British Motor Corporation (1959–1968)
British Leyland (1968–1986)
Rover Group (1986–2000)
BMC South Africa
|Also called||Austin 850
Cowley, Oxford (1959-1968)
Longbridge, Birmingham (1959-2000)
|Body style||2-door saloon
|Engine||848 cc, 970 cc, 997 cc, 998 cc, 1,071 cc, 1,098 cc, 1,275 cc I4 (A-series)|
5-speed manual (optional extra on some later models)
|Wheelbase||2,036 mm (80.2 in) (saloon)
2,138 mm (84.2 in) (estate and commercials)
|Length||3,054 mm (120.2 in) (saloon)
3,299 mm (129.9 in) (estate and commercials)
3,300 mm (130 in) (Wolseley Hornet/Riley Elf)
|Width||1,397 mm (55.0 in)|
|Height||1,346 mm (53.0 in)|
|Kerb weight||617–686 kg (1,360–1,512 lb)|
|Related|| Mini Moke
|Designer(s)||Sir Alec Issigonis|
The Mini is a small economy car that was made by the British Motor Corporation (BMC) and its successors from 1959 until 2000. The original is considered a British icon of the 1960s, and its space-saving front-wheel drive layout – allowing 80 per cent of the area of the car's floorpan to be used for passengers and luggage – influenced a generation of car makers. The vehicle is in some ways considered the British equivalent of its German contemporary the Volkswagen Beetle, which enjoyed similar popularity in North America. In 1999 the Mini was voted the second most influential car of the 20th century, behind the Ford Model T.
This distinctive two-door car was designed for BMC by Sir Alec Issigonis. It was manufactured at the Longbridge and Cowley plants in England, the Victoria Park / Zetland British Motor Corporation (Australia) factory in Sydney, Australia, and later also in Spain ( Authi), Belgium, Chile, Italy ( Innocenti), Malta, Portugal, South Africa, Uruguay, Venezuela and Yugoslavia. The Mini Mark I had three major UK updates – the Mark II, the Clubman and the Mark III. Within these was a series of variations, including an estate car, a pick-up truck, a van and the Mini Moke – a jeep-like buggy. The Mini Cooper and Cooper "S" were sportier versions that were successful as rally cars, winning the Monte Carlo Rally four times from 1964 through to 1967, although in 1966 the Mini was disqualified after the finish, along with six other British entrants, which included the first four cars to finish, under a questionable ruling that the cars had used an illegal combination of headlamps and spotlights. Initially Minis were marketed under the Austin and Morris names, as the Austin Seven and Morris Mini Minor, until Mini became a marque in its own right in 1969. The Mini was again marketed under the Austin name in the 1980s.
Design and development
Designated by Leonard Lord as project ADO15 ( Amalgamated Drawing Office project number 15) and the product of the Morris design team, the Mini came about because of a fuel shortage caused by the 1956 Suez Crisis. Petrol was once again rationed in the UK, sales of large cars slumped, and the market for German bubble cars boomed. Lord, the somewhat autocratic head of BMC, reportedly detested these cars so much that he vowed to rid the streets of them and design a 'proper miniature car'. He laid down some basic design requirements: the car should be contained within a box that measured 10×4×4 feet (3.0×1.2×1.2 m); and the passenger accommodation should occupy 6 feet (1.8 m) of the 10-foot (3.0 m) length; and the engine, for reasons of cost, should be an existing unit. Issigonis, who had been working for Alvis, had been recruited back to BMC in 1955 and, with his skills in designing small cars, was a natural for the task. The team that designed the Mini was remarkably small: as well as Issigonis, there was Jack Daniels (who had worked with him on the Morris Minor), Chris Kingham (who had been with him at Alvis), two engineering students and four draughtsmen. Together, by October 1957, they had designed and built the original prototype, which was affectionately named "The Orange Box" because of its colour.
The ADO15 used a conventional BMC A-Series four-cylinder, water-cooled engine, but departed from tradition by mounting it transversely, with the engine-oil-lubricated, four-speed transmission in the sump, and by employing front-wheel drive. Almost all small front-wheel-drive cars developed since have used a similar configuration, except with the transmission usually separately enclosed rather than using the engine oil. The radiator was mounted at the left side of the car so that the engine-mounted fan could be retained, but with reversed pitch so that it blew air into the natural low pressure area under the front wing. This location saved precious vehicle length, but had the disadvantage of feeding the radiator with air that had been heated by passing over the engine. It also exposed the entire ignition system to the direct ingress of rainwater through the grille.
The suspension system, designed by Issigonis's friend Dr. Alex Moulton at Moulton Developments Limited, used compact rubber cones instead of conventional springs. This ingenious space-saving design also featured rising progressive-rate springing of the cones, and provided some natural damping, in addition to the normal dampers. Built into the subframes, the rubber cone system gave a raw and bumpy ride accentuated by the woven-webbing seats, but the rigidity of the rubber cones, together with the wheels' positioning at the corners of the car, gave the Mini go kart-like handling that became famous.
