Tiny on the outside, roomy on the inside, that’s the Mini. Whether it says Austin, Morris or BMW on the badge, the Mini still is the icon of pop culture.
In the late fifties BMC issues Greek born Englishman Alec Issigonis with the order to design a small and most of all economical car. Leonard Lord, CEO of the British Motor Corporation, foresees that the market is ready for a new kind of car. In 1957 Issigonis, who earlier designed the successful Minor for Morris, takes of on designing a prototype around an existing BMC engine, the 850 cc four cilinder A-engine. When he takes Leonard Lord for a test ride in his characteristic little prototype a year later, it’s all lights green for pre-production immediately. August 1959 marks the spot for the public presentation of the Mini. Production facilities have been erected in just a few months time near Longbridge, ready to produce 100 cars a week right from the start. In the 41 years until the end of production in 2000, a grand total of 5.3 million Mini’s will be produced.
The Mini is a hit through its character, agility and interior space. Two years earlier the Italians introduced their Fiat 500, an iconic car on its own, but it simply has to call the more modern concept of the Mini its superior, especially when talking driving characteristics and inner space. By placing the engine and drivetrain transverse in the front and putting the four wheels on the outer corners of the tiny body, Issigonis creates a much roomier car on practically the same square footage as the little Fiat. The Mini is cool and hip, mainly because many celebrities from the movie- and music world close the Mini in to their hearts. It is a car you want to be seen in. When the barely three meter long Mini Cooper S manages to win the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964, 1965 and 1967, its name is definitely made.
The image and the strong brand of Mini is still hot, as proved by BMW, owner of the brand rights, with the introduction of a completely new developed New Mini in 2001. A modern car that shares little to none engineering features with the classic Mini, but instantly manages to cash in on the market value of the original icon. The original Mini being exactly what its name suggests it to be, the contemporary Mini family has grown to an adult clan with a series of models. They haven’t been really ‘mini’ for years, but still the original shapes of Issigonis’ design shimmer through in every product that carries the Mini-badge. For the real Mini enthousiast there is of course but one true love and that is the classic Mini, the minimalistic wonder of British engineering that conquered the hearts of drivers around the world.