Mini love

Mini Cooper enthusiasts celebrate their cars

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— It was love at first site for Tom Chaney and his 2005 cobalt blue Mini Cooper.

"Tom came to my house, saw mine, drove it once, went back to Houston and ordered his own," said Anne DeGroff, a Mini Cooper owner and self-appointed leader of the Steamboat Springs Mini Cooper Car Club.

The small cars that turn heads everywhere they go didn't have a big presence in Steamboat until recently, DeGroff said. As the cars grew in popularity, DeGroff decided to form a group for local Mini Cooper owners.

The club's first meeting was the week before Tuesday's Fourth of July parade. Attendees enjoyed wine and planned their appearance in the parade.

"Last year I remember watching the parade and thinking how cute it would be to get all the Minis together to be in the parade," DeGroff said. "We started with two or three cars, and now there are about 10 in town. It's like they just hatch."

Planning the parade was fun, although having the cars parked in front of her house was better, DeGroff said.

"I have to laugh, because we got eight of the cars into my driveway. If it had been Suburbans, they'd have been all over the street. It was really cute to see all the cars and their different colors," she said.

Instead of recognizing her friends by the clothes they wear or how they style their hair, DeGroff sees them for their color of their cars.

"Now we all just know each other's cars," she said.

Tuesday's parade showcased a yellow Mini Cooper convertible, two candy apple red Minis, two cobalt blue Minis, one dark green Mini and one grey Mini. DeGroff said there are at least two other Minis in Steamboat Springs, but she's been unable to contact their owners.

Chaney said purchasing his Mini was one of the best decisions he's made. He said his Mini is more fun to drive than his Corvette or Jaguar.

"I've owned a lot of different sports cars in my life, but this is the best," he said. "It's a lot more fun because you don't realize it's not a hot rod until you get out and look at it."

Depending on the style, Chaney said the Minis can come with seating for two or four people, sunroofs, convertible tops and other amenities.

Whatever model you get, you're sure to turn heads, DeGroff said.

"There isn't a gas station, grocery store, restaurant or sidewalk in town that someone doesn't say, 'Nice car,' 'Where did you get that?' or 'What is that?'" she said.

DeGroff loves her Mini because it provides a reprieve from the monster SUVs she typically has driven. And it's a lot more fun to drive.

"They're like driving go-karts. They're so fast and so fun," she said.

Katie DeGroff, Anne's daughter, said she likes the cars because they are environmentally friendly.

"Minis reduce the carbon footprint of their owners. They're so good for the environment," she said.

Anne DeGroff said she would recommend anyone thinking about investing in a Mini to jump in and join the gang.

"Buy it. They're fun to drive. They're easy to get around town in. They get great gas mileage. They can be macho. You don't need to change your oil until 10,000 miles...they're great," she said.

Most Minis cost about $25,000 depending on the options. There are few Mini Cooper dealerships in the West although there is one in Denver.

Most dealerships special order the cars, and it can take a few months before they're delivered to their owners, DeGroff said.

Although the local Mini Cooper club doesn't have any events planned for the rest of the summer, they might make an appearance in Hayden for the town's centennial celebration, Chaney said.

"It's loosely called a club," DeGroff said laughing. "We just love our cars."

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