters in Oxford and designer James Bell wrote back with feedback describing that my idea as ‘very imaginative’ and asked me to come up with more designs.”
James, who goes to Fearns Community Sports College, Stacksteads, then got to work designing a heavy duty off-road Mini and was asked by Mr Bell to design a hybrid.
He said: “I put a solar panel on the roof, which you could take off when the vehicle was parked. The panel generated power for the lights and the starter motor.”
He tried making a to-scale prototype of the off-road Mini with his dad Pete, but unfortunately the 100cc engine was not powerful enough.
Then after several areas were affected by flooding at the start of the year Mr Bell contacted James again asking him to design a Mini to cope with flooding. James said: “I came up with two-to-three different designs, one was to put the car’s radiator in the boot rather than at the front and to have the metal plate fitted under the car like a boat hull so it would float. Another option was to have an outboard motor in the boot.”
Mr Bachmann said: “We were delighted to welcome James and his family to the factory.”