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Video | Here's Why the Mini Clubvan Is One of the Rarest Cars Ever

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author photo by Doug DeMuro July 2019

I recently had the chance to review a Mini Clubvan. To be clear, I'm not referring to a Mini Clubman, with an "M." I mean I reviewed the van version, the Mini Clubvan, which is essentially a Mini Clubman with cargo space -- a vehicle most people don't know anything about. There's a reason most people aren't aware of the Mini Clubvan, though, and that's because it's one of the rarest cars ever made.

I just want to point out, early on here, that I'm not exaggerating this point. Apparently, Mini sold just 50 examples of the Clubvan here in North America, which is -- obviously -- an absolutely excessively low number of vehicles for any specific model, less than virtually any supercar in existence. It's truly impressive, and today I'm going to explain exactly what happened.

The basic reality is this: back in the 1960s, the U.S. government instituted a tax on imported trucks and vans in response to European tariffs on U.S.-made chickens. The so-called "Chicken Tax" has stayed in place ever since, and it causes virtually every automaker who sells a truck or van in North America to also build it here, since the Chicken Tax is an excessive 25%.

This caused a problem for the Clubvan. I'm not sure if Mini hoped it wouldn't be classified as a van and fall under the Chicken Tax, or if they simply didn't know about the tax, but when Mini started selling the Clubvan here they quickly realized it would end up being a lot more expensive than they hoped thanks to this tax -- and so, very quickly after the Clubvan went on sale, it was withdrawn. VERY quickly. After just 50 units.

I drove one of these 50 units, and I was truly looking forward to this moment, because I couldn't wait to drive one of the rarest modern cars in existence. First, I had to check it out, and the Clubvan has some interesting characteristics -- like, for instance, the fact that the side windows are actually still in place, just covered with vinyl on the outside and plastic on the inside so anything you carry around won't break the glass. But the Clubvan does have the seats removed in the back, meaning you do have a legitimate cargo area back here where you can put stuff.

Noting this, I attempted to purchase the Clubvan. I'm not kidding. The dealership where I filmed the review of it, Crevier Mini in Orange County, California, has been using this as an IT support vehicle since it was sold new back in 2012, and it's covered just 19,000 miles. I was interested in a transporter vehicle of some capacity as I've just purchased a house and I'm finding a great need for, well, transporting stuff, so I tried to buy this thing.

Unfortunately, I later decided it wasn't really worth it -- and that decision was made after I drove the Clubvan. Yes, it's cool: it has a cool story, it's ultra-rare, and it's virtually unknown, even in the Mini community. But on the road, it's not particularly exciting. All Clubvan models were base-level Minis, meaning they don't have big power -- and they all had an automatic transmission. A John Cooper Works Clubvan S with three pedals might make for the ultimate delivery vehicle, but a base-level Clubvan wants for more power and doesn't deliver much driving excitement.

Still, I had a great time reviewing the Clubvan, and I really love its story -- truly one of the rarest modern vehicles. Unfortunately, that story is the most exciting thing about it, as it's relatively dull and docile otherwise -- but I still had a lot of fun spending the day with a car I've always wanted to meet. Find a Mini for sale

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Video | Here's Why the Mini Clubvan Is One of the Rarest Cars Ever - Autotrader