Essay : Mini – The world’s favourite small car?

Dyed-in-the-wool Mini fan, Ian Nicholls, looks at the object of his passions in an objective way, and questions its role as the world’s best small car…

You might be surprised by his findings…


From humble beginnings in 1959, Issi's baby car mutated into a near-pastiche of itself...

From humble beginnings in 1959, Issi’s baby car mutated into a near-pastiche of itself…

IT IS automatic for dyed-in-the-wool Mini enthusiasts to assume Issigonis’ baby is the world’s favourite small car. But is it? An analysis of production figures can tell a different story. Let’s start number crunching. Between 1959 and 2000, BMC and its antecedents produced 5,505,874 Minis. The success of the Mini in the 1960s resulted in other manufacturers investigating their own versions.

First off the mark, was Fiat with the 127 in 1971, quickly followed by the Renault 5 the following year. Fiat and Renault simultaneously came to the same conclusion – the Mini was too small and buyers wanted a larger car fitted with a hatchback (although this would come later to the Fiat 127). This new breed of small cars was dubbed the “supermini” by the media, even though many have argued the ADO16 was the first true supermini. Fiat and Renault’s market research was spot on, and their timing impeccable. BMC and BL sold the Mini and ADO16 at a loss, and had neither the capital nor the will to fund the stunning Issigonis 9X project.

Therefore, the ageing Mini would have to solder on against more modern rivals. By the time BL’s own supermini, the miniMetro, arrived in 1980, Mini production stood at around 4.7 million. This figure was from a 21-year production run and looked rather less impressive when compared with the impressive speed rival manufacturers were building their own superminis. Between 1971 and 1983, Fiat 127 production totalled 3,730,000 – a million more than the Mini achieved in its first 12 years.

However, it was the original Renault 5 of 1972 to 1985 that emerged as the King of the superminis. In the same time frame, Renault produced a stunning 5,471,709 Fives – more than the entire 41-year Mini production run!

In 1976, Ford joined the fray with the original Fiesta and the supermini game became very serious indeed. Between 1976 and 1989, Ford knocked out 4,928,163 Fiesta MkIs and MkIIs. Compare this with BL’s original Metro, which only acheived 1,592,599 between 1980 and 1990. Of more serious concern, is the way BL surrendered sales to its continental rivals throughout the Seventies – in a sector where BMC had been nigh-on unbeatable the previous decade.

If we take our baseline Mini production figure of 318,475 in 1971 (the most productive year in the life of the Mini), we can calculate how much ground was surrendered year-on-year as the Seventies wore on.

The Mini’s fall from grace
Year Annual production lost compared with 1971
1972 -11,538
1973 -23,289
1974 -63,139
1975 -118,182
1976 -114,900
1977 -104,341
1978 -121,676
1979 -152,973
1980 -168,408
Total -878,446

878,446 is a lot of lost sales, however one looks at it.

The Mini may have iconic status now, but BL failed to improve the car apart from the odd minor revision. Back in August 1979, Autocar magazine’s Technical Editor, Michael Scarlett, called for a whole host of improvements to be made – at the time the Mini celebrated its 20th anniversary. Foremost of these requests was for a front mounted radiator with electric cooling fan.

It took until 1997 for this feature to appear.

In 1978 CAR magazine was more brutal, summing the Mini up as, “decrepit and completely outdated.”

Innocenti Mini showed that it was perfectly possible to add a hatchback to the original and give it a smart new set of clothes. It's a shame BL couldn't do the same - a real opportunity lost.

Innocenti Mini showed that it was perfectly possible to add a hatchback to the original and give it a smart new set of clothes. It’s a shame BL couldn’t do the same – a real opportunity lost

The Mini could have been fitted with disc brakes across the range from as early as 1963, but it took until 1984 for this to happen; too little, too late. BL may have justified under-investment in the Mini because it was unprofitable, knowing the Metro was in the pipeline, but as the figures above suggest, BL surrendered ground to the superminis in an expanding small car market. This would have been okay, had the Metro had reclaimed the lost sales, but it did not…

Combined Mini and Metro production
Year Annual production figure
1980 183,021
1981 235,731
1982 230,963
1983 230,719
1984 185,955
1985 209,640
1986 192,266
1987 198,495
1988 181,275
1989 179,749
1990 155,650

The best years were 1981 to 1983, when the Mini and Metro sold only 20,000 less cars per annum than the Mini did in 1974. Afterwards, the cars went into a steep sales decline; and by the late Eighties, they were selling 20,000 less per annum, than the Mini in the late Seventies.

