Sometimes we come across car enthusiasts who are not only obsessed with cars, but also with a piece of pop culture that means so much to them that they impose a theme on their beloved cars. Such is the case with Andrew Baron of Charlotte, North Carolina, whose passion for his 2013 Mini Coupe S (chassis code R58) is equaled by his passion for Star Wars. Baron is so committed to the dark side that he heavily altered his Mini Coupe with a Darth Vader theme. Pray he doesn't alter it any further.
It started when the R58 first caught his eye while he was shopping for a city car while he was living in Manhattan. He noticed the Mini Coupe “kind of looks like Darth Vader’s helmet,” which is weirdly accurate. The Mini Coupe has the distinction of having the face of a Mini but without Mini’s signature boxy profile. Instead, this two-seater has kind of a bubble for a cabin and a funky spoiler on its little trunk lid in lieu of the traditional hatchback shape. It’s weird and that’s exactly what Mini enthusiasts like about it. “It checked all the boxes and it looked so strange,” said Andrew of the R58.
The modifications Andrew made to “LORD VDR” are almost too numerous to list here. You can see the whole list here on Andrew’s thread in Mini enthusiast forum North American Motoring along with some great pictures, but some of the big modifications are a full Darth Vader aesthetic including Galactic Empire badging, blacked-out lights all around, tinted windows, carbon fiber accents inside and out, matte black stripes and accents, red underbody glow, and a widebody flare kit. The interior is upgraded with John Cooper Works (JCW) heated Recaro seats. Baron found the stock turbo's lack of boost disturbing, so he replaced it with a Garrett GT28RS 53mm turbocharger with a forged blow off valve and a Wagner competition intercooler. Other mechanical mods include JCW Brembo brakes, coil-over suspension, a Manic Stage 3 tune, and much more.
According to a recent dyno run, the turbocharged N18 1.6-liter inline-four engine in LORD VDR makes 240 horsepower at the wheels is a significant improvement over the stock crank horsepower rating of 181 horsepower. As if that weren’t crazy enough, Baron says “at some point, it’s going to be all-wheel drive.” He'll find new ways to motivate all four wheels via an all-wheel-drive system from a Mini Countryman ALL4 turning LORD VDR into something of a rally car.
Perhaps the most impressive modification on LORD VDR is what looks like a scribble with a silver Sharpie made by a toddler. What looks like an unfortunate flaw in the interior is actually the autograph of none other than the father of Star Wars, George Lucas. Here’s Andrew’s account of how he met the iconic filmmaker.
“I worked on 55th street between 11th and 12th avenue right in Manhattan. In the same building where my employer was located, on the very top floor, there was a well-renowned recording studio. Sometimes we’d see David Burns from the Talking Heads walk by, Herbie Hancock, lots of notable people. I happened to be outside one day and I saw a really high-end Lexus truck drive by and stop in front of the building. I thought ‘I know someone famous is going to get out of that thing.’ Sure enough, I saw a white dollop of hair, a white beard, and I was like ‘holy crap...that’s him!’ I was freaking out!”
Andrew proceeded to wait in his car in front of the building for 45 minutes for his chance to meet George Lucas. “As soon as he came out I leaped out of his car and said ‘Mr. Lucas!’" After getting a confused look from Lucas, Andrew explained to him that he saw him earlier and wanted his autograph on or in his Vader-themed Mini. “[Lucas is] notorious for not signing anything,” said Andrew. “He looked at me, looked at the car, and said ‘Okay, I’m going to do this very subtly. I’m going to sign the inside of the car.’” That’s when Andrew got his car signed by the man who created the iconic character it’s been modeled after. He’s in the process of getting the autograph authenticated by James Spence Authentication. George Lucas' autograph is nice and subtle without going too far in a few places.
This might seem like a lot of money and effort to sink into a Mini Coupe, but Andrew calls his R58 a “labor of love.” His enthusiasm for his car is so strong that it makes others more excited about Minis. He’s started multiple Mini enthusiast groups including New York MINIons and he’s directly inspired friends, coworkers, and even strangers who saw his car on Instagram to get R58 Minis of their own after seeing what he did with his.
Unfortunately, Andrew won’t be able to see “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” on opening night this week due to a scheduling conflict with his job, but he’s looking forward to seeing Episode VIII soon. When he does eventually go see it, his car is already in very appropriate cosplay. Follow Andrew Baron and his car at @lordvdr on Instagram or visit his website.