The story of Mal the Mini.

Adapted from a shorter, equally tragic, version of this story previously posted on Facebook. (Tissues optional)

There is a long tradition in the Mini Cooper world that the owner must name their car. A lot of people do this with their cars, or course, whether they’re Minis or not, but with Mini owners… it gets a bit intense.

I bought a Mini Clubman for my wife last year, because she wanted a Mini, and I thought the Clubman was cool, especially with its split back doors. I may have liked it more than she did, but regardless, it came home.

She named it Artoo, and decked him out in all things droid, including a 22-inch decal of R2D2 on the hood to go with her personalized plates.

But Artoo was used, and less than 90 days in, disaster struck. Thankfully, the used car warranty covered the engine replacement. Yep–replacement engine. Ouch.

Anyway, after a long time of going back and forth to the dealer we bought him from, we finally restored him to a state of reliability.

Then, of course, I found my wife the Mini she was really looking for, and we bought it. I took Artoo, who was then nameless, as “Artoo” migrated to the new vehicle.

Now I had the Clubman that I had secretly liked more than she did, and it fell to me to (re-)christen it. I hadn’t realized how serious a thing this really was until it was on me to do it.

I seriously considered naming him “Zed” and tricking him out as a Rush tribute vehicle. Zed was his placeholder name, until I struck on the Firefly theme (since the Clubman is classified as a “station wagon” and looks like a cargo vessel), and I was thisclose to commiting to “Wash,” after the intrepid pilot of the cargo vessel Serenity.

Then I realized: that wasn’t right. It wasn’t even close to right.

His name, as he had to have one, was “Mal.” There was no other logical choice.

Mal.

Latin for “bad,” he is also named for Captain Malcolm Reynolds. Mal embodies everything one could expect from both of those influences: he has been “bad,” almost since the moment we bought him. His personal motto has been that he “aims to misbehave,” but he has also been known to engage in “some thrilling heroics” from time to time. Like the Serenity, he’s not necessarily the prettiest, nor the fastest; he may be a bit underpowered, but he’s made a home for himself here, doing the jobs he needs to do. I’ve found him a good mechanic, and he’s flying true.

He’s mostly tagged now, with a few additions to come. But his identity is fixed, and his persona codified.

And so, much like the vagabond captain, while he is sometimes grumpy and difficult to be around, and mite unpredictable, I cannot help but smile when I see him, and remember that he’s there for me, a member of his crew, for good or ill, come what may.

He is, in a word: loved.

And I would like to believe that, like a good ship, love will keep Mal flying for a good long time.

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