In defence of BL, in 1981-1983 the Mini and Metro sold in similar numbers to the Mini in 1963 to 1967, the heyday of the works Mini rally cars. But, the car market was much larger by this time. Between 1962 and 1977, annual Mini production exceeded 200,000; and between 1981 to 1983, and 1985, this figure was exceeded again by the Mini and Metro. After that, there was a steep decline and BL/Rover ceased to be a major player in a market in which it previously dominated.

The success of the Renault 5, Fiat 127 and Ford Fiesta show that there was a huge demand for superminis and BL did have the production capacity to compete – it simply did not have the right small car at the right time.

So in conclusion the top 3 small cars are

1. Renault 5
2. Mini
3. Ford Fiesta

By 2005 the supermini was the most popular type of new car. So, the MINI is not the world’s most popular small car in production numbers, but in iconic terms, and the public’s affection, it most certainly is. Have any of you out there heard of Ford Fiesta clubs or International Renault 5 meetings?

Renault 5 Turbo: the ultimate version of the ultimate supermini?

Renault 5 Turbo: the ultimate version of the ultimate supermini?

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Clsssics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasable adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

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Posted in: Essays, Mini - Classic
Keith Adams

About the Author:

Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007. Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Clsssics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent... Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasable adventures all across Europe.

48 Comments on "Essay : Mini – The world’s favourite small car?"

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  1. Lewblew says:

    Don’t buy into the myth that Minis sold at a loss… no company (even BL) would keep a car in production for 41 years if it constantly lost money on it. Perhaps the basic models were loss leaders, but the Coopers, Special Editions, and optional extras available on every model tipped the balance.

    It’s not surprising that the Renault 5, Fiesta et al sold better in the 70s and 80s. In development terms they were decades ahead of the Mini, which as you say was rarely updated.

    When the Metro came along, it sold more in the UK than the Fiesta in its first few years, but then was overtaken when the Fiesta was updated in 1983. The Metro had to wait a few more years for its update…

    Perhaps it’s worth exploring what effect the various markets the different companies operated in had. Fiestas, Renaults, especially Fiats were being made and sold all over the world. Almost all Minis and Metros were made in one factory and almost all sold here on this small island. The Renault 5 got nowhere near our top 10 best seller list, but no doubt was massive all over the rest of Europe.

    How do the combined Mini and Metro figures stack up against the Fiesta as the latter emerged as the top selling supermini in the late 80s? I thought Fiesta sold approx 150k in its best year here (1987). According to your figures the combines Mini/Metro figures beat it. Another case of two BL cars competing against each other!

    • Paul says:

      But that’s just not the case is it? The reason the Government brokered BL/BMC merger became a BL takeover was because BMC was effectively bankrupt by 1968. Now whether those losses where specifically down to the expense of manufacturing Mini/1100/1800 or down to a wider malaise within the company is open to debate. But BMC was a commercial basket case of that there is no doubt.

      • mm says:

        Mini Cars = Mini profits, there are around 2500 components in the build of a car, it does not make much difference if the car sells for £10,000 or £20,000 as it leaves the assembly line, for the majority of those components the price of each does not vary much, only by a small margin, a 20 pence nut and bolt in a Mini is a 20p nut and bolt in a Rover 3500.
        Yet the consumer expects to pay a lot less for the Mini than the Rover 3500.

        • Kev says:

          Please god, don’t ever let this guy near a car….he’ll have an awful lot of bits left over!

          A car has over 30,000 separate parts.

          • Lewblew says:

            I guess the tooling is cheaper for a small car as it’s more likely to be mass produced? That’s why sporty/premium cars have premium prices, because they are made in fewer numbers.