Initially an interconnected fluid system was planned, similar to the one that Alec Issigonis and Alex Moulton were working on in the mid-1950s at Alvis. They had assessed the mechanically interconnected Citroën 2CV suspension at that time (according to an interview by Moulton with Car Magazine in the late 1990s), which inspired the design of the Hydrolastic suspension system for the Mini and Morris/Austin 1100, to try to keep the benefits of the 2CV system (ride comfort, body levelling, keeping the roadwheel under good control and the tyre in contact with the road), but with added roll stiffness that the 2CV was very much lacking. The short development time of the car meant this was not ready in time for the Mini's launch. The system intended for the Mini was further developed and the hydrolastic system was first used on the Morris 1100, launched in 1962; the Mini gained the system later in 1964. Ten-inch (254 mm) wheels were specified, so new tyres had to be developed, the initial contract going to Dunlop. Issigonis went to Dunlop stating that he wanted even smaller, 8 in (203 mm) wheels (even though he had already settled on ten-inch). An agreement was made on the ten-inch size, after Dunlop choked on the eight-inch (203 mm) proposition.
Sliding windows allowed storage pockets in the hollow doors; reportedly Issigonis sized them to fit a bottle of Gordon's Gin. The boot lid was hinged at the bottom so that the car could be driven with it open to increase luggage space. On early cars the number plate was hinged at the top so that it could swing down to remain visible when the boot lid was open. This feature was later discontinued after it was discovered that exhaust gases could leak into the cockpit when the boot was open.
The Mini was designed as a monocoque shell with welded seams visible on the outside of the car running down the A and C pillars, and between the body and the floor pan. Those that ran from the base of the A-pillar to the wheel well were described as 'everted' (lit., 'turned outward') to provide more room for the front seat occupants. To further simplify construction, the hinges for the doors and boot lid were mounted externally.
Production models differed from the prototypes by the addition of front and rear subframes to the unibody to take the suspension loads, and by having the engine mounted the other way round, with the carburettor at the back rather than at the front. This layout required an extra gear between engine and transmission to reverse the direction of rotation at the input to the transmission. Having the carburettor behind the engine reduced carburettor icing, but the distributor was then exposed to water coming in through the grille. The engine size was reduced from 948 to 848 cc (57.9 to 51.7 cu in); this, in conjunction with a small increase in the car's width, cut the top speed from 90 mph (140 km/h) to a more reasonable (for the time) 72 mph (116 km/h).
Despite its utilitarian origins, the classic Mini shape had become so well known that by the 1990s, Rover Group – the heirs to BMC – were able to register its design as a trademark in its own right.
Mark I Mini: 1959–1967
The production version of the Mini was demonstrated to the press in April 1959, and by August several thousand cars had been produced ready for the first sales. The Mini was officially announced to the public on 26 August 1959. Some 2,000 cars had already been sent abroad and would be displayed that day in nearly 100 countries.
The very first example, a Morris Mini-Minor with the registration 621 AOK, is on display at the Heritage Motor Centre in Warwickshire. Another early example from 1959 is now on display at the National Motor Museum in Hampshire.
The Mini was marketed under BMC's two main brand names, Austin and Morris until 1969, when it became a marque in its own right. The Morris version was known to all as the Mini or Mini-Minor. The word minor is Latin for "lesser"; so an abbreviation of the Latin word for "least"—minimus—was used for the new even smaller car. One name proposed for the Austin version was Austin Newmarket. Austin dealers sold their almost identical car as an Austin Seven (sometimes written as SE7EN in early publicity material – the '7' the letter V rotated left so it approximated the number 7) which recalled the popular small Austin 7 of the 1920s and 1930s. Morris Mini-Minor, seems to have been a play on words. The Morris Minor was a larger, well known and successful car which continued in production.
Until 1962, the cars appeared as the Austin 850 and Morris 850 in North America and France, and in Denmark as the Austin Partner (until 1964) and Morris Mascot (until 1981). The name Mini was first used domestically by BMC for Austin's version in 1961, when to match the Morris version the Austin Seven was rebranded as the Austin Mini, somewhat to the surprise of the Sharp's Commercials car company (later known as Bond Cars Ltd) who had been using the name Minicar for their three-wheeled vehicles since 1949. However, legal action was somehow averted, and BMC used the name Mini thereafter.
In 1964, the suspension of the cars was replaced by another Moulton design, the hydrolastic system. The new suspension gave a softer ride but it also increased weight and production cost and, in the minds of many enthusiasts, spoiled the handling characteristics for which the Mini was so famous. In 1971, the original rubber suspension reappeared and was retained for the remaining life of the Mini.
From October 1965 the option of an Automotive Products (AP) designed four-speed automatic transmission became available. Cars fitted with this became the Mini-Matic
Slow at the outset, Mark I sales strengthened across most of the model lines in the 1960s, and production totalled 1,190,000. Sold at almost below cost, the basic Mini made very little money for its makers. However, it still did make a small profit. Ford once took a Mini away and completely dismantled it, possibly to see if they could offer an alternative. It was their opinion though, that they could not sell it at BMC's price. Ford determined that the BMC must have been losing around £30 per car, and so decided to produce a larger car – the Cortina, launched in 1962 – as its competitor in the budget market.
BMC insisted that the way company overheads were shared out, the Mini always made money. Larger profits came from the popular De Luxe models and from optional extras such as seat belts, door mirrors, a heater and a radio, which would be considered necessities on modern cars, as well as the various "Cooper" and "Cooper S" models.
The Mini etched its place into popular culture in the 1960s with well-publicised purchases by film and music stars.
Mark II Mini: 1967–1970
|Also called||Morris Mini
|Assembly|| Longbridge, Birmingham, England,
Cowley, Oxfordshire, England
Cape Town, South Africa
Petone, New Zealand,
Novo Mesto, Yugoslavia
|Engine||1,275 cc (1.3 l) I4
998 cc (1.0 l) I4
850 cc (0.9 l) I4
The Mark II Mini featured a redesigned grille which remained with the car from that point on. Also, a larger rear window and numerous cosmetic changes were introduced. 429,000 Mark II Minis were made.
