The British Mini

The British Mini
The British Mini and Beyond
Published by: All Car Central Publishing
Date published: 11/11/2014

1960 Austin Mini 850

1960 Austin Mini 850

In the spring of 1959 I saw a new style of car in a British dealership that took my eye. Not because it was fast or even stylish or practical but, to use a word not usually associated with motor vehicles it was "Cute".

The British Mini had arrived but to be honest the public reaction was at best Luke warm. Who would buy a car that with luck might hold three adults in moderate comfort assuming that they also had luggage or even the week's groceries, add one more person and you would need a large roof rack. Despite the fact that the publicity boys had media pictures showing three cases being accommodated in the rear area. However, closer study showed that at best they were weekend luggage size containing spare socks, underwear and the weekend toothbrush.


The engine arrangement was also something totally different from anything that I had ever seen. An engine with two shafts sticking out each side to drive two small wheels. Not many of the motor critics were impressed with this new toy and said so in their monthly driving publications. Sure there were baby type cars being produced in Europe with some success but this was Britain where names like Jaguar, and Aston Martin were the topic of car conversations over a pint in the local pub.

No one could image 007 driving off in a Mini even if it was the Cooper that appeared a few years after the official launch. The first batch of cars offered to the public had a problem that was especially relevant in a country like Britain. When it rained the car simply stopped. Not an enduring feature in a country that has an average of five days a month rainfall. (More if you live in Scotland). The problem was solved by fitting the engine shield on the correct way. Given time the car started to catch on and it eventually became a status symbol for the fashion set.

One of the Royals was given a Mini as a president and like the Land Rover a few years earlier opened up a new market for the trendy people.

Morris Mini 1960
Coventry Transport Museum 2014

Morris Mini

However the major breakthrough came with a movie..."The Italian Job" where four Mini Coopers raced through the sewers of Rome, Italy with stolen gold. During the making of this movie a total of seven cars were used, three were a write off at the close of shooting. From that moment forward you could see Mini's on Race tracks, in Rallies and breaking the speed limit on the highways virtually every day. As a result of this activity the car was given a high safety rating which simply encouraged faster drivers.

By the early 1970's the car was getting to look a little tired. A few interior trinkets were offered including a De Lux model with plastic wood trim, larger seats and a fancy front grill. BMC decided that the time had come to slow down production and slowly close the production line. News releases were issued to this effect and the response by the general public was to say the least Vocal. There was a national movement entitled "Save the Mini which took off like a celebration rocket. Dealers protested the proposal as well as current and would be owners. Within a few months the policy had been reversed and the Mini was saved. The truly sad thing was that the British manufacturer did not see the potential for the car so the car remained much the same after 18 years of production.

2002 BMW Mini Cooper


It took a European manufacturer, BMW, to see the potential as illustrated when BMW purchased Rover; a purchase that included MG who like the Mini had been in production almost unchanged for 17 years.

Regretfully the story of MG did not have a happy ending but for the Mini a new life was born with the BMW vision and marketing experience.

2015 Mini Hardtop
Mini of Concord Photo


Starting next year, 2015 another version of the ageless Mini will hit the show rooms. The Hardtop Four Door Mini Sedan. You may recall that it was only a few years ago that BMW offered a Mini SUV which was attractive but in reality never quite filled the role of a four door version.

Engine size is rated at two liters with a six speed manual or automatic. Not quite sure how you might get four adults in comfort into the car but of course there has to be a way providing they haven't been shopping, and/or don't have too much luggage!

Price range is quoted as between $22,300 to $25,950. Estimated Fuel economy City 30MPG Highway 40MPG. Of course that data is dependent on how you care to drive as the performance figure is quoted as being well over 100 MPH.

Of all the Mini's that I have driven over the years, (Apart from a brief ownership if a Cooper), I never pushed the car above 85 MPH but that of course may simply be a question of age. Thinking back to the early years of this car it certainly has come a long way in terms of being a successful driving machine from the sewers of Rome to a four door sedan that you would not be ashamed to be seen driving anywhere.
Geoff Wheatley

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