Surely there was never a car so small that achieved so much. This magical little car scaled the heights of pop culture, sporting endeavour and family motoring in the space of a generation. In a series for Endearing Engines, could we name the Mini as Man of the Match? It certainly deserves an All-Star at corner forward.
The Mini was produced by the British Motor Corporation (BMC) from 1959. The original Mini is considered an icon of 1960s British popular culture. Its space-saving transverse 848cc engine and front-wheel drive influenced a generation of car makers.
In 1999, the Mini was voted the second-most influential car of the 20th century, behind the Ford Model T and ahead of the Volkswagen Beetle. Put that in your carburettor and burn it!
This distinctive two-door car was designed for BMC by Sir Alec Issigonis. It was manufactured at the former Morris Motors plant at Cowley near Oxford. The performance versions, the Mini Cooper and Cooper S, were successful as both race and rally cars, winning the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964, 1965, and 1967.
In 1966, the first-placed Mini was disqualified after the finish, under a controversial decision that the car’s headlights were against the rules. For crying out loud!
In 1980, it once again became the Austin Mini
On its introduction in August 1959, the Mini was marketed under the Austin and Morris names, as the Austin Seven and Morris Mini-Minor. The Austin Seven was renamed Austin Mini in January 1962. In 1980, it once again became the Austin Mini, and in 1988, just “Mini”. Two other incarnations were the Morris Mini Traveller and Austin Mini Countryman (1960-69). These models were two-door estate cars with double barn-style rear doors. From the start of production both models had a decorative, non-structural, ash wood trim on the rear body.
Putting it to the test
My very first car was a blue Mini. I bought it from a student nurse from Mayo and, despite its size, age and impending rustiness, I had arrived in the Land of Motoring. That car still provides great memories and benchmarks many big days in my young life. Thanks for that line, John Walton!
Around this time, my aging father took the notion that I would become the next farmer in the family. He passed on to me a parcel of land and suggested starting a small suckler herd. Both the gift of the land and the suggestion of herding came as a huge surprise to me. Up to that point, the only attribute that marked me out as a potential farmer was my speed – catching sheep in the field and dosing calves in a loose shed; that sort of thing.
My father remained a step ahead; he had spotted some nice black white-head heifer calves for sale in the Sligo Champion and thought we should invest. We headed off in the blue Mini.
The vendor, not wishing to see his sale wither on the vine, offered all kinds of ropes and suitable knots to immobilise the poor calves. They ended up side by side on the back seat
Not only did we get to see the lovely calves, we (he) couldn’t resist buying two of them on the spot and then we (he again) couldn’t wait to get them home.
He looked at me and then he looked at the Mini.
The vendor, not wishing to see his sale wither on the vine, offered all kinds of ropes and suitable knots to immobilise the poor calves. They ended up side by side on the back seat and off we went, the four of us smiling at each other, to complete our 60-mile round trip. There was neither a pee nor a poo on the seat when the heifers were eventually lifted out and given their freedom. They both grew to be huge cows, each one much larger than the Mini that carried them home. I, however, never grew to become the farmer that my father once hoped I would.
The last Mini was built in October 2000. BMW acquired the Rover Group in 1994, and sold the greater part of it in 2000, but retained the rights to build cars using the Mini name. Retrospectively, the car is known as the Classic Mini to distinguish it from the modern, BMW influenced Mini, produced since 2000.