Ken Lemoine’s path towards owning his dream car began with a wisecrack from his wife.
Lemoine is a manufacturers’ representative who lives in Framingham. He is also an enthusiastic car buff who co-founded the Boston Cup, the annual car show that takes place on the Boston Common.
About 14 years ago, Lemoine was in the middle of restoring a 1934 Alvis 20 SB, an open top touring car, and decided to take his spouse out for a drive. But his wife noticed that Lemoine did not fit in the car comfortably.
“She said, ‘You look foolish in this. It doesn’t fit you,’’’ said Lemoine in a phone interview. And that comment sent him on a search for a better fit. As it turned out, a good fit meant a snug one for Lemoine. He was focused on getting a MINI.
“I always wanted a MINI Cooper, and if I could get a MINI Cooper station wagon that would be a double bonus,’’ he said, noting that a wagon model would allow him to usher several people and allow him to make trips to a lumber yard when needed.
Lemoine was a member of a local car club for like-minded MINI fans and learned about a 1965 Morris MINI Minor Traveller for sale in New Haven, Connecticut. After he went down to see it, Lemoine said was reminded of the “Wreck of the Hesperus,’’ a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Needless to say, the car was not in good shape.
But Lemoine was not deterred. He decided to buy the MINI’s frame and was able to leave the vehicle’s original drivetrain intact. After about 16 months of work, he was able to get the car in working order again and even managed to restore the vehicle’s paint to its original surf blue color.
Despite its size, Lemoine says he feels the MINI’s interior is larger than most cars. And it captures the attention of other motorists when he takes it on the road.
“I can pull in between a Bentley and a Rolls Royce and everyone will turn to look at the MINI,’’ he boasted.
Today, Lemoine says, the Morris MINI Minor Traveller is his favorite car to drive. And with its unique design and bright color, the car still manages to steal the show when he takes it on the road.
In fact, an unexpected display of affection for the car earned it its license plate. After displaying the car at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline, Lemoine stopped for lunch at a restaurant. When he returned to the car, a young girl was standing in front of the car with one hand on each headlight and her head resting on the vehicle’s hood.
When Lemoine asked what the girl was doing, she said, “It’s so cute, I’m hugging it.’’
Hence the MINI’s license plate: ITSOQT.
“Every time I pull into a gas station everyone says ‘It’s so cute,’’’ said Lemoine. “That’s the favorite phrase I hear… It’s hard not to drive this car without a smile on your face.’’