A bewildering variety of Mini types were made in Pamplona, Spain, by the Authi company from 1968 onwards, mostly under the Morris name.
The Mini was arguably the star of the 1969 film The Italian Job, which features a car chase in which a gang of thieves drive three Minis down staircases, through storm drains, over buildings and finally into the back of a moving coach. This film was remade in 2003 using the new MINI.
The popularity of the original Mini spawned many models that targeted different markets.
Wolseley Hornet and Riley Elf (1961–1969)
Built as more luxurious versions of the Mini, both the Wolseley Hornet and the Riley Elf had longer, slightly finned rear wings and larger boots that gave the cars a more traditional three-box design. Wheelbase of the Elf and Hornet remained at 2.036 m (6.68 ft), whereas the overall length was increased to 3.27 m (10.7 ft). This resulted in a dry weight of 638 kg (1,410 lb)/642.3 kg (1,416 lb) (rubber/hydrolastic suspension) for the Elf and 618 kg (1,360 lb)/636.4 kg (1,403 lb) for the Hornet respectively. Front-end treatment, which incorporated each marque's traditional upright grille design (the Hornet's grille with a lit "Wolseley" badge), also contributed to a less utilitarian appearance. The cars had larger-diameter chrome hubcaps than the Austin and Morris Minis, and additional chrome accents, bumper overriders and wood-veneer dashboards. The Riley was the more expensive of the two cars. The name "Wolseley Hornet" was first used on a 1930s sports car, while the name "Elf" recalled the Riley Sprite and Imp sports cars, also of the 1930s. The full-width dashboard was a differentiator between the Elf and Hornet. This better dashboard was the idea of Christopher Milner the Sales Manager for Riley. Both the Riley Elf's and Wolseley Hornet's bodies were built at Fisher & Ludlow under their "Fisholow" brandname. Plates in the engine compartment on the right side fitch plate bear evidence of this speciality. Very early Mark I versions of both cars (e.g. press photo of 445MWL) had no overriders on the bumpers and a single piece front wing (A-panel and wing in one piece, no outside seam below scuttle panel) that was soon given up again, allegedly due to cost. The Elf's and Hornet's special bumper overriders first appeared in 1962. Early production Mark Is also had a combination of leather and cloth seats (Elf R-A2S1-101 to FR2333, Hornet W-A2S1-101 to FW2105) whereas all later models had full leather seats. Mark I models were equipped with single leading shoe brakes on the car's front.
Both the Elf and the Hornet went through three versions. Initially, they used the 848 cc (51.7 cu in) 34 bhp (25 kW) engine (engine type 8WR) with a single HS2 carburettor, changing to a single HS2 carburettor 38 bhp (28 kW) version of the Cooper's 998 cc (60.9 cu in) power unit (engine type 9WR) in the Mark II in 1963. This increased the car's top speed from 71 to 77 mph (114 to 124 km/h) . Therefore, Mark II cars also came with increased braking power in the form of front drum brakes with twin leading shoes to cope with the increased power output. Both Mark I and Mark II featured four-speed, gearboxes (three synchromesh gears) with rod gear change, a.k.a. "magic wand" type. Automatic gearboxes became available on the Mark II in 1965 as an option. The Mark III facelift of 1966 brought not only wind-up windows and fresh-air facia vents, but disc brakes replaced front drum brakes, too. Concealed door hinges were introduced two years before these were seen on the mainstream Mini. The gear selecting mechanism was updated to the rod type, as seen on all later Mini type cars. Automatic gearboxes were available to the Mark III in 1967 again. Full-four synchromesh gearing was eventually introduced during 1968. 30,912 Riley Elfs and 28,455 Wolseley Hornets were built. Production ceased in late 1969 when British Leyland decided not to use the Riley and Wolseley brand names anymore.
Vehicle Identification – Serial Number Prefix Letter Code:
- First prefix letter – name: R-Riley, W-Wolseley
- Second prefix letter – engine type: A
- Third prefix letter – body type: 2S – 2-door Saloon
- Fourth prefix – series of model: 1 – 1st series, 2 – 2nd series, 3 – 3rd series
- Fifth prefix (used to denote cars different to standard right hand drive): L – left hand drive
Code example: R-A2S1-154321 (Riley, A type engine, 2 door saloon, 1st series, serial number "154321")
Morris Mini Traveller and Austin Mini Countryman (1961–1969)
Two-door estate cars with double "barn"-style rear doors. Both were built on a slightly longer chassis of 84 inch (2.14 m) compared to 80.25 inch (2.04 m) for the saloon.
The luxury models had decorative, non-structural wood inserts in the rear body which gave the car a similar appearance to the larger Morris Minor Traveller which had some of the look of an American-style 1950s Woodie. Approximately 108,000 Austin Mini Countrymen and 99,000 Morris Mini Travellers were built.
Mini Van (1960–1982)
A commercial panel van (in US English, a sedan delivery) rated at ¼-ton load capacity. Built on the longer Traveller chassis but without side windows, it proved popular in 1960s Britain as a cheaper alternative to the car: it was classed as a commercial vehicle and as such carried no sales tax. A set of simple stamped steel slots served in place of a more costly chrome grille. The Mini Van was renamed as the Mini 95 in 1978, the number representing the gross vehicle weight of 0.95 tons. 521,494 were built. Despite this renaming, the motoring public continued to call it the Mini Van.
