By Travis Mitchell
It was Saturday, June 14, 2008, and the first ever Cars and Coffee Las Vegas was getting underway. Owner, Salomon Braun, was busy making his final early morning preparations for the show, not really knowing what to expect. Ultimately, more than 250 cars would attend that day. The very first one there, however, was a red, 1962 Mini, fully restored and converted to an American driver. Salomon said, “I remember it well, the car parked right there.” pointing to a parking spot not far from where his announcer booth was. These were details revealed today after I selected the winner of this week’s Civitan Car Club Las Vegas Member’s Choice “Car of the Week” at Cars and Coffee Las Vegas.
This week’s Cars and Coffee Las Vegas show had many cars that stood out. There was a box T, fully decked out; a green machine like the old monster model cars I used to build, a new Audi R8 Sportster, Cobra Kit Cars and many more. However, there was only one, little, red, fully restored 1962 Mini. Though I was intrigued by the other cars, I wanted to learn more about the Mini, and Hector Vazquez, the owner, was inspirational in his conversation regarding the car. Hector said that he had the car shipped directly from Europe to Georgia where the car underwent some of the basic restoration work. Then, off to Hilton Head South Carolina to be switched from the European right-side driver to an American left-side driver. After that, it was delivered to Las Vegas where Hector would put the final touches on the car.
Hector isn’t your normal re-builder, he’s an artist. Having done more than a dozen restorations, from Mustangs to this Mini, he said he’s had the luxury of being able to learn from some of the industry’s best re-builders, and that it’s a science. He said he pays particular attention to all of the little details. Hector says he knows the specific impact that a particular modification will have and figures out how it will affect the overall performance of the vehicle across the entire spectrum of an engine’s performance. In fact, he told me that when he got his ’62 Mini, it was delivering a whopping 23hp to the front wheels (that’s not a type-o… only 23hp). However, Hector is very proud that after his engine modifications, his 1962 Mini now delivers 33hp to the front wheels. One thing I noticed about the engine in Hector’s ’62 Mini is it’s likely you won’t notice his modifications. From an over-sized radiator and custom airflow set-up, to thermal reflective coatings on custom metal work, Hector’s work is concealed masterfully, but all with special purpose.
The license plate on Hector’s ’62 Mini says “MiniReb”. As you might guess from that and the few decals on the car, Hector and his wife are big UNLV Rebel Fans, she having earned her degree from the school. It may not be coincidence then that this car is painted in Rebel colors with the scarlet red and gray color combination. When I spoke with him about his car, Hector noted that his wife is not a car fan, and in fact doesn’t really care about any of the many restorations Hector has done in the past. He did say, however, that she loves this Mini and she won’t let him sell it, though he’s been offered a substantial amount of money for it. He noted it’s “cute” and that they get lots of looks when they drive it. He mentioned that it has been on TV, though the details of that escape me. Hector
said they’ve only added about 5000 miles to the odometer over the 8 years they’ve owned the car, so my guess is that it’s more of a car for the locals to enjoy, not venturing too far from its Rebel home.
Our last Civitan Car Club Las Vegas Member’s Choice winner was a 1970 Dodge Challenger SE, quite a stark difference in size and horsepower to this week’s winner. But this award isn’t about the amount of horses under the hood, or the paint job, or about how meticulously a car has been restored, though this one is delightful. This award is more about the car, the story, the feeling, or just simply the inspiration that a car and its owner offer. Well Hector, this week, you gave me that inspiration and it was my pleasure getting to know you, learning about your passion for cars, and specifically about your 1962 Mini. On behalf of Civitan Car Club Las Vegas, congratulations on being selected as this week’s Civitan Car Club Las Vegas Member’s Choice Award Winner, and Go Rebels!