          • Richard Davies says:

            I remember reading that Citroen stopped making smaller cars for a time because at the time it was worked out that bigger cars would make more money.

            When the market in the early 1930s demanded smaller cars Citroen were caught short, as they had invested so much getting the Traction Avant into production.

            Luckily for them (but not Andre Citroen) Michelin stepped in to save the company, & not long afterwards they started to develop was the 2CV.

  2. Christopher Storey says:

    I agree absolutely that the alleged loss making myth was precisely that. In the 1960s BMC was making very large profits indeed, and since two of its cars were consistently the best selling cars in the UK market throughout much of the decade ( Mini and 1100/1300 ) if it had been making losses on each one, then where were the profits coming from ? Morris Oxford ? 1800 ? Princess R ? Bs and Spridgets ( which I have no doubt were proitable but not on the scale required to achieve the actual results ) ? This was just a bit of conjecture on the part of some Ford penpusher, and just does not stand up to scrutiny by anyone who has some professional knowledge of accounting

    • Cedric Talbot says:

      BMC used to express their margin on each vehicle as “Contribution to Profits & Fixed Overheads”. They knew the labour and materials cost of course but fully accounted profit could only be derived by allocating overheads to each vehicle, which was to some extent arbitrary. For example the final assembly lines at Longbridge at one time were producing Minis, A40s, Riley 1.5 and Wolseley 1500s, A60 Cambridge and Morris Oxfords, A55 vans and pickups. How the overheads of this building were allocated to each car was a matter of accounting. I had the impression that if the entire business generated an acceptable profit then the individual profitability of each vehicle wasn’t analysed with great accuracy. Ford attempted to do so on all their products and I assume they concluded that the Mini would lose so much per car if they were to build it themselves.

    • Paul says:

      Sorry my post above should have slotted in here in response to the assertion that “BMC made very large profits indeed in the 1960’s” – to be clear, they didn’t.

  3. Ken Strachan says:

    There was an accountant at McDonnell Douglas who reported to his management that every McDD airliner was sold at a loss. They sacked him for his trouble – then reinstated him when they checked his figures, and found that he was right.
    BMC’s profits were not impressive with regard to the size of the business, nor to its UK market share. I have no doubt that BMC lost money on the complete Mini and ADO16 ranges; but made profits on spare parts and service (all those replacement subframes, until the aftermarket came in). More aged products like the Minor and the A40 should have been profitable, as the tooling was paid off long before. Don’t forget, BMC made vans and trucks in those days, and assorted other products. Profits on other products made up for losses on ADO15 and 16 – up to a point.

  4. mm says:

    What was the breakeven figure for production numbers of the mini? The numbers of cars marolling off the end of the line per week after which point they the line began making money?

    • Paul says:

      http://www.amazon.co.uk/Export-Drive-British-Leyland-Europe/dp/1497411629

      Worth reading this book of you want the answer to that. It concludes that BMC’s problem with Mini and 1100 was largely down to the huge investment in manufacturing capacity made in the expectation that these cars would have appeal in European markets. In the late 50s and early 60s BMC assumed Britain would soon join the common market and where gearing up for the removal of trade barriers. When Britains application was vetoed in 1963 and again in 1967 BMC was left with huge over capacity. Despite the cars domestic popularity,this resulted in the losses often associated with these cars. Essential reading for Nigel Farrage perhaps?

  5. Nate says:

    What were AUTOCAR’s Technical Editor Michael Scarlett’s full proposed list of improvements to the Mini and how early into the Mini’s production could they have been implemented?

  6. Richard Davies says:

    I’ve heard the ADO16’s were at least a break even on average.

    Supposedly the Allegros broke even because of parts shared with the Mini meant that bulk ordering them could be done at a discount.

    One book on the Rootes Group mentioned the on average covering their costs (not sure if this was before the Imp) but not making enough to do a complete R&D programme for the next generation of cars.

  7. Glenn Aylett says:

    While I would concur by the mid seventies the Mini was past it and no match for the Renault Cinq or the VW Polo, don’t forget in the sixties this was a hugely popular car that took 7 per cent of the new car market and exports were huge, with factories set up in Belgium and Spain to assemble Minis from kits to keep up with demand.