Mini Moke (1964–1989)
A utility vehicle intended for the British Army, for whom a few twin-engined 4-wheel-drive versions were also built. Although the 4WD Moke could climb a 1:2 gradient, it lacked enough ground clearance for military use. The single-engined front-wheel-drive Moke enjoyed some popularity in civilian production. About 50,000 were made in total, from 1964 to 1968 in the UK, 1966 to 1982 in Australia and 1983 to 1989 in Portugal. The car featured in the cult 1967 TV series The Prisoner, and is popular in holiday locations such as Barbados and Macau, where Mokes were used as police cars. Mokes were also available to rent there as recently as March 2006. "Moke" is archaic British slang for a donkey.
Mini Pick-up (1961–1982)
A pick-up truck (technically a coupé utility by definition), 11 ft (3.4 m) from nose to tail, built on the longer Mini Van platform, with an open-top rear cargo area and a tailgate. The factory specified the weight of the Pick-up as less than 1,500 lb (680 kg) with a full 6 imperial gallons (27 l; 7.2 US gal) tank of fuel.
As with the Van, the Pick-up did not have a costly chrome grille. Instead, a simple set of stamped metal slots allowed airflow into the engine compartment. The Pickup was spartan in basic form, although the factory brochure informed prospective buyers that "[a] fully equipped Mini Pick-up is also available which includes a recirculatory heater." Passenger-side sun visor, seat belts, laminated windscreen, tilt tubes and cover were available at extra cost. Like the van, the Pick-up was renamed as the Mini 95 in 1978.
A total of 58,179 Mini Pick-up models were built.
Morris Mini K (March 1969 – August 1971, Australia only)
Built in the Australian British Motor Corporation factory at Zetland, New South Wales, using 80% local content, the Morris Mini K was advertised as the "great leap forward". The Mini K ('K' standing for Kangaroo) had a 1098 cc engine and was the last round-nose model to be produced in Australia, originally priced at A$1780. The Mini K was offered in 2-door sedan and 2-door van body styles.
Mini Cooper and Cooper S: 1961–2000
Issigonis' friend John Cooper, owner of the Cooper Car Company and designer and builder of Formula One and rally cars, saw the potential of the Mini for competition. Issigonis was initially reluctant to see the Mini in the role of a performance car, but after John Cooper appealed to BMC management, the two men collaborated to create the Mini Cooper, a nimble, economical and inexpensive car. The Austin Mini Cooper and Morris Mini Cooper debuted in 1961.
The original 848 cc (51.7 cu in) engine from the Morris Mini-Minor was given a longer stroke to increase capacity to 997 cubic centimetres (60.8 cu in) boosting power from 34 to 55 bhp (25 to 41 kW). The car featured a racing-tuned engine, twin SU carburettors, a closer-ratio gearbox and front disc brakes, uncommon at the time in a small car. One thousand units of this version were commissioned by management, intended for and designed to meet the homologation rules of Group 2 rally racing. The 997 cc engine was replaced by a shorter stroke 998 cc unit in 1964. In 1962, Rhodesian John Love became the first non British racing driver to win the British Saloon Car Championship driving a Mini Cooper.
A more powerful Mini Cooper, dubbed the "S", was developed in tandem and released in 1963. Featuring a 1071 cc engine with a 70.61 mm bore and nitrided steel crankshaft and strengthened bottom end to allow further tuning; and larger servo-assisted disc brakes, 4,030 Cooper S cars were produced and sold until the model was updated in August 1964. Cooper also produced two S models specifically for circuit racing in the under 1,000 cc and under 1,300 cc classes respectively, rated at 970 cc (59 cu in) and a 1,275 cc (77.8 cu in), both had a 70.61 mm (2.780 in) bore and both of which were also offered to the public. The smaller-engine model was not well received, and only 963 had been built when the model was discontinued in 1965. The 1,275 cc Cooper S models continued in production until 1971.
Sales of the Mini Cooper were as follows: 64,000 Mark I Coopers with 997 cc or 998 cc engines; 19,000 Mark I Cooper S with 970 cc, 1,071 cc or 1,275 cc engines; 16,000 Mark II Coopers with 998 cc engines; 6,300 Mark II Cooper S with 1,275 cc engines. There were no Mark III Coopers and just 1,570 Mark III Cooper S.
The Mini Cooper S earned acclaim with Monte Carlo Rally victories in 1964, 1965 and 1967. Minis were initially placed first, second and third in the 1966 rally as well, but were disqualified after a controversial decision by the French judges. The disqualification related to the use of a variable resistance headlamp dimming circuit in place of a dual-filament lamp. It should be noted that the Citroën DS that was eventually awarded first place had illegal white headlamps but escaped disqualification. The driver of the Citroën, Pauli Toivonen, was reluctant to accept the trophy and vowed that he would never race for Citroën again. BMC probably received more publicity from the disqualification than they would have gained from a victory.
|1962||Pat Moss||Ann Wisdom||Ladies' Award|
|1963||Rauno Aaltonen||Tony Ambrose||3rd|
|1964||Paddy Hopkirk||Henry Liddon||Winner|
|Timo Mäkinen||Patrick Vanson||4th|
|1965||Timo Mäkinen||Paul Easter||Winner|
|1966||Timo Mäkinen||Paul Easter||(disqualified)|
|Rauno Aaltonen||Tony Ambrose||(disqualified)|
|Paddy Hopkirk||Henry Liddon||(disqualified)|
|1967||Rauno Aaltonen||Henry Liddon||Winner|
|1968||Rauno Aaltonen||Henry Liddon||3rd|
|Tony Fall||Mike Wood||4th|
|Paddy Hopkirk||Ron Crellin||5th|
In 1971, the Mini Cooper design was licensed in Italy by Innocenti and in 1973 to Spain by Authi (Automoviles de Turismo Hispano-Ingleses), which began to produce the Innocenti Mini Cooper 1300 and the Authi Mini Cooper 1300, respectively. The Cooper name disappeared from the UK Mini range at this time, as British Leyland (as it was by then) supposedly did not want to pay John Cooper royalties for the use of his name, so it was not seen again on Minis for nearly 20 years.
