The History Of The MINI Cooper - How it All Began
The MINI Cooper has been around now for just over 60 years, so here is a little history lesson.
One of my favorite motoring stories is the history of the Mini but firstly, why was it created? The Mini came about in 1959 because of a fuel shortage in Britain due to 1959 Suez Crisis. This meant that petrol was once again rationed in the UK and big cars got more expensive and imported cars were not very common.
In order to save Britain from this crisis Leonard Lord, the head of the British Motor Company (BMC) decided to create a small, cheap, economic city car called the Mini. Lord employed a designer named Alec Issigonis who had the very important job of designing a car that would fit Lord's standards - A car that would have two doors, hold four people and that could be contained in a box measuring 10×4×4 feet (3.0×1.2×1.2 m). Alec went through many prototype designs but eventually settled on the design code named XC9003 also known as the 'Orange box' because of its colour.
XC9003 Prototype design.
Leonard Lord approved of the design and set a production date of 19th of July and the code name was then changed to ADO15. The Mini would go to feature a four cylinder engine with front wheel drive and a four speed manual gearbox. The design was tweaked slightly and early prototypes used a 948cc A-Series unit, but this provided the ADO15 with performance far greater than its price and purpose required, reaching a top speed of over 90mph. Due to this they reduced the engine size to 848cc and this reduced the power output from 37hp to 33hp which also lead to a significant drop in torque.
Mark I MINI
This is the first ever example of the Mark I because of the registration plate - 621 AOK
In 1959 the mark I Mini was born. It was unveiled to press in April 1959 and by August several thousand cars had been build ready for release on 26th August 1959.
The Mini was marketed under BMC's two main brand names, Austin and Morris, until 1969, when it became a company in its own right. The Morris version was known to all as "the Mini" or the "Morris Mini-Minor". Until 1962, the cars where shown in North America and France as the Austin 850 and Morris 850, and in Denmark it was the Austin Partner until 1964 and Morris Mascot until 1981. It was brought to Australia as Morris 850 only, and then later as Morris Cooper and Morris Cooper S versions, as well. The Morris name Mini was first used for Austin's version by BMC in 1961.
later in 1964, the Mini was fitted with new suspension that gave a softer ride but added more weight and a higher price - two things Leonard Lord didn't originally want to do. Also, from October 1965 the option to select a four speed automatic gearbox became available and these cars became known as the 'Mini-Matic'. In the 1960's production numbers for the Mark I totalled to around 1,190,000 cars and it's said that lots of profit money came from optional extras such as seat belts, door mirrors, a heater, and a radio.
Mark II MINI
Mark II MINI from 1967
The mark I couldn't last forever though so in 1967 they ended the production for the mark I and started on the mark II. This new MINI wasn't a very big change but it did include a redesigned front grille, a larger rear window and many more cosmetic tweaks. In addition, in 1969 a fibreglass version was made under the development of british Leyland. It can be distinguished by the missing body seams and by larger panel gaps. The mark II didn't last very long though because in 1970 it was time for the next generation of the MINI.
Mark III MINI
1970 Mark III MINI
The mark III started production in October 1969 and included a modified body shell and more obvious changes were bigger doors and no visual hinges. In addition, customers demanded that the sliding windows that were previously fitted had to be changed to winding windows and in April 1974, a heater became standard equipment on the entry-level Mini 850.
The Mini was still popular in Britain, but appeared increasingly outdated in the face of newer and more practical rivals. Since the late 1960s, plans had been put in place for a newer and more practical city car to replace it, though the Mini was still the only car of this size built by British Leyland for Britain.
Mark IV MINI
1977 Mark IV MINI
The mark III MINI lasted for 7 years up until 1976 and in 1977 the new mark IV Mini was created. This Mini went through even less changes than the previous generations in the past because British Leyland had already planned to build another small city car that was said to replace the Mini. Nevertheless the mark IV did undergo some changes for example it had twin column stalks for indicators and wipers were introduced, as were larger foot pedals. From 1977 onwards and the rear light clusters included reversing lights.
Reports of the Mini's imminent demise surfaced again in 1980 with the launch of the Austin Mini-Metro. It also faced competition from other brands with their superminis such as the Renault 5 and the Ford Fiesta. In addition the Mini was starting to lose popularity in markets abroad too with New Zealand and Australia stopping production of it and customers wanting bigger more practical hatchbacks.
Throughout the early 80s the Mini recieved mechanical upgrades that were shared with the Austin Mini-Metro (which became Britain's 5th most popular car and the Mini coming 9th) such as, a new A-Plus engine, 12-inch wheels with front disc brakes and a stronger gearbox.
Towards the end of an era
After the mark IV's demise in 1984, the mark V was released but it didn't look all that much different, it featured a newer engine and bigger brake discs. Afterwards, the mark VI was brought out in 1990 and lasted up until 1996 when the final variant of the Mini was released, the Mark VII.
The mark VII, like the other Minis before wasn't that much different but it did include a new dashboard and an airbag on the drivers side. However, production ended in October of 2000 which marked the end of a fantastic 41 year era. BMW bought the rights to the BMC but sold off most of the companies like Land Rover and MG and they just kept the Mini name.
Throughout the Minis life time a total of 5,387,862 cars had been manufactured and nearly 1.6 million of which were sold in Britain. Not only that but the Mini retained many glorious victories in the world of motorsport such as in the 1960s, in particular, winning the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964, 1965 and 1967, the 1000 Lakes Rally in 1965, 1966 and 1967. It also won the 1961, 1962, 1969, 1978 and 1979 British Saloon Car Championship season, as well as the British Rally Championship in 1962, 1963 and 1970. That is far from all of the Minis motorsport victories but there is just too much to mention.
The Mini was such a huge sales success not just in Britain but worldwide and it became a fashion icon but all great things come to an end at some point and the Minis was in 2000.
The first generation Mini hatch by BMW was extremely different but still retained some of the key design points from the original.
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