    • Gordon Gray says:

      And don’t forget Australia. The Mini was very popular here (assembled from CKD) until the mid 1970’s when eclipsed by the Honda Civic.

  8. Gav says:

    Best seller or not there are still many thousands of minis lovingly cherished and indeed used daily by fans here and around the world. Renault 5, Mk1 Fiesta? rare on the streets and I cant even remember the last time I saw a 127!

  9. Onto the subject of great small cars, I’m surprised that you haven’t mentioned the Peugeot 205. A practical, fun to drive supermini that’s cheap to buy and run all wrapped under the stylish exterior.

    Like the Renault 5, the 205 was a trendy small car, and also very successful in terms of sales. When it was in production from 1983 to 1995, Peugeot had sold 5,278,000 examples – more than BMC/BL/Rover did with Mini in a shorter space of time. It also turned round Peugeot’s fortunes.

    Dare I say it, the 205 GTis were more like Mini Cooper (1.6) and Cooper S (1.9) for the 1980s. Then you had the rally cars as well with the 205 T16s that they were based on. Like the Mini, the 205 enjoys a following to this day, survival rates on them are higher than most superminis of that era.

    To some extent, the Peugeot 205 was an influential small car and the 205 was a game changer in the world of small cars in the 1980s. I mean, the Ford Fiesta MK3/4 looks-wise, is an imitation of the 205 – especially the 5 door Fiestas.

  10. Glenn Aylett says:

    Predating the Mini,the Fiat 500 was introduced in 1953 as a cheap city car that was a massive success in Italy.

  11. Richard16378 says:

    The Peugeot 205 is well worth mentioning.

  12. Glenn Aylett says:

    The Mini was a good car in the sixties, but by about 1969, when the half hearted Clubman update was introduced, it was becoming dated. Really what should have happened is the Riley Elf design, with a hatchback and bigger engine, should have taken over in 1969. This would have really brought the Mini into the seventies and proved to be an effective competitor to the Renault Cinq and Fiat 127, that were stealing sales after 1972.
    Actually the luxury Mini, the Elf, seems to be rarely mentioned on here. Any chance of an article?

  13. Richard16378 says:

    IIRC the bigger boot was going to be used on the Clubman.

  14. Glenn Aylett says:

    @ Richard, another wasted opportunity, particularly when they axed the Riley Elf in 1969. BMC must have been very complacent as the only real competitor to the Mini then was the Hillman Imp, which sold in smaller numbers. However, by 1976 the Mini was being badly shown up by superior products from Ford, Fiat, Renault and Volkswagen. By the end of the decade, the 20 year old Mini also had Japanese competition to face off when Suzuki and Toyota introduced very competent superminis. The Metro cavalry charge couldn’t come too soon in 1980.

    • mm says:

      I cannot understand why the Elf and Hornet were dropped, after all they are Minis with more boot volume, and better rear end crash protection. What were the grounds for the decision?

      • Kev says:

        Almost non-existent sales, in common with all Riley and Wolesely badged products. Simply, the costs of lineside differentiation and dealer network support, were not matched by sales.

  15. maestrowoff says:

    Mini production volumes don’t look especially spectacular when compared with many other small cars, not helped by BMC not having any license deals in Easter Europe.
    Alongside the 5 million R5s, there are also 8 million R4s.
    As well as the 127, Fiat built 3.8m 500s, 4.7m 126s, 4.9m 600s and 4.5m Mk1 Pandas

  16. Richard16378 says:

    Add to that total 3.1m Fiat 128s, & I don’t think that includes Yugos either.

    Fiat, VW (& other makes) also had a lot of Latin American production as well

    I know some Minis were assembled in Chile, so BMC didn’t ignore this market.

