The launch of the MINI 5-Door Hatch has sparked memories of a similar product that BMC could have launched, right at the dawn of ADO15 production, in the early 1960s. A more practical Mini seemingly has been on the cards ever since Alec Issigonis devised his clever 10ft (and a quarter inch) long baby car.
According to John Pressnell’s epochal book, Mini: The Definitive History, the idea of a four-door Mini had been floating around Longbridge since 1957, once the ADO15 project was underway. However, little work was done on the car, as the priority was just to get the two-door to market, but it was the arrival of the commercial and load-carrying variations that had the designers thinking more seriously about the idea of a more practical Mini.
The 1960-1961 Morris Mini van, Countryman, Pick-up and the Austin Se7en Traveller’s new underpinnings would potentially form the perfect basis for the new four-door Mini. They received a much-needed four-inch stretch of the wheelbase (from 80in to 84in), giving the car more rear room and a worthwhile extension in the luggage area.
According to one ex-Austin apprentice who helped with the Mini’s 20th anniversary celebrations in 1979, when he was researching the Mini’s early life, he came across the above interesting image of a four-door Mini produced by the Longbridge engineering team as a possible upwards extension of the Mini saloon range.
He said that the approach back then was very much a case of ‘suck it and see’, with many one-offs being produced as the result of a ‘good idea’. The four-door Mini in the image was built in 1962-1963 and, as can be seen from the accompanying image (note the gap between the rear wheelarch and the rear corner flange), it was based on the longer-wheelbase platform and was photographed at the Longbridge development shops behind Austin’s HQ, known by one and all as the Kremlin.
The fate of this car is unknown, but it almost certainly did not survive. There was a rather unfortunate policy at Longbridge of scrapping most ‘non-standard’ prototypes like this, so it probably didn’t survive very long, or was stuffed into one of the infamous tunnels and got burnt in the fire in the late-1980s.
John Pressnell said that Ron Dovey of the experimental body shop remembered the single running prototype. Consideration was also given to a long-wheelbase two-door saloon and it seems possible that a car was also built to that specification. The fate of that car remains unknown.