A new Mini Cooper named the RSP (Rover Special Products) was briefly relaunched in 1990–1991, with slightly lower performance than the 1960s Cooper. It proved so popular that the new Cooper-marked Mini went into full production in late 1991. From 1992, Coopers were fitted with a fuel-injected version of the 1,275 cc engine, and in 1997 a multi-point fuel injected engine was introduced, along with a front-mounted radiator and various safety improvements.
Mini Clubman and 1275GT: 1969–1980
|Assembly|| Longbridge, Birmingham, England
Setúbal, Portugal, Petone, New Zealand
|Body style||2-door saloon|
|Engine||1,098 cc (1.1 l) I4
998 cc (1.0 l) I4
In 1969, under the ownership of British Leyland, the Mini was given a facelift by stylist Roy Haynes, who had previously worked for Ford. The restyled version was called the Mini Clubman, and has a squarer frontal look, using the same indicator/sidelight assembly as the Austin Maxi. The Mini Clubman was intended to replace the upmarket Riley and Wolseley versions. A new model, dubbed the 1275GT, was slated as the replacement for the 998 cc Mini Cooper (the 1,275 cc Mini Cooper S continued alongside the 1275GT for two years until 1971). The Clubman Estate took over where the Countryman and Traveller left off.
However, British Leyland continued to produce the classic 1959 "round-front" design, alongside the newer Clubman and 1275GT models (which were replaced in 1980 by the new hatchback Austin Metro, while production of the original "round-front" Mini design continued for another 20 years.)
Production of the Clubman and 1275GT got off to a slow start because the cars incorporated "lots of production changes" including the relocation of tooling from the manufacturer's Cowley plant to the Longbridge plant: very few cars were handed over to customers before the early months of 1970.
Early domestic market Clubmans were still delivered on cross-ply tyres despite the fact that by 1970 radials had become the norm for the car's mainstream competitors. By 1973 new Minis were, by default, being shipped with radial tyres, though cross-plies could be specified by special order, giving British buyers a price saving of £8.
The 1275GT is often incorrectly described as the "Mini Clubman 1275GT". The official name was always just the "Mini 1275GT", and it was a separate, distinct model from the Clubman (although it shared the same frontal treatment as the Mini Clubman, and was launched at the same time).
In 1971, the 1,275 cc Mini Cooper S was discontinued in the UK, leaving the Mini 1275GT as the only sporting Mini on sale for the rest of the decade. Innocenti in Italy, however, continued making their own version of the Mini Cooper for some time. While the UK built 1275GT was not nearly as quick as a 1275 Mini Cooper S, it was cheaper to buy, run, and insure. It was the first Mini to be equipped with a tachometer. It also featured a standard-fit close-ratio gearbox. Performance of the 1275GT was lively for the time, achieving 0–60 mph (97 km/h) in 12.9 seconds, and the excellent midrange torque offered a 30–50 mph (48–80 km/h) time in top gear of only nine seconds. The bluff front, however, meant that the model struggled to reach 90 mph (140 km/h). The 1,275 cc A-series engine could be cheaply and easily tuned, though the cheap purchase price and prominent "sidewinder" door stripes meant that this model developed a reputation as something of a "boy-racer special" during the 1970s and into the 1980s.
Throughout the 1970s, British Leyland continued to produce the classic 1959 "round-front" design, alongside the newer Clubman and 1275GT models. The long-nose Clubman and 1275GT offered better crash safety, were better equipped, and had vastly better under-bonnet access, but they were more expensive and aerodynamically inferior to the original 1959 design. The Mini Clubman and 1275GT were replaced in 1980 by the new hatchback Austin Metro, while production of the original "round-front" Mini design continued for another 20 years. At the end of Clubman and 1275GT production, 275,583 Clubman saloons, 197,606 Clubman Estates and 110,673 1275GTs had been made.
For the Australian market, all Minis including the Van gained the Clubman front in 1971 although the car was still basically a Mk I behind the A-Pillar. The Australian van thus became the only Clubman Van produced anywhere in the world. From mid 1971 to the end of 1972, a Clubman GT version of the sedan was produced. This was essentially a Cooper S in Clubman body, equipped with the same 7.5-inch (190 mm) disc brakes, twin fuel tanks, and twin-carburettor Cooper S 1,275 cc engine. Australian Clubman sedans were marketed under the Morris Mini Clubman name when introduced in August 1971, and as the Leyland Mini, without the Clubman name, from February 1973. To end Mini production in Australia, a limited edition runout model was produced − the 1275LS. Originally created as a top end model, when the decision was made to end production, it became the runout model. Fitted with a pollution control 1,275 cc engine sourced from Europe, the LS had a single 1.5-inch (38 mm) carburettor and 8.4-inch (210 mm) disc brakes. Production of this model commenced in July 1978 and concluded in October 1978 with an approximate total of 810 vehicles produced.