  17. Alecito says:

    Mini is quite desired today since it was relaunched under the BMW stigma, but it wasn`t when it was a normal tiny car of the British Leyland`s era . In terms of worldwide recognition, despite some inches longer or fewer, most beloved cars for the cult still remains Volkswagen Kafer first, Citroen 2CV second and in the 3rd place could fill the place the eternal Mini (by Austin-Morris). Renault 5 is conisdered a work of art design, Fiat 127 was probably the initial idea of those mini cars that came with a liftback, an idea that was furthersome copied by all automakers who made Fiat 127 getting pensioned. A “best selling car” isn`t a definition of “most favourite car”. There are many brands who produced far less units than Ford with Fiesta, but they`re still more beloved than a Fiesta .

  18. Glenn Aylett says:

    @ Alecito, the best selling car in Britain in the seventies was the Ford Cortina, of which 4 million of all versions from 1962 to 1982 were sold in Britain. However, while the car was a huge success in Britain and a fairly big seller in Germany as the Taunus, elsewhere sales were far lower and visiting France in 1980 the only ones I saw were British registered ones in Calais. The Cortina just didn’t register in many countries of Europe.
    I think in France a conservative rwd British family car with conventiional engineering just couldn’t cut it with designs like the Citroen GS or CX, with their Gallic eccentricities and technological superiority, while in Italy, where smaller cars were more popular, the Fiat Mirafiori did exactly the same job as the Cortina and was Italian.

    • Alecito says:

      Thank you, i`m almost 99% agree with you and just excuse my grammar faults since I`m a Brit car`s fan from Argentina in South America. Perhaps if you sum up all the Brit`s Ford Cortinas with their sibling Taunus , you are speaking about one of the most host best sellers in the automotive industry which is, obiously, origined in the UK . Same facts related to earlier Escorts (1968, born in the UK ) but internationalized after Ford Werke Kôln . By the way : Italians and French do have a standard of popular cars which measures are smaller than the concept of popular that rules in the UK or German market ( as it did the Ford Cortinas you mentioned)

  19. Lewblew says:

    @ Alecito – I’m not sure the Beetle or 2CV are superminis.

    However, none of the cars mentioned so far had (or have) the worldwide ‘cool’ appeal of the Mini, despite being made in larger numbers. From the celebrity owners in the Swinging Sixties, to Cool Britannia and the final run-out of special editions and Coopers in the 90s, onto the retro cartoon version which BMW now sell millions of (apologies) the Mini is the ultimate cult car. ‘Favourite’? Probably.

    • Alecito says:

      I`ve not the answer as every single country/nation has it “beloved one”. If the newest MINI by BMW is favourite, well it can be a favourite, but not everyone is agree with the budget (e.g. Mercedes CL A is my favourite but i can`t afford it either in dreams). If you like to know what are the still rodding most pop cars in Latin America, check it up : VW Beetle rear engine, Chevrolet Chevette (your indestructible Vauxhall Viva designed in 1973, an amazingly eternal survivor) and
      the Citroen 2CV (who became today an exotica car, a cult`s car). Maybe the little difference is that in roughest countries, the “cult” is intended for most reliable automobiles, despite its aesthetics !

  20. Rob1050 says:

    All interesting reading. But, the Mini was shorter than all the above by something like 20 inches and narrower by 5 inches. The Fiat 126 is a much closer comparison. Park a Mini by any of the current equivalents, and the difference is even more startling.

  21. Will M says:

    The Renault 7.

    What the Wolseley Hornet could’ve been… 🙂

    • Dani says:

      Yes Will M you are right ! Same way with Renault Symbol > a Renault Clio with an aditional squared trunk. Or just check the Nissan Platina > a Renault Clio 3 volume
      (since Renault and Nissan are partners)

  22. Rick Ehrlich says:

    The profitability of BL went off the rails so to speak at some point in the late 60s. By 1969 BL had a glovebox size of dealer distributors that was made available to American owners by the dealers which covered North America. In it was every dealer/distributor in the USA and Canada. The motto printed on one page was that BL was the largest producer of sports cars in the world along with 2 other sayings which I don’t recall.

    I recall reading that back in that era BMC/BL US sales were profitable for the company and they were selling more MGBs and Triumphs here than in England. Whether or not this is true may not be the point. The point is that the balance sheets perhaps did not provide an accurate picture of the company overall health.

