During the early 1960s, around 20 Mini Beach Cars were built by the Longbridge Experimental Department, all but one of which were in left-hand-drive form.
However, there wasn’t just one style of Mini Beach Car design, as can be seen below.
Mini Beach Car: fun in the sun
In his 1964 book ‘The Mini Story’, Laurence Pomeroy provided the following information on these fair weather variants: ‘For use in the balmier parts of the world, BMC have built a small number of prestige cars in the shape of a most elegant “beach wagon”. Cars of this kind have been featured at Turin Motor Shows for many years, and, by definition, have neither doors nor windows. Protection from the sun, however, is afforded by either a metal canopy or, like the Surrey, by a ‘roof on top’ made of canvas.
‘In the Mini version of this theme, the Chief Stylist, Dick Burzi, himself of Italian parenthood, was given a free hand and came up with an entrancing and most elegant little car of which 16 have been made for the use of hotels de grande luxe who use them to carry customers from the bar to the beach.’
Two-box Mini Beach Car
What we do know is that Austin commissioned a run of door-less Mini-based ‘Beach Cars’ between December 1961 and March 1962. According to the Longbridge production records, 14 Beach Cars were made during this period, all in left-hand-drive form. AROnline reader and former Mini Beach Car owner, Robert Forbes, told us in 2014: ‘Per the Longbridge production records, 14 were built as described and, of course, the brown tan one in RHD purportedly used by the Queen. As that car exists, call that the 15th.’
The Beach Cars were built by hand in house at Longbridge’s Experimental Department. They had no doors, no B-pillars, and a spot-welded roof. Seats were similar to a Fiat 500 Jolly, originally made of wicker. Alternatively known as the ‘Riviera Buggy’, the Mini Beach Car was a fleeting hit. One was even loaned to the Royal Family and used briefly by the Queen at Windsor Castle, as documented by Jon Pressnell in Mini – The Definitive History. According to a contemporary column in the Daily Express, which reported on the Queen’s drive, ‘the Queen, a knowledgeable motorist, doubtless enjoys travelling in this unconventional little vehicle as much as she does in her Rolls.’
The concept obviously had its advocates, as a replica version of the original version appeared. According to Asopee Simeli, one such car called the Tigmark Mini Mille, which was spotted in 1998 came with, ‘…stripy vinyl bucket seats complete with three point racing harnesses. The roll back vinyl roof and Minilite wheels completed the picture.’ It should also be noted that the shape of the side opening closely mirrors the original.