Keith Adams tells the story of the first of what would end up being a run of more than 40 limited editions – the Austin-Morris Mini 1100 Special.
Introduced to celebrate the 20th birthday of Issigonis’ fine creation, the 1100 Special ended up being one of the most appealing Minis of them all.
Special and mini – the 1100 Special
When people discuss special edition Minis, the popular perception is that this phenomenon kicked off during the late-1980s in order to sell more cars. But pretty much from the moment the Mini was launched back in 1959, dealers as well as its maker built bespoke and upgraded versions. However, it’s the 1979 20th Anniversary edition – the 1100 Special – that is the first series limited edition example of the breed.
The 1100 Special was launched in August 1979 the celebrate the Mini’s big birthday and ended making its public debut at a celebratory event in Donington in 1979 (below). Unlike most limited edition models that that followed, the 1100 Special was mechanically, as well as cosmetically, upgraded. Powering the car was a 1098cc Clubman-specification engine, pushing out 45bhp and 57lb ft – and it was the only non-Haynes-fronted Mini to benefit from the 1100. Maximum speed was 84mph with a 0-60mph time of 16.6 seconds – nippy enough for a Mini of its time.
Visually, the 1100 Special was spot-on. It boasted metallic paint, graduated stripes, wheelarch extensions and standard-fit alloys. Inside, it was equipped with the 1275 GT’s instrument pack and full-depth centre console. Contemporary advertising put it so well (underneath a very fetching interior shot) with its pithy tag-line: ‘You take the Daimler dear, I’ll drive the Mini’.
What made a Mini 1100 Special, er, special?
A special programme was issued for the Donington extravaganza, and Tony Cumming, Director of UK Marketing for Austin-Morris said this in it: ‘We in Austin-Morris have an awesome responsibility. We are the guardians of what has become a part of the British way of life, an inviolable character in its own right, and probably the most affectionately regarded car ever built. You cannot ‘product plan’ a car like the Mini, you can only nurture it and encourage it to mature, while jealously preserving its essential joie-de-vivre.
‘The new Mini Metro will be in the next class up, among the superminis, and we are going to keep this little classic in production alongside it. Meanwhile, we have the 20th birthday to celebrate. We felt that a special public event like today’s Extravaganza at Donington was essential; and as a more permanent tribute to Britain’s most successful car ever designed, we have launched the Anniversary Mini 1100 Special, of which a limited number will be sold in Britain.’
In the end, 5100 were built after the initial planned run of 2500 sold out in double quick time, forcing BL to run off an additional 2600…
1979 Mini 1100 Special
- Chrome Clubman-style bumpers, black-centred grille and vinyl roof (Tan coloured for the Rose body and Black for the silver body)
- Wide shaded side stripes on lower body sides, Mini Special A-panel decals
- ‘Special’ grille badge and ‘Mini Special’ boot badge
- Interior – Tartan check trim with unique centre console and two-spoke sports steering wheel
- Exaction ten-inch (often referred to as 1100 Special) alloys
- Innocenti wheelarch extensions
- Side indicators (mounted higher on the wings and longer in length than most mini models)
- 1275 GT instrumentation
- Clock and cigar lighter.
- Metallic Silver (MMB – BLVC202)
- Metallic Rose (CMM – BLVC303)
Gallery: Mini 1100 Special
- Thanks to the Mini LE Register
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