    By 1972 many BL dealers in the US had gotten out of selling the BL line of products and may have continued to provide parts and service for their many customers. One long time dealer in my area started selling Datsun (later Nissan). When questioned about why he no longer sold Austin/MG et al, he replied that he didn’t want any more headaches. He went on to say that he went to England and witnessed the labor strife with an entire assembly line shut down in sympathy with one bloke who didn’t get his tea break. That and other issues such as warranty claims also didn’t help.

    Don’t tell me there weren’t warranty claims with the mini and Austin 1300. I own a mini and had several 1300s and while they are admirable cars, they could have been improved in many ways.

    The Austin America sold in the US (an economy 58 HP, 2 door with 1275 engine, low compression and single carb with vacuum advance distributor)was a great little car in many ways. It could have done better if it was sold here as the 1300 GT if that is the proper name for it in England with the twin SU carbs, 9:75 compression, centrifugal advance distributor, tachometer, brake servo and reclining seats. A four door model would have been nice also.

    The Austin America was plagued with warranty issues. So many that the dealers had many cars left over brand new at the end of the sales year which were discounted just to move them off the lot.

    The Japanese were watching this as they do with every product they copy – electronics or automobiles. They came out with their Honda 600 which only sold here for 2 years and was the size of a mini with a Honda motorcycle engine. But in 1973 Honda sold the Civic in the US for the first time and got it right. They copied the Austin America – front wheel drive, just as they had done in the 600 sedan, but the Civic was sized correctly and it hit our country the year of the Arab “oil embargo”! The Civic had a brake booster the first year of production and kept on adding features that improved the car. But the basics were there the first year. The major difference was the second year the engine capacity increased slightly and over time it kept on increasing with no lose of economy.

    Where BL lost out was in the planning and research and development of their products. There was a total lack of vision. Issigonis was so right about so many things, but he was cursed by not being able to have somebody cover him in the later years and have his back.

    Even the stupid 35 amp circuits with 17 amps continuous which protected multiple devices – who else does that? Nobody. It was prewar electrical engineering and carried on for so long without change.

  23. Richard Davies says:

    A few BMC / BL models seemed to suffer from only having the odd update in their later years in production.

    The Morris Minor was a good example. I read in a book how these sold quite well in the USA, & some magazines rated them above the VW Beetle, but over time the seemed to only get the odd update while VW kept changing the Beetle, not even saving each change for a model year.

    The ADO 16 was in some ways ahead of the game in the 1960s & with strong production figures, but the issue that never seemed to be adressed was the rear subframe, which had a habit of rusting after a few years.

    There were plenty of alarm bells ringing for BMC in the 1960s but no-one seemed to listen to even before the crunch decade that was the 1970s arrived.

    • Rick Ehrlich says:

      Absolutely spot-on Richard Davies – regarding nobody paying attention to the overall health of the corporation which was bloated and out of control.

      The Morris Minor was never seen in my neck of the woods as it was a rare car over here. There were tons of MGBs,MGB/GTs MGAs, MG Midgets, and even a good number of MGCs and the odd GT version even though it was only in production for 2 years.

      And there were plenty of Triumph models TR3 and TR4, TR6 and TR7 although by the time of the TR7 BL was already on it’s deathbed. Earlier TR models were around also with somewhat more obscure names. There were also TR GT6 models and Triumph Stags.

      Jaguar was a constant here as well as Rover and there were many models that never left as those 2 marques survived BL.

      Also popular in the US were Austin-Healeys, both the big Healey and the Austin-Healey Sprites.

      The minis were sold here up until 1967 when they were withdrawn as BL made the decision not to modify minis to comply with new emissions and crash safety laws effective Jan 1, 1968. The emissions equipment was available and was fitted to every other BMC/LEYLAND car sold in the US starting Jan ’68 including the Austin America which was the successor vehicle to the MG 1100 in the US. (There were plenty of MG 1100s sold in the US). BUT BL would have to make significant changed to the mini to make it meet safety standards and one which they could not do was the problem with the bumper height. So they just decided not to sell minis here anymore. Up in Canada the bumper guards were mounted somewhere up around the front grille and kind of ugly and similarly there was a rear mounted crash guard to “protect” the boot lid. I doubt if these devices could resist a 5 mph hit.

