I’ve always loved Mini’s even before I saw The Italian Job. There is nothing vanilla about them, they are iconic and over the top without taking themselves too seriously. I really, really want one but I live half the way up a mountain and until they produce a 4 x4 version with lots of ground clearance (go one BMW, you know you want to) I will have to live with my sturdy Subaru.
Here is a potted history of the Mini from their inception in 1959 up to the models made by BMW today.
A Bit Of History
The first mini was made by the British Motor Corporation (BMC) in 1959 in a response to the fuel shortage caused by the Suez Crisis and the fact the head of BMC hated German bubble cars and wanted to eradicate them! The car was so special because it was small and light but managed to have a relatively large internal space for passengers. That was why people bought them. People fell in love with them and joined Mini clubs because they were ridiculously fun to drive and full of character.
Did You Know? An engineer called Jack Daniels was primarily responsible for developing the Mini from the designs of Alec Issigonis. I have always found that everything’s better with a bit of JD and the Mini is no exception!
In 1961 the F1 and rally car builder John Cooper convinced BMC that a performance model of the car was a good idea and the Mini Cooper was born. After that lots of different versions of the car were produced in the UK and across the world when local producers bought the licensing rights. Austin bought the Mini then Rover bought Austin and in 1994 BMW bought Rover. However Rover failed in 2000 and the 5,387,862th and last Classic Mini was completed on the 4th of October that year.
Did You Know? The first Mini was actually called an Austin Se7en and cost £497! The Mini Morris Minor followed and then there were masses of different versions such as the Countryman, Clubman, Moke, Rio, Monte Carlo, Minivan, GT, City, Ritz, Chelsea, Traveller and Cooper models. There was even a pick up version made in the 60’s and 80’s.
What’s that I hear you say? BMW still make mini’s! BMW began to design their own version of the car in 1995 and the first one rolled off the production lines in 2001. Purists maintain that the BMW version is not the same car because they threw out the old design and started from scratch. However sales of the Mini had been falling for years as its lack of updating had made it mechanically very out of date. It had been in desperate need of a makeover for at least a decade.
BMW’s First Attempt
The first BMW version definitely looked like a mini. It had the same basic shape, grills and headlights as well as the four wheels right in the four far corners. It was also definitely bigger, heavier, and more solid and the interior was totally different. The original Mini was as simple and cheap as possible so the inside was bare, lacking features and rather industrial. BMW’s version was fully featured and attractive. As a result the BMW Mini was not the budget car its great grandparent was; it was (and still is) definitely aimed at the middle to top end of the mini car market.
But what was the drive like and would the new version engender the same fanatical support as the classic Mini’s, spawning owners clubs all over the world? When journalists got to drive the first few BMW Mini’s they were relieved. The car was still fun to drive with amazing handling and a thrilling, but secure suspension. However online forums were full of comments like “BMW has ruined the mini” the major complaints being the huge size, seeming loss of cabin space and high price tag.
It’s now 2014 and the BMW Mini is undoubtedly a success. BMW are constantly churning out models aimed at different niches – soft tops, performance, diesel and ‘estate’ versions being just a few. They offer a large range of options and customisations so owners can have some fun with their cars. There are still thousands of owners clubs and both new and classic versions rub shoulders at their events and Mini meets worldwide.
Today the most basic Mini is a three door hatch and it is priced from £13,750, there is 5 door option a Coupe, Roadster, Convertible, Countryman, Paceman, John Cooper Works, Special Editions and finally the Clubman Concept! So plenty to choose from then. The John Cooper Works is the most expensive variant starting at £24,010 – it’s a supped up version of some of the other models with extra power and more styling.
Reviews have remained pretty consistent. The Mini is a driver’s car with the priority being the handling and responsiveness with good features and the weaknesses being the lack of boot & rear seat space and hard suspension.
What To Salivate Over Mini’s?
Then check out Pinterest, there are thousands of albums created by Mini lovers which have collected some of the best images in one place.
Follow Sherri Wilson’s board Mini Cooper on Pinterest.