Mark III and onwards: 1969–2000
|Manufacturer||British Leyland Motor Corporation|
|Production||October 1969 - 1976|
|Model years||1969 – 1976|
|Assembly||Longbridge, England. Pamplona, Spain. Zetland, New South Wales, Australia. Seneffe, Belgium. Arica, Chile. Setúbal, Portugal. Cape Town, South Africa. Petone, New Zealand.|
|Body style||2-door Saloon
|Layout||Front wheel drive|
|Engine||848 cc (0.8 l) 14
998 cc (1.0 l) I4
1,275 cc (1.3 l) I4
|Kerb weight||848cc = 610kg
1275cc = 645kg
|Assembly|| Pamplona, Spain
Longbridge, Birmingham, England
Zetland, New South Wales, Australia
Cape Town, South Africa, Petone, New Zealand
|Body style||2-door saloon
|Engine||1,275 cc (1.3 l) I4
998 cc (1.0 l) I4
1,100 cc (1.1 l) 14
The Mark III Mini had a modified bodyshell with enough alterations to see the factory code change from ADO15 to ADO20 (which it shared with the Clubman). The most obvious changes were larger doors with concealed hinges. Customer demand led to the sliding windows being replaced with winding windows—although some Australian-manufactured Mark I Minis had adopted this feature in 1965 (with opening quarterlight windows). The suspension reverted from Hydrolastic to rubber cones as a cost-saving measure. (The 1275 GT and Clubman would retain the hydrolastic system until June 1971 when they, too, switched to the rubber cone suspension of the original Minis.)
Production at the Cowley plant was ended, and the simple name Mini completely replaced the separate Austin and Morris brands.
In the late 1970s, Innocenti introduced the Innocenti 90 and 120, Bertone-designed hatchbacks based on the Mini platform. Bertone also created a Mini Cooper equivalent, christened the Innocenti De Tomaso, that sported a 1275 cc engine similar to the MG Metro engine, but with a 11-stud head, a special inlet manifold, and used the "A" clutch instead of the "Verto" type. The most important feature was the utilisation of homokinetic shafts, avoiding the rubber couplings.
In 1978, the Mini was one of the key cars made available to disabled motorists under the new Motability scheme.
By this stage, the Mini was still hugely popular in Britain, but it was looking increasingly outdated in the face of newer and more practical rivals including the Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Chevette, Chrysler Sunbeam, Fiat 127, Volkswagen Polo and Peugeot 104. Since the late 1960s, plans had been in place for a newer and more practical supermini to replace it, though the Mini was still the only car of this size built by British Leyland for the home market.
Reports of the Mini's imminent demise surfaced again in 1980 with the launch of the Austin Mini-Metro (badging with the word mini in all lowercase). In New Zealand in 1981, the Mini starred in a road trip movie directed by Geoff Murphy called Goodbye Pork Pie. The Mini was beginning to fall out of favour in many export markets, with the South African, Australian, and New Zealand markets all stopping production around this time.
Although the Mini continued after the Metro's launch, production volumes were reduced as British Leyland and successor combine Rover Group concentrated on the Metro as its key supermini. Indeed, 1981 was the Mini's last year in the top ten of Britain's top selling cars, as it came ninth and the Metro was fifth.
- Mark III (introduced in November 1969) had wind up windows with internal door hinges, except for the van and pick-up models. The boot lid lost the original hinged number plate and its recess shape and a large rear colour-coded lamp was fitted in its place, along with larger rear side windows.
- Mark IV (introduced in 1976) had a front rubber mounted subframe with single tower bolts and the rear frame had some larger bushes introduced. Twin stalk indicators were introduced with larger foot pedals. From 1977 onwards, the rear indicator lamps had the reverse lights incorporated in them.
- Mark V (from 1984): all cars had 8.4-inch (210 mm) brake discs and plastic wheel arches (mini special arches) but retained the same Mark IV body shell shape.
- Mark VI (from 1990): the engine mounting points were moved forward to take 1275 cc power units, and includes the later HIF (Horizontal Integral Float) version of the SU ( Skinners Union) carb, plus the single point fuel injected car which came out in 1991. The 998 cc power units were discontinued. An internal bonnet release was fitted from 1992.
- Mark VII (from 1996): was the final version, twin point injection with front mounted radiator. Full-width dashboard replaces the original shelf, internal bonnet release. Introduction of airbag on driver's side.
|Assembly||Longbridge, Birmingham, England|
|Body style||2-door saloon|
|Engine||1,275 cc (1.3 l) I4
998 cc (1.0 l) I4
|Assembly||Longbridge, Birmingham, England|
|Body style||2-door saloon|
|Engine||1,275 cc (1.3 l) I4|
|Assembly||Longbridge, Birmingham, England|
|Body style||2-door saloon|
|Engine||1,275 cc (1.3 l) I4|
End of production
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s the British market received numerous "special editions" of the Mini, which shifted the car from a mass-market item into a fashionable icon. It was this image that perhaps helped the Mini become such an asset for BMW, which later bought the remnants of BMC as the Rover Group. It was even more popular in Japan, where it was seen as a retro-cool icon, and inspired many imitators. The ERA Mini Turbo was particularly popular with Japanese buyers.
In 1994, under Bernd Pischetsrieder, a first cousin once removed of Issigonis, BMW took control of the Rover Group, which included the Mini, fitting an airbag to comply with European legislation.
