Mini, second only to the Ford Model T in the Car of the Century awards, is a British made car introduced to us by the British Motor Company (BMC) in 1959.
The Mini was truly unique and in only a year the car would rise to prominence in British pop culture. The birth of the Mini was, however, not down to a magical stroke of creative inspiration but instead in response to a fuel crisis in 1956 and the head of BMC hating the other imported small cars making their way into the British market. The brief to the designers was to make a car that could fit in a 3×1.2×1.2 m box. The engine was a four-cylinder, water-cooled engine that had some issues with overheating and water getting into the ignition system but these would be fixed over time. At a top speed of 75mp/h, it was one of the fastest economy cars. Dunlop was brought in to custom develop the 10-inch tyres for the Mini after refusing to make the 8-inch tyres initially requested.
The transverse engine, the crankshaft axis running the length of the vehicle instead of the width, allowed for an enormous 80% of the floorplan to be used for passengers. This innovation influenced generations of cars that followed the Mini. The Mini’s Cooper and Cooper S were introduced as the performance editions and became successful rally cars, winning many races through the lates 1960s. The more modern MINI also dominated the world’s toughest endurance race, the Dakar Rally, for four back-to-back wins between 2012 and 2015.
In 1994 BMW acquired Rover, who at the time owned the rights to MINI, and would sell most of the company off in the year 2000 but held on to the rights to keep producing MINI. The last Mini (of the initial era) was built in October 2000. It was a red Cooper sport and was presented to the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust. At that time just more than 5.3 million Mini’s had been manufactured.
MINI Hatch continues to fly the brand’s flag and since being introduced in 2000 and has sold over 3 million cars.