Blog : Mini that might have been?

Ian Nicholls

Mini Estate

More from the 2013 International Mini Meeting held at the Mugello circuit in Italy. Back in October 1967 the British Motor Corporation staged a great coup by poaching stylist and product planner Roy Haynes from Ford of Britain.

Perhaps Roy Haynes’ best known work for British Leyland, as it became, was the Mini Clubman. However the long nosed Mini did not go down well in Europe and from 1977 the Seneffe plant in Belgium began producing the 1100 engined ‘Mini Special’, basically a round nosed saloon with Clubman levels of equipment.

However the Mini estate from 1970 to 1982 was only ever available with the Clubman nose, take it or leave it. One enterprising owner from the Colmar Mini Club, in the Alsace region of France, has created this round nosed estate in 1970s style.

What do you think?

Keith Adams


  1. A guy in the nearest city of Gorizia (the cities of Nova Gorica and Gorizia are attached but just dividedby the slovenian italian border) have one brown estate with the original clubman nose and i don’t like iteven cos is brown with golden wheels….is really to much….a round nose variant is muc much preatier

  2. I often wonder why the Mini estate was never offered with a 1275 cc engine as on the range topping saloon. This would have given the estate a fair bit of power and could have broken into the fleet market.

  3. I think from 1970 the Mini was left to wither on the vine. A replacement was always around the corner, the ADO74, ADO88, Innocenti 90/120, but it was not until 1980 and the LC8 Metro that one finally reached the showrooms.
    The Clubman should have been upgraded with a front mounted radiator, and a 1275 cc estate should have been part of the range.
    The IMM also showed that Innocenti were streets ahead of Longbridge when it came to styling. The Italians made black plastic look stylish, on Longbridge cars it just looked cheap and nasty. A 1972 vintage Innocenti Mini Cooper 1300 Export looked much nicer than a limited edition Mini from the mid 1980’s.
    I also commented to Keith at the IMM that apart from the ageing Mini, after the demise of the ADO16 1100/1300 series in June 1974, continental BL dealers had precious little in their showrooms that appealed to European customers, a frightening thought.

  4. Nice, also agree that the 1275cc should have been available in the Estate.

    Apart from the stillborn LWB and 5-door hatchback variants, did Innocenti ever look into building an Estate version of their Bertone-styled Mini?

  5. Unfortunately this car repeats the biggest sin of the Clubman, which wasn’t its nose, but the use of sub-MFI fake ‘wood’ trim on the sides.

    I really ought to get round to taking a pic of a Clubman that is usually parked about a mile down the road from me- its a Clubman estate in bright orangey red, minus the ‘wood’, but with some smark aftermarket alloys. It looks the biz, without too many other embellishments.

    I really don’t think the Clubman nose was too bad, and could easily have been tastefully facelifted at minimum expense to make it look less ‘Maxi’-like.

  6. The clubman, Maxi and to some extent Marina mark 1 were trying to get a Corporate BMC Austin/Morris style. It was a bit of a copy of the Cortina Mk2. The ADO16 also had a Roy Haynes style front which BMC were set to launch with a much improved and refined hydrolastic suspension set up. I am sure BMC 1800 would have followed. For some reason the ADO16 facelift did not happen. Maybe BLMC wanted to put their resources into the Allegro? What if ADO16 facelift had been launched with the hatchback option and saloon that was sold in Spain an South Africa? I am sure it would have boosted BLMC in the critical 1969-73 period and generated much needed cash and retained market share at 40%. Had Filmer Paradise not closed huge numbers of BMC dealers in 1970-72 then things could have been very different and BLMC might have been able to develop the new Marina for launch in 1976 and SD2 to replace the Triumph Dolomite including the 16v engine and maybe a V8? Would BLMC have gone under then in 1975? We will never know…

  7. Like #6 (hints of ‘The Prisoner’ here!) I too detested the fake plastic wood used on the Clubman Estate.
    In the 1980’s I built myself an orange Clubman Estate with a tuned version of the engine from an ADO16 1300GT, the larger brake discs from the 1275GT Mini and used 12″ Hillman Imp steel wheels (painted traditional 1980’s silver rim with black centres) and hubcaps.
    I removed the wood trim, but only ever got around to painting as far back as the front doors (it was always a work in progress), but thought it looked a lot cleaner.
    It was bloomin’ quick, handled well, and created quite a lot of interest. It also performed really well when towing my Mini Se7en race car…

  8. Surely Haynes best known work at BMC/BL was the Morris Marina? – Surprised that as a poached Ford product planner he forgot to mention that the 71 Mk3 Cortina would be much bigger with an Engine range stretching to 2 litres. Instead he produced a carbon copy of the Mk2 Cortina that effectively hobbled BL and left them with a car that fitted no established market slot. Perhaps he was still on a retainer from Ford?

  9. @9, Paul,

    He would probably have been bound under intellectual property/ industrial espionage laws not to reveal any of Ford’s model planning. As it happens, I think he achieved a ‘happy medium’ in terms of styling, between the Mk2 and Mk3 Tinas with the Marina- I think the Marina was much more attractive than the ‘plain Jane’ Mk2 Tina. I think it is quality of the styling that enabled the car to remain on sale (with a Harris Mann ‘Ital’ restyle) for way longer than a purely coke-bottle styled car would have- I think the Avenger looked much more dated towards the end than the Ital did.

  10. @11 – that made me chuckle – comparing the late model Marina/Ital with the late model Hillman/Chrysler/Talbot Avenger is a bit like comparing Beryl Reid with Thora Hird!

  11. The Avenger is an unsung hero which survived three changes of name and was still selling quite well, particularly in Scotland where the Talbot versions were made, when the plug was pulled on it. It could rust and quality was a bit wayward, but the engines were a lot tougher and sweeter than the SIMCA ones in other Chrysler products and in 1600 form could go quite quickly. 30 years ago anyone wanting a cheap and reasonably dependable used car couldn’t go wrong with an Avenger.

  12. Yet both the Avenger and the Marina were very modern and up-to-date styling wise (if not mechanically) at the time of their launch.

  13. ……maybe so, but both were ancient, outclassed and ugly by the time of their demise, proving the old adage, ‘mutton dressed as lamb’. As for that matter, was the Cortina ’80….

  14. See the Hyundai Stellar for how a Cortina ’82 may have looked…

    Or, indeed, the Turkish Cortinas which looked like a cross between a mk5 Cortina and a mk4 Escort/Orion.

  15. I like this Mini estate but agree that it would be better without the fake wood. A Mini Cooper or even a 1275GT estate would have made a great early hot-hatch, especially with some of the Innocenti styling touches.

  16. Was there no plan of reintroducing the estate/Countryman/Traveller with the mk3 onwards Mini?

    Would’ve been an interesting niche product alongside the Metro hatchback. Perhaps a classic competitor to the breadvan Polo….

    Manufacturers didn’t really embrace small estates until the likes of the Felicia estate appeared (itself a replacement for the Favorit estate) and then the later 206 estate.

  17. I like it, but I agree, losing the fake wood would have made it even more attractive. Would it have made economic sense to offer this along with the Clubman estate, given that the van and pick-up carried the original nose right through till the end of production?

  18. I actually liked the original Clubman versions in the 1970s and a friend’s Dad bought one in 1970 (white with mock wood panels). Having said that I also like this round nose one- off version. Perhaps it would have caught on if BL had been bold enough to build it?

  19. #10 Ian, thanks for your interest but my racing career (as you put it) was very great fun for me, very costly for me, and very brief (8 or 9 races over a 2 year period). It was also something I’m very happy to have done…

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