By March 2000, Rover was still suffering massive losses, and BMW decided to dispose of most of the companies. The sell-off was completed in May that year. MG and Rover went to Phoenix, a new British consortium; and Land Rover was sold to Ford Motor Company. BMW retained the Mini name and the planned new model, granting Rover temporary rights to the brand and allowing it to manufacture and sell the run-out model of the old Mini. By April 2000, the range consisted of four versions: the Mini Classic Seven, the Mini Classic Cooper, the Mini Classic Cooper Sport and—for overseas European markets—the Mini Knightsbridge. The last Mini (a red Cooper Sport) was built on 4 October 2000 and presented to the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust in December of that year. A total of 5,387,862 cars had been manufactured.
After the last of the Mini production had been sold, the 'Mini' name reverted to BMW ownership. The new BMW Mini is technically unrelated to the old car but retains the classic transverse four-cylinder, front-wheel-drive configuration and iconic "bulldog" stance of the original.
- August 1959: Introduction of the Austin Seven, Morris Mini-Minor and Morris Mini-Minor DL 2-door saloons, all with transversely mounted 848 cc engine and 4-speed manual gearbox.
- 1960: Introduction of the Austin Seven Countryman and Morris Mini-Minor Traveller 3-door estates, both with 848 cc engine from the saloon models. 116,667 cars built in the first full year of production.
- 1961: Introduction of the Austin Seven Super and Morris Mini-Minor Super 2-door saloons.
- 1961: Introduction of the Austin Mini Cooper and Morris Mini Cooper 2-door saloon, both with larger 997 cc 55 bhp (41 kW) engine.
- January 1962: All former Austin Seven models now officially called Austin Mini.
- March 1962: pvc seat covers replaced cloth upholstery on entry level model ("basic Mini").
- 1962: "De Luxe" and "Super" designations discontinued. "Super de Luxe" designation introduced. Modified instrument panel now included oil pressure and water temperature gauges.
- March 1963: Introduction of the Austin Mini Cooper 1071 S and Morris Mini Cooper 1071 S 2-door saloons, both with larger 1071 cc 70 bhp (52 kW) engine.
- 1964: Introduction of the Mini Moke.
- April 1964: Introduction of the Austin and Morris Mini-Cooper 998, Mini-Cooper 970 S and Mini-Cooper 1275 S. 1275 S models have 1275 cc 76 bhp (57 kW) engine. Automatic transmission available as an option for the 998 cc Austin Mini-Cooper 998 and 1275 S. Previous Mini-Cooper 997 and 1071 S models dropped.
- 1965: Mini Cooper 970 S discontinued.
- October 1965: Automatic transmission now available as an option on standard Austin/Morris Mini and Morris Mini SDL.
- October 1967: Mark 2 range launched with facelift and upgraded equipment. Austin Mini range as follows: 850, 1000, Cooper 998 and Cooper 1275 S 2-door saloons and 1000 Countryman 3-door estate. Morris Mini range as follows: 850, 850 SDL, 1000 SDL, Cooper 998 and Cooper 1275 S 2-door saloons and 1000 Traveller 3-door estate. Optional automatic transmission available on all Austin models (except 850) and Morris Mini 1000 SDL saloon.
- September 1968: Manual four speed gear box with synchromesh on all four forward ratios introduced.
- March 1969: Launch of the Morris Mini K an Australian-only model manufactured in the Australian British Motor Corporation factory at Zetland NSW using 80% local content
- October 1969: Separate Austin and Morris badging now merged into Mini 850/Mini 1000 badging. Range reduced to: 850, 1000, Clubman, Cooper S and 1275 GT 2-door saloon and Clubman 3-door estate. Optional automatic transmission available on all except 1275 GT.
- April 1974: A heater became standard equipment on the entry level Mini 850 (having now already been included in the standard specification of the other models for some time).
From the Mark IV onward, many special limited-production editions of the Mini were offered. These included models that were created to commemorate racing victories or to celebrate an anniversary of the Mini marque. Limited editions generally came equipped with a unique combination of interior and exterior trim and special decals. Examples include Mini 1100 Special, Mini Rio, Mini Mayfair, Mini Park Lane, Mini Italian Job, Mini Cooper RSP, Mini Flame, Mini Red Hot, Mini Jet Black, Mini Racing and the Mini Monza.
Concepts and unproduced prototypes
From 1967 to 1979, Issigonis had been designing a replacement for the Mini in the form of an experimental model called the 9X. It was longer and more powerful than the Mini, but due to politicking inside British Leyland (which had now been formed by the merger of BMC's parent company British Motor Holdings and the Leyland Motor Corporation), the car did not reach production. It was an intriguing "might-have-been"; the car was technologically advanced, and many believe it would have been competitive up until the 1980s.
A number of prototypes produced for vehicles based on the Mini but which never saw production are held and sometimes displayed at the British Heritage Motor Centre museum at Gaydon, Warwickshire. These included the Twini, a re-engineered four-wheel-drive Moke with two engines—one at the front and another at the back; the Austin Ant, a second attempt to produce a four-wheel-drive vehicle, this time using a transfer case; and a two-seater convertible MG edition of the Mini, cancelled due to it being perceived as competition for the MG Midget.
In 1992, a project considering possible improvements to the Mini was started. Codenamed Minki ("Mini" plus K-Series engine), it included a redesigned dashboard, a two-piece tailgate instead of a boot, fold down rear seats, Hydragas suspension and a 3-cylinder version of the K-Series engine with a 5-speed gearbox.
However, the project was cancelled by management within Rover, who decided that the cost of engineering the changes, and achieving compliance with modern crash testing standards, was too great for the production volumes that could be expected of an updated Mini.
