Launched in 1959, the Austin (Mini) Seven was a radical car, commissioned in response to the Suez Crises which saw a threat to fuel supplies. As the name suggests, this was the spiritual successor to the popular Austin Seven, Austin’s first economy car. My particular example was built in 1960, after the early gremlins and faults had been designed out.
By the time the new Austin Seven was launched, the Austin brand had become part of BMC. The design and manufacturing costs of these new cars were shared between Austin and Morris. Manufacturing, therefore, was split between Longbridge and Cowley.
Morris had elected to call their version the 'Mini-Minor', to clearly position the car as a smaller option to the Morris Minor. Who knew at that point that the word ‘Mini’ would become so important.
The car had received warm reviews in the press...
Whether this was deliberate marketing genius or just a happy coincidence, the public reacted to the name ‘Mini’ in a positive way. So much so, that in 1962, Austin renamed their Seven, the Austin Mini.
Much like other ubiquitous brands such as Biro or Hoover, the cars simply became known as ’Mini’. Years later, with the Austin and Morris brands consigned to history, Mini became a brand in it’s own right. Transcending even it's own manufacturers brand - Leyland (for the better in my opinion). The Mini had effectively disowned it's parenthood!
What's in a name you might ask?
The popularity of this car is hard to predict, without it’s cute and appropriate name. Was the mini the first car to be given a name and establish a brand in it’s own right? After Mini came 'Maxi' (see what they did there), but other manufactures caught on. Changing number designations for cool names (particularly for small cars).
Although Ford developed the Anglia at the same time as the mini, Ford’s response to the mini was the ‘Fiesta’. The Renault 5, became the ‘Clio’. Volkswagen re-appropriated the Audi 50 and called it a ‘Polo’.
The Mini brand is bigger than ever (it's now written MINI) and it took the Germans to realise it’s full potential!!