Supermini projects : A new Mini (1968-’74)
From barrel to wedge
Long before the term supermini had been coined, BLMC had begun to think about producing a new Mini with superior space, comfort and practicality. This gallery contains some initial thoughts and some blind alleys.
This car was tentatively developed around the same time as Sir Alec Issigonis was working on his 9X project. As with the 9X, the idea was to improve on the Mini’s already superlative space efficiency, whilst also being cheaper and less labour intensive to produce.
The resulting full-scale mock-up clearly shows a fair degree of success, with its Mini-like styling and simplified body engineering. The flanks of the car were clearly convex, which apart from adding to the interior space of the car also (according to Longbridge engineers) added a degree of strength. Of all the Mini proposals, I personally think that this one was the most successful in its styling because it managed not only to look “cleaner”, but also maintained clear links with its predecessor.
Roy Haynes was a very accomplished stylist, of this there is no doubt, but in this particular instance, he was always going to be hamstrung by the fact that the Mini body was going to be nigh-on impossible to improve on. The brief he was given was to improve the style of the Mini and increase the boot room. Certainly, he succeeded in the latter…
Dating from 1971, this electric research vehicle was designed by Michelotti and built jointly by British Leyland and Crompton-Leyland Electricars, based on Mini underpinnings. While obviously not intended as a Mini replacement, it does demonstrate the direction of BLMC’s small-car thinking at the time, and predicts some of elements of the project ADO74 designs. The design was displayed at the Geneva Motor Show in 1972, but went no further. (Note how similar the shape of the door frame and C-pillar is to that of the later Triumph TR7).
William Towns produced this striking design, called Minissima, for the 1973 London Motor Show. Entry to the cabin was via a single rear door, and it managed to fit seating for three within its overall length of just 90 inches. The car was bought by British Leyland, along with the design rights, only for it to emerge over 10 years later as the Elswick Envoy invalid carriage.