The MINI ACV30 actually started its life as a design proposal by Adrian van Hooydonk. It was one of several concepts put forward to replace the classic Mini in 1995.
Its Designer ended up penning a series of BMW saloons and coupes as well as working alongside Chris Bangle on the BMW X5, and this one would go on to play an important role in the R50’s development.
MINI ACV30: The inside story
The year 1997 saw the arrival of not one but three new MINI concept cars – the first was the ACV30 (for Anniversary Concept Vehicle – 30 years on from the original Mini’s 1967 Monte win), which was fittingly announced at the Monte Carlo Rally.
This coupe-like model sat on an MGF chassis, making it an unusual mid-engined Mini. It wasn’t originally known as the ACV30, as it was based on a BMW DesignworksUSA proposal for the car by Adrian van Hooydonk, who would go on to become the President of the operation.
The car was shown at the famous Gaydon shootout in clay model form in 1995, when the BMW Board and Rover management went on to choose the shape of the 2001 MINI. Adrian’s DesignworksUSA design was shown alongside the Spiritual twins, a proposal by Roy Axe’s Design Research Associates organisation, and a number from BMW’s Design Studios in Munich.
In the end, it would be Frank Stephenson‘s design, penned in Munich, that would win out, but Adrian’s design language did go on to help influence the production R50.
If the ACV30 added little to the development of the new MINI per se, it did publicly showcase the fact that Rover was now seriously in the process of developing a Mini replacement, after years of inactivity.
And even if this was not the car to do it, the ACV30 did begin the process of softening up the public by planting the seed of an idea that the seemingly immortal original could be replaced.
Actually, the Ivan Lampkin-styled interior formed the basis of the production R50’s set-up, sporting a prominent centrally-mounted speedometer and lots of bare metal.
The ACV30 might not have looked like a MINI R50, but as well as its interior concept, the concept’s floating roof, chunky wheelarches and white top were clearly strong visual links.
Cleverly, the design was repackaged as a design concept to be shown at the 1997 Monte Carlo Rally. It needed to be a runner, hence the MGF underpinnings, but that process caused some friction at Rover, where this engineering needed to be completed.
Specifically, the Hydragas suspension needed to work on the orders of the then-boss Wolfgang Reitzle. One observer commented, ‘The tale of Gerry McGovern’s reaction when he saw it – as the MGF‘s Designer – when Adrian traipsed up at Gaydon with this half-engineered runner is a riot.
‘It’s funny as Adrian is 6ft 4in and Gerry is not – so he tried rolling his eyes at Adrian, who then greatly enjoyed not noticing.’
At the launch, the exterior styling of the ACV30 concept was attributed to Adrian van Hooydonk and Frank Stephenson – a nod to what was coming down the line later that year.