Today cars are designed by hundreds of people
working only with computer design tools, but
in 1957 Sir Alec Issigonis with a design team of eight set out
with pen and paper to design
one of the worlds most loveable cars.
Instructed by BMC to design an affordable car which could safely
seat four adults and that
used very little petrol and be economical to build. The Mini was
BMC's answer to the VW Beetle
and was just as innovative.
Issigonis decided this new car would
have to use the existing
Morris Minor A series engine to save design cost, but to conserve
space he placed the engine
transversely driving the front wheels, this was a radical design
at the time but this allowed
a very short bonnet and gave more interior space. other
innovations incorporated into the mini
include rubber cone independent suspension, rack and pinion
steering and a monocoque body
that eliminated the need for a costly separate chassis.
When the Austin 7 and Morris Mini was released in August 1959 the
Mini became very popular as
they were cheap, easy to drive around the town and very cute. In
1961 racing legend John
Cooper got his hands on the Mini and transformed it into a rally
winning sports sedan. BMC stuck the Cooper name on the Mini with
his modifications and had a rally and sales winner too.
the Mini showed great success during the 60s and had very few
changes but with a dip in
sales in the late 60s BMC now known as British Leyland decided to
give the Mini a face lift
for 1970 and introduced the Clubman. Gone were the cute lights and
grill for a flat bonnet
and square grill which made the mini look like any of the new
Japanese imports that were on
the market during this time. The Clubman did not catch the hearts
of the buying public and
was dropped in 1979.
The late 70s were a bad time for Leyland and after much company
restructuring in 1980, the classic Mini is now known as an Austin
Mini. Several improvements were made during the 80s and sales
improved, the Cooper was back after a nine year retirement and the
Mini's cult status increases.
In 1988 a once again restructured company
also changes its name again, to Rover Group. It showed improved
sales during the 90s and
even had exports to Japan. The Rover Group was in serious
financial trouble by this stage
and was sold to German carmaker BMW in 1994. The once large British auto
maker had only Mini and Land Rover to call its own with the Rover
brand being little more than a Honda rebadge.
BMW saw the potential in Land
Rover and the name Mini, it also planned to redevelop the Rover
brand as an entry level to the BMW series. Although BMW did put
the Rover line of cars back on track, their investment was not
getting a good return and with a totally new retro Mini in the
design studio, BMW decides to sell Rover to a British consortium,
Land Rover to Ford and keep Mini for themselves, this marked the
end of the original Mini. The last Mini rolled off the production
line on the 14th of September 2000 at 40 years of age it
featured improvements like air conditioning, drivers airbag and
electric windows. In contrast the first Mini did not have face airvents and the side windows were split and had to be slid by
Quick Mini Facts
The Mini was one of the first cars to popularize the use of the universal joint in the drive
train, it was previously used in submarine control gear.
During the painting of the shell, a rod would be inserted straight
through the car. This allowed the shell to be spun round so both
the top and bottom could be easily painted. The speedometer was
originally put is in the middle of the dashboard, covering the
hole where the pole went.
The Mini van (which was longer than the sedan) featured split rear
doors, only so it could fit in the same production line as the