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The Mini: The City Car That Became An Icon

The Mini Is A Legend In The Industry And For A Very Good Reason

The Mini is an icon in the motor industry. It’s one of the finest examples of creative engineering for the masses ever, and we still see reflections of its ideas in cars today. The Mini was the first city car and when it was released in 1959 it took the world by storm. Its innovative design and engine layout helped the engineers to create one of the greatest cars in history. Whether it was on the big screen in movies or on a rainy Brands Hatch racing circuit, the Mini was the star of the show. It seems pretty apt then that the Mini was named European Car of the century by the global motoring press and had a staggering 41-year production run.

The Mini Was Only Built To Beat The German Bubble Car Invasion

The story of the Mini starts in the middle of the 1956 Suez crisis when petrol was rationed in the UK. The team at BMC (British Motor Company) wanted a car that could compete with the rise of the German bubble car which had begun to dominate the market. Alec Issigonis who also designed the Morris Minor was sent the task of yet again beating the Germans. Issigonis’ idea was to mount the engine transversely completely different from the norm at the time. He also put the gearbox underneath the engine to save even more space. Many other companies have copied this design ever since. The second way Issigonis saved space in the Mini was to do away with the conventional coil spring suspension setup and used smaller rubber cones. The cones, whilst being much firmer than the coil springs, gave the car its fantastic unique handling characteristics.

From City Car To Race Car

Now the Mini was successful at its launch in 1959 but was yet to reach its full potential, a point seen by Formula One car designer John Cooper who approached BMC to make a performance version of the car in 1961. Issigonis was reluctant at first to see his small city car become a performance car but later relented and worked with John Cooper to create the Mini Cooper. With a stroked 1 litre engine providing 55BHP (over the originals 35BHP) and upping the top speed to 87MPH along with fitting tiny front disc brakes, the Mini was transformed into a dominant racing machine. The Mini first began its racing dominance in the British saloon car series winning the championship in 1961, 62, 69, 78 and 1979. But the Minis most famous victories are at the Monte Carlo rally winning in 1964, 65 and 67. The Mini technically won the 66 rally as well but was disqualified for having illegal headlights fitted to the car. The Minis racing success dwindled in its later years, being overtaken by cars with much larger engines and better suspension set ups. The Mini won its last championship in major competition at the hands of Mark Chandler at the 1998 Welsh sports and saloon car championship.

From Burning Rubber To The Silver Screen

The Mini saw stardom in 1969 in the film The Italian Job in which a group of thieves steal gold from the Italians in 3 Minis painted red, white and blue. A lot of the Minis used in the film were bought at trade price, as BMC would only offer the film a fleet of cars despite the publicity the film would give the car. According to the DVLA, two of the three cars number plates may still be on the road however these are not the cars used in the film as the plates were post dated to correspond with the year of the films release. The Mini also saw fame on the small screen at the hands of the bumbling Mr. Bean. The Mini Cooper was loved by everyone, it even got into the hands of celebrities. All four of the Beatles owned Minis, so did racing driver James Hunt. Even super car king Enzo Ferrari owned the little British classic. Love for the Mini was universal its cheap simple design meant it was great to drive and also a lot of fun. It was as welcome in the supermarket car park as it was outside the Ritz hotel, and few economy cars can claim that. To this day celebs such as Madonna, Liam Gallagher and Clint Eastwood all own Minis.

Maintaining A Reputation For Nearly 60 Years

The Mini has remained such an icon even 17 years after it ceased production. Its love on the modified scene sees hundred of magazines, forums and websites all dedicated to the humble British city car. This has even led to companies such as David Brown Automotive remaking the original Mini and creating designer versions of it with upgraded interiors, engines and of course price. At the recent London Motor Show, which featured the likes of the Rolls Royce Ghost, Lamborghini Aventador and the Porsche 911 Turbo S, the most popular car on show was the little DB Automotive Mini Remastered. The car was surrounded by people throughout the day whilst other stands stood deserted. Thus showing the incredible power of the Mini even when new incredible concepts are on show such as the Aston Martin Valkyrie the little Mini still draws the stares.

An Incredible Legacy, Alec Issigonis Gave Birth To A Legend

Despite the Minis incredible success Alec Issigonis stated that he was most proud of the considerably less successful Austin 1800. I wonder if maybe he would change his mind if he saw what an incredible impact his little city car would have on the world. One of the greatest cars of all time ceased production in 2000 owing to growing pressure from the government to lower emissions and increase safety in cars. The Mini would return from BMW but with a lot more weight a lot less character and a lot less love.

Buying And Selling, To Fixing And Cleaning

If you restore minis or simply buy and sell them you maybe interested in Part-Time Motor Trade insurance to make sure you are fully covered when looking after a range of vehicles on the road.

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