Pimp my Mini

Posted: June 13, 2007

An old stable in Kensington's Yards Brewing complex that used to house big, slow draft horses has become the unlikely center of the universe for people in the Mid-Atlantic and beyond who own zippy little Mini Coopers and like to drive fast.

Enthusiasts come down from New York and up from D.C. for the opportunity to enhance their little lovebugs' torque and amp up the braking and handling at Helix Minisports, a performance shop run by former brewer and violinist Eric Savage. Mini groupies from across the country mail-order Savage's custom-machined supercharger pulleys and camber plates.

A few times a year, they congregate outside the old stable, a block off Frankford Avenue on sleepy Martha Street, and line up 40-deep, Le Mans-style, to compete in a Helix Mini Cup road rally/scavenger hunt.

"They drive out and jump on I-95," Savage says, then criss-cross Philadelphia and its suburbs in a scene that's part "Italian Job" and part "Wacky Races," as the contestants in every little Mini endeavor to go faster and collect more oddball totems-say, a cheesesteak wrapper from Pat's Steaks-than the others.

In the Helix subculture, there's no car like a Mini Cooper.

"They're totally cute. They're high performance. They're extremely usable," Savage gushes. Less-adorable cars are also welcome to join the fun, although the Mini enthusiasts will be rooting for you to lose.

Savage hasn't set the date for the next one. His Web site, www.helix13.com, will post details as they come together. *

- Becky Batcha

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