      There may have been Morris Minors sold in the US but not in any great numbers. I don’t recall ever seeing one here.

  24. Glenn Aylett says:

    The Austin America, except in the cities, wasn’t really a car for pre energy crisis America. I wouldn’t like to drive one of these in a desert in summer, or to keep one through a couple of harsh winters in the North where rust would destroy it. It was primarily a car designed for western Europe, where it sold extremely well. British cars that did well in America in the late sixties and early seventies were usually luxury cars or sports cars that were more ” American”.

    • Rick Ehrlich says:

      Glenn – The Austin America did well here with respect to hot weather. It did not have an overheating problem and rust was not an issue. The America did not last long enough to suffer from rust. Most of the Austin Americas were off the road in a year or two because people didn’t take care of them and even if they did, mechanically the suffered from a variety of ailments. Brake failure sometimes was enough to total the vehicle. An accident usually meant the car was not repairable as the front end or back end would fold up enough so that insurance companies would total them out.

      Then if the transmissions failed most people would not want to pay to fix them if they were out of warranty. Since the car was about $2000.00 when new, the cost of labor and parts drove the repairs up to the point that many people would just rationalize that the money spent on expensive repairs would be better spent on a second hand car. Cars were inexpensive then – especially second hand cars. For instance, I bought a second hand Corvair for about $150.00 at that time.

      The Austin America had the usual Lucas electrical issues and that kind of nonsense was not known in American cars. Typically the electrics in American cars were straight forward and bulletproof. Circuits did not just go out of service without something going on. But the British electrical systems were a problem.

      By 1971 junkyards were littered with Austin Americas stacked up one on top of the other. Today you would have a hard time finding any as they were all crushed years ago after parts were sold off piecemeal.

  25. mm says:

    The Issigonis 1800, the Landcrab was it ever sold in USA or Canada? if so, how did it fare?

  26. Glenn Aylett says:

    @ Rick, in pre oil crisis America I’d much rather have spent my money on an American car, which would be more reliable, better equipped, more powerful and gas consumption wouldn’t be much of an issue.

    • Rick Ehrlich says:

      Glenn,

      You’re right about that. In the days before the oil crisis most American cars were far and away superior to almost anything from England in that price range for the average American. I had a powerful Chevelle Super Sport with a 327 and a single 4 bbl carb. It was very quick and lousy on gas but nobody cared about the price of gas because it was so cheap at 30 to 35 cents per gallon. The Chevelle got you places fast without any drama of faulty electrics and fuses going south because of stupid pre-war designs that were never updated. If a fuse went, something was drawing too much current. Most American stuff was pretty rugged though and it was rare to have a fuse blow or a circuit go out. That stuff was all bullet proof.

      The other interesting counterpoint to the prices of American cars at the time is that they were not really expensive compared to today. And foreign cars were not that expensive but compared to American cars they did not represent the bargain that got in terms of reliability until the Japanese took over the niche market of what the British had with their sedans and sports cars.

  27. Rammstein says:

    Long before the Renault 5 appeared at the scene, it was the Renault 4 that gave the Mini a run for its money on the continent.
    Of course the UK were no part of the -now- good old EEC, so import cars were relatively rare and expensive int he UK.
    With a total of over NINE MILLIONS copies sold, the R4 had both the 2Cv and the Mini for breakfast, so to speak.
    The Renault 4 was more bland then both the Mini and the 2CV, but because of this blandness and its utter practicality thanks to its fifth door or hatch and its four doors it was a hit for the begining motorist and family man, and it was in the same price range as the Mini was.
    The Renault 4 was so bland that you’d actually dispose of it at the end of tis life and just go to the dealers to buy a new one.

  28. Richard Davies says:

    It’s almost as if Renault scaled up the 2CV slightly, kept the practical bits, & then make the quirky parts more conventional.

    • Rammstein says:

      They actually did what you suggest, they looked at the 2CV’s weak points (engine aircooled and flat twin no decent power nor heating system) and gave the R4 a steel fifth door and presto, the birth of the hatch.

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