spacer.png, 0 kB

Our Newsletter







spacer.png, 0 kB
spacer.png, 0 kB
Welcome arrow Articles arrow Car Reviews arrow Fifty years of Mini
Fifty years of Mini PDF Print E-mail

It was August 1959 and a young school kid went along to the local BMC (British Motor Corporation) dealer to take a look at a revolutionary new automobile.? A shade over 10 feet long and with a wheel at each corner, the Austin 7 or Morris Mini-Minor, as they were then known, was designer Alec Issigonis? answer to the Suez Canal-induced fuel crisis of the Fifties.

Image

The suspension, a product of Alec Moulton?s fertile mind, was by rubber and the wheels were tiny 10-inch jobs, with equally tiny ? and narrow ? tires.? The trunk lid was hinged at the bottom to allow bulkier items to be carried; the front door windows were sliding ? to save space from any winder mechanism ? and the door handles were cords.

The engine was the familiar A-series, which first saw the light of day more than 10 years earlier, but it was turned sideways in the Mini and mated to a gearbox in the sump, which shared its lubrication oil.? Brakes were drums all round and power went through the miniscule front wheels.

The package provided ample space for four inside with minimal exterior dimensions; and all at an affordable price.? Possibly apocryphal, but Ford Motor Co., in Britain, apparently acquired a Mini and stripped it to its individual components, concluding that BMC would be losing money on every one sold ? about ?30 at least.

The Suez crisis occurred when Egypt closed the canal; Syria cut the oil pipeline in its country and the general conflict in the Middle East became a serious gasoline shortage in Europe.? Sir Leonard Lord, chairman of BMC, suggested to Issigonis that he produce a car that would ?see off? the tiny ?bubble cars? coming from Italy and Germany: the Isetta and Messerschmidt two-seaters.? Issigonis had worked for a while at Alvis, but the idea of creating something so radical appealed to the designer.? Issigonis was born in Smyna (now known as Izmir) in Turkey to a Greek father and German mother, although Alec Issigonis somehow acquired British nationality which is how he became Sir Alec before his demise in 1988.

The Mini spawned an estate version ? the Countryman ? with wooden framework around the exterior; a Minivan which, because it was classified as a commercial vehicle, escaped taxation and sold for a little over ?300 (currently around 16,440 baht).? There were also Wolseley and Riley versions, each with an extended trunk and, allegedly, a more luxurious interior as well as distinctive front grilles.? Numerous tuning and coachbuilding companies up and down the country modified Minis, some featuring top-quality paintwork, electric windows and leather interiors; others upping the power to unprecedented levels.? One such tuner, John Cooper of Cooper Car Company fame, was so successful, an official Mini Cooper was produced, initially with a 997 cc engine, then 1071 cc and the ultimate, the 1275 cc Cooper S.? Ulsterman Paddy Hopkirk won the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally in a Cooper S, while it was also ultra-successful in circuit racing, taking on all-comers and dominating until the advent of the quicker Lotus Cortina. The Lotus also looked after its tires better than the front-wheel drive Mini.

Celebrities loved the Mini: the Beatles had them; Mary Quant had one; comedian Spike Milligan chose one; Lord Snowdon did; so too did Peter Sellers, to name but a few.? It acquired the status of a classless icon and, in the era of ?Flower Power? in the Sixties, it was decorated, f?ted, ridiculed, used in stunts and also, of course, films.? The Italian Job starring Michael Caine as a bank robber used Minis in the attempt on the wages? truck in Turin.? The scenes are to this day, memorable.

The new BMW-produced Mini is anything but ?mini?, but the legend lives on.? Oh, and that young school kid?? That was your esteemed motoring correspondent, dear reader!

 
spacer.png, 0 kB
spacer.png, 0 kB
© 2018 Jeff Heselwood. All rights reserved.
spacer.png, 0 kB