Mini – Classic
Alec Issigonis’s cheap small car for BMC was innovative with its front-wheel drive and space-saving transverse engine layout but, more than that, it was incredibly entertaining to drive, even if it took buyers quite a while to cotton on.
The Mini had a personality that few small cars had displayed before, and it soon became a best-seller. The Austin version was initially called the Se7en, but became the Mini in 1961. The 848cc A-series engine was used throughout the life of the MkI; one significant change was the adoption of Hydrolastic suspension in place of the original rubber-cone type in 1964.
Such was the rightness of the original Mini, that once it had reached Mk3 form, there really wasn’t much left to improve – and so, between the late 1960s and early ’90s, very little materially changed, other than trim and equipment.
The short-lived Mk2 (1967-69) had received a new grille and the option of a 998cc engine, while the Mk3 (1969-1976) hid the door hinges and replaced the sliding windows with wind-up ones. The old Austin and Morris badges were dropped with the formation of British Leyland in 1968, with the Mini now a marque in its own right. Hydrolastic suspension – more expensive to fit – was dropped in favour of the original rubber-cone type.
Changes for the Mk4 (1976-1984) were more subtle, with alterations to the interior and subframe. The Mk5 took over from 1985-92, with 12in wheels and front disc brakes.
Rover brought back the Cooper in 1990 as a limited edition of just 1000 after seeing the car selling so well in Japan throughout the late-1980s. Such was the interest in the special edition that the decision was taken to reintroduce it as a mainstream model, with a 1275cc engine plus alloy wheels, white roof and more sporting interior.
An ‘S’ package from John Cooper boosted power to 78bhp. Fuel injection from 1991 increased the power of both types even more, but from 1996, this changed from single- to multi-point with electronic ignition as well. The 40th birthday celebration Cooper S Works of 1999 was the most powerful of them all, with 90bhp. Production ended in 2000, and Lulu drove the last car off the line.
Reviews, blogs and news stories
It changed the way we looked at small cars almost overnight, and sent the designers scurrying back to the drawing boards – the Mini was little short of a major revolution. We take a look at the development and subsequent life story of Britain’s favourite small car… Words: Keith Adams, Ian Nicholls Development and early […]
The story of the missing link in the Pininfarina Aerodynamica story – a stylish Mini-based concept that could have made a great supermini for the 1970s…
ERA is a name with a glorious past – and in the summer of 1988, the owners of the marque approached Rover in order to revive the name on a very special Mini. This is what happens when you put a turbocharger under the bonnet of a Mini… a little bit of magic.
The most comprehensive story you’ll ever read about the aborted 9X programme – the ill-fated Mini replacement, engineered by the man who created the original.
We take a look at some of the famous people who have driven Minis during its long production run… Celebrity endorsement has long been a part of car marketing. The Mini was an unlikely beneficiary of this, as Ian Nicholls points out with his gallery. If you have any similar images you’d like to submit, […]
At the 1973 Earls Court Motor Show, BLMC expected the new Allegro to be the centre of attention on the Austin-Morris stand. Instead, it was another car which stole the limelight… Shortly before the 1973 Motor Show, BLMC gained permission to add to their stand a curious but radical small car, created by the futurist Designer […]
Wood & Pickett’s riposte to Radford’s upmarket de Ville… Having seen how Radford’s Mini de Ville conversions were catching on, Wood & Pickett decided that they too could take a slice of the action. They set about creating their own Margrave conversion, apparently taking their first order from actress Hayley Mills (although this may be […]
The Clubman was developed through BMC’s desire to expand the Mini concept, without spending too much money. It started out as a hatchback proposal penned by Roy Haynes, and then developed into something rather less useful.
According to our resident historian, Ian Nicholls, more than six million classic Minis of all types were made between 1959 and 2000. Along the way, a number of interesting landmarks were passed. From the final Mini off the line (above) in bitter-sweet circumstances at Longbridge, to the first one 41 years previously, this little car […]
BMC changed the world with the launch of the Mini in 1959. It was created in response to a crisis and was a genius piece of packaging which will forever be Sir Alec Issigonis’ legacy to the automotive world. However, as we all know, it was no profit-maker for BMC and, during its hyper-successful first decade on the market, its maker cruelly – and criminally – failed to develop the concept into something that the customers truly wanted – a hatchback.
Twenty years ago – on 1 October 1996 – BMW through its British subsidiary the Rover Group made a significant announcement. The Mini Mk7 MPi was announced at the Paris Motor Show, the final incarnation of the Issigonis car.