RAC Cars News


The marvellous Mini

By raccars Published

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MINI has just announced that it is to launch a five door version of the iconic little car. It will be the first time that a five door MINI has been available. The new car will get increased legroom in the back, a bigger boot and extra headroom. It will also round out the MINI range, from something that began as a single model, into what is now more akin to a car range in its own right. It is a good time, then, to take a look at the history of one of the most influential car designs of all time.

The MINI that we see today is very different from the original concept as designed by Sir Alec Issigonis in 1959. Now there is a wide range of MINIs and all are far bigger than that first car. Launched in 1959, the Mini was originally called the Morris Mini Minor and didn't become the Austin Mini until 1961. It became simply 'Mini' in 1969. Issigonis completely rethought the concept of what a small car could be. The Mini was front-wheel drive and saved space by mounting the engine transversely under the bonnet. It saved more space by having the welded panel joints on the outside of the car. It was produced until 2000 and sold a total of 5.3 million, becoming the best-selling British car ever.

Mini diversified, introducing sporty Cooper models and the Clubman, with its distinctive 'barn door' estate styling. The car received many face-lifts over the years but the essence of the car was unchanged. In fact, that final 2000 model looked little different from the first 1959 car. The Mini seemed to embody a carefree British attitude in the 'swinging' sixties, becoming a favourite of celebrities, actors and pop stars, as well as the ordinary driver. It was perhaps this classlessness, as well as its practicality, that made the Mini a true classic. The Mini also changed forever the design of small city cars and its influence can be seen across the industry today.

BMW sold Rover in 2000 but kept the rights to the Mini name. In 2001, it then launched the new Mini, or 'MINI'; the first of a family of new cars redesigned for the 21st century. The new car was much bigger than the original and the looks were retro rather than contemporary. Some fans of the original car bemoaned the new model but, nevertheless, it has gone on to be a roaring success.

Perhaps in time this new MINI will also become regarded as a classic.

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