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The History of the Mini

The Mini has captured the hearts of millions around the world for over half a century. Although simple in design, small in size and engine capacity, this car somehow captured the spirit of adventure, fun and individuality. From humble begins over fifty years ago, the Mini remains a well known icon to this very day. To truly understand how this cheery car became just so popular we must briefly delve into this car’s rich history. 

First off, the man responsible for the creating of the Mini we all know and love was Sir Alec Issigonis, born in 1906. The innovative engineer and designer worked for a number of big companies such as Humber, Austin and Morris Motors Ltd. After being involved with the development of many cars, including the Morris Minor, he was eventually tasked with designing a new branch of models for the British Motor Corporation in 1955.

At this time it became a higher priority to develop smaller more efficient cars due to fuel rationing. Consequently, by the year 1959 the Morris Mini Minor and Austin Seven came to life. Renamed the Austin Mini in 1961, it was still 8 years away from truly becoming its own marque.

Issigonis’s design was quite radical at the time; it clearly stood out from the rest. By utilising smaller dimensions, a front wheel drive system and transverse engine mounting, the Mini was a loveable little character. After setting the market ablaze it quickly found itself as one of the best selling British cars in history. With a sizeable amount of 5.3 million units, the last original Mini would roll out after 40 years in production.

Through the years many revisions were made to the name, engine, components and styling. But most importantly, a conscious effort was made to preserve the original spirit of the car.  Sticking to the same principles and layout meant the final model of 2000 did not appear worlds apart from the original in 1959.

The original Mini was produced by a variety of different factories over the years. Initially they were produced in factories owned by BMC, then came British Leyland and eventually the Rover Group. By 1994 the Rover Group was bought out by BMW who sparked the development for their own new Mini. Once they sold the Rover Group in 2000 they managed to keep ownership of the Mini name, allowing them to produce a new Mini for modern times during 2001.

Production of the new Mini continued in England at a factory in Cowley, Oxford. Still, many of the original Mini supporters criticised BMW’s modern twist of their beloved car. Many felt that they deviated too far from the original design, also increasing the cars dimensions and the total weight. However BMW excelled in marketing and could offer a great deal of personal customisation with their new Mini. Buyers were hooked by the countless number of colour schemes and trim levels available; as a result it was another big hit.

Numerous variants of the Mini were released over the coming years. This included Sports models, convertibles and even a special Clubman version. By 2006 a later model was released with a re-designed engine, exterior and interior. BMW continued to push the limits by creating the Countryman in 2010 with four wheel drive and even bigger dimensions. The production was even shifted away from England and over to Austria. Regardless, it continued to be a global success and allowed the development of more variants including 3 door models, 5 door hatchbacks and even estates!

There is no doubt that the latest Mini incardination feels like a far cry from the original. But the very fact it is still often compared to a model designed over half a decade ago is remarkable. Sir Alec Issigonis built a car that so many still refuse to forget about, the spirit of which can still be seen in modern Minis.


published: 12/09/2014 09:42:12

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