Serious investigation into replacing the Mini begun in earnest during 1993, when Design Director Gordon Sked asked his Design Team to come up with some concept ideas for a new Mini. He was clear that they needed to think outside of the box, not to worry about carry-overs, and to try and recreate the spirit of the 1959 original. What would eventually appear at the 1997 Geneva Motor Show as the MINI Spiritual’s roots lay in this blue-sky exercise – the end result was one which showed great promise and, just like Issigonis’ car, was rather ahead of its time.
The one-box, rear-engined minicar was a packaging marvel, with an overall length of around 10ft – just like the ‘real’ Mini. The design was available in standard and long-wheelbase form, which were known internally as the Mini and Midi, and was the work of a Designer called Oliver Le Grice. Like the ACV30, it was an active design concept that was taken to the famous 1995 Gaydon shootout in which management decided which Mini concept would be developed into a production car.
History records that the Mini and Midi twins didn’t make it, being passed over for a more conventional and sporting proposition, although then-BMW Group boss Bernd Pischetsrieder liked them, stating that they were at least a decade ahead of their time. So, the project was put on ice, only to be dusted off for the 1997 Geneva Motor Show, where both versions were unveiled as the Spiritual and Spiritual Too concepts to help with the build-up of Mini publicity in the run up to the pre-launch of the new car at that year’s Frankfurt Motor Show.
A fascinating might have been, though…