MINI Cooper S JCW. Heist preparations

The MINI Cooper S JCW. The perfect vehicle for the perfect heist?

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Ten years ago, a group took on an ambitious job to steal $35 million of gold from a former associate in Italy. Of course you may not remember that. It was a similar albeit less successful version of a plan to rob $4 million dollars in gold bullion in Turin 34 years earlier.

This year plans are afoot to pull a similar job, this time in the United Arab Emirates. Payday is immense. Barbados in winter immense. The team – comprising the money (Smooth-talk Sidney), the teckie (‘Blue’ Ray), three drivers (Gorgeous George, Lofty Perkins and myself), the muscle (Donkey Punch Eric) and our explosives expert (Three-fingered ‘Arry) – is in place. The money has given the go ahead, and the crew are even now working on rigging city-wide traffic light and speed camera systems, distracting the vault’s security team, and ensuring an escape out of Dubai. Two reinforced school buses are being prepared to transport the loot, but these won’t be enough to evade the old bill. Once the lock is blown, we’ll have just seven minutes to get the hell out of there, meaning we’ll need something lightweight and nimble to evade the Dubai polizia and wasta-paid security personnel.

In an abandoned warehouse on the far side of the city, our generous benefactor has concealed one of three vehicles he’s managed to lay his hands on for the job. New number plates, VIN numbers and documentation. It could have rolled out of the Abu Dhabi showroom rather than off a multi-storey parking lot. And since OGB is a student of the history’s greatest heists, he’s chosen something traditional.

It’s a MINI Cooper S but with a difference. Wrapped in John Cooper Works finery, the S kicks out 184bhp from its 1.6-litre twin-turbocharged six-cylinder. Ray says disabling the electronic limiter and upping the 210kph top speed should be a piece of the apple crumble, but that loading the gold will hurt acceleration. He’s got a couple of thoughts rattling round the brain tank though.

The JCW kit means the motor is painted black and comes with white stripes. Nice and inconspicuous, though the white stripes on each car may be painted blue and red. Aside from the John Cooper Works door strips, you’d be oblivious to the new 17-inch light alloy wheels and Sport-derived suspension and gear setup.

Where that’s really going to make the difference is in the turns. The MINI already handles like a go-kart, and stiffer suspension makes for faster steering response, allowing the driver to get the nose pointed more quickly without unsettling the front end. There’s going to be a lot of traffic to nip in and out of, and I can’t rule out the possibility that there will be several water pipes to drive down or arena roofs to drive on top of.

Fortunately this new setup doesn’t upset the balance, and although half an arseload of gold in the boot is going to ruin the weight distribution, the stiffened chassis – as well as the bonus of having four wheels in four corners for optimised traction – means lean shouldn’t be a problem. Power delivery will also be constant whether we’re driving on the pavement or down a flight of stairs.

Speaking of which, that extra grunt does make a difference off the line. It’s linear despite the turbocharger but ferocious for a super-mini, and the pick-up consequently sensational. Slamming the accelerator brings with it some wheel spin but considering we’ll have at least a dozen police cars plus a helicopter or two on our tails, we’ve got enough to worry about.

I was concerned that the six-speed automatic gearbox would slow us down, but the MINI does at least include paddles. Of sorts. There’s an odd rocker setup – which the lads in E-wing have told me is standard in the Cooper S – whereby you push forwards to change down and pull to change up. We change gear with one hand. The lads have already been told that weapons will not be required, though Lofty refuses to start a job without his good luck Glock 26. I don’t know why. He’s an appalling shot, especially from a moving car.

That reminds me. I must make sure the crew has memorised the route. There is sat-nav in the MINIs but with so little time to spare, it’ll be next to useless: the last time we tried something like this we ended up going through the middle of a shopping centre after they’d waxed the floors. There’s good grip in the Cooper’s tyres at least.

I’ve only had an hour to test the MINI’s capability but it’s a good start, even if the building’s surveillance cameras caught me three times. The EMP will temporarily disable the city’s security systems but we’ve got to stay off the grid. Once we’re into the mountains we’ll ditch the MINIs and carry on with the buses. It’s a straight shoot to the border from there, barring – as ‘Arry mentioned – we don’t blow the bloody doors off.

I’ve no idea what he’s talking about.


Categories: Road


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