In 1995 the idea to update the Mini again surfaced but this time with BMW management. As part of the process of deciding how to replace the Mini, a vehicle representing what the current Mini could have become, if it had been developed further over its production history, was commissioned. This resulted in the Minki-II, designed to house the 1.4L MPI K-Series engine with an extensive redesign inside, but without the original Minki's tailgate. The car had to be widened by 50mm and lengthened by 50mm to accommodate the new engine and gearbox, with Hydragas suspension and dashboard from a Rover 100. The Minki-II was used for Hydragas development work, this suspension being considered at the time for the R59 project, later to become the Mini Hatch.
Exotic Minis and celebrities
The Mini was a cultural icon and shows up in movies such as The Italian Job (1969), in which three Mark I Austin Mini Cooper S cars are used in a gold bullion robbery; in The Bourne Identity (2002) as a beat-up but surprisingly capable vehicle for a car chase; Goodbye Pork Pie (1981) where a yellow Mini 1000 is used to travel the length of New Zealand, or in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) as a collectible fashion icon garaged alongside other classic sports cars. It has also featured in television shows such as Mr. Bean and (as the Mini Moke) in The Prisoner. Madeline Zimmer, in Jean-Luc Godard's Masculin féminin (1966), said she hoped her new single would be a big hit so she can buy a Morris Cooper.
In the 1960s and 1970s, the Mini also became a veritable "fashion statement". Many celebrities of that era drove Minis that had been customised by famous British coachbuilders. Examples include Peter Sellers' wicker side-panelled Mini built by Hooper (the Rolls-Royce coachbuilder) which appeared in his movie A Shot in the Dark. Ringo Starr's hatchback designed by Radford, who also built a Mini de Ville for Britt Ekland, Peter Sellers' wife, with a special rear estate wagon door. Radford also built Mini de Villes for John Lennon, Marianne Faithfull and a psychedelic version that appeared in The Beatles movie Magical Mystery Tour owned by George Harrison who maintained it through the years and had it restored, including the art, prior to making an appearance with it at Goodwood as late as June 1998. Marianne Faithfull drove her duo-tone de Ville to the Law Courts to hear Mick Jagger's appeal of his drug conviction in 1967. The same year John Lennon drove his de Ville hatchback to Apple studios after hearing of Brian Epstein's death. At around the same time, Radford also extensively customised a 1275 Mini-Cooper S for Monkee Michael Nesmith which gave dramatically improved performance combined with luxury and silence. Coachbuilders Wood & Pickett also made special versions called the Margrave and Margrave SE, sold by Mayfair dealerships in mod London and elsewhere. Marc Bolan famously died when the Mini 1275GT in which he was a passenger hit a Tree in Barnes, London on 16 September 1977. The site is now Officially Recognised by the English Tourist Board as Bolan's Rock Shrine
Other tuned Mini specials were built by various specialists, such as the British Automobile Company M-30, of which only three were produced in 1989 to celebrate the Mini's 30th birthday. They featured a supercharged 115 bhp, 1275 cc engine, Recaro seats and a custom dashboard. One BAC M-30 was notably owned by Bernie Ecclestone and auctioned in 2007.
Kit cars and customisation
The cheapness, simplicity and easy availability of used Minis make it an ideal candidate for body replacement. There are over 120 Mini-based kit cars from various small companies and individual enthusiasts. There are also numerous dramatically modified Minis such as a set of three street-legal cars made up to look like giant oranges as a promotion for the Outspan company (one of which is on display at the National Motor Museum), a Mini that was made to look like a half-timbered cottage, complete with thatched roof and windows with curtains. Some enthusiasts have drastically shortened or lowered their cars to make them yet smaller. There is also a "sprint shell" which has a lower roof and a small body chop, which dramatically reduces drag. Others make small versions of stretched limos, double-decker buses, monster trucks, motor homes and many other kinds of vehicles from used Minis.
BMC operated a Competition Department at Abingdon, Oxfordshire, under the control of Stuart Turner, which built specially prepared Minis (mostly based on Cooper and Cooper S versions) to compete in international rallies and other motorsport. This department played a key role in ensuring the Mini's huge success in motorsport throughout the 1960s, in particular, winning the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964, 1965 and 1967.
Largely because BMC did not, the 1960s spawned a host of third party companies who offered modified parts and tuning services to the general public to improve the performance of their Minis for both motorsport and road use. The most notable of these tuners were: Arden; Broadspeed; Downton; Janspeed; Longman and Oselli, who variously offered modified cylinder heads, bigger carburettors, gasflowed manifolds, high performance exhaust systems and competition suspension parts.
Years after the Mini finally ended its production run, there are still ample third-party parts—both spares for restoration and performance parts for race tuning.
Given the low weight and good handling of the Mini it is also popular to do an engine swap putting in a modern, high performance engine like the Rover K Series, a Honda VTEC B16A2, a Suzuki Swift GTi, a rear mounted Yamaha R1 motorbike engine, or the Vauxhall 16v 2 litre c20 XE "red top" engine, amongst various alternatives.
The Mini has won many awards over the years, perhaps the most notable include: "Car of the Century" ( Autocar magazine 1995), "Number One Classic Car of All Time" ( Classic & Sports Car magazine 1996) and "European Car of the Century" in a worldwide Internet poll run by the prestigious Global Automotive Elections Foundation in 1999. The Mini managed second place (behind the Model T Ford) for "Global Car of the Century" in that same poll.
In the end 5.3 million Minis were sold, making it by far the most popular British car ever made. Thousands of these are still on the road, with the remaining pre-1980s versions being firmly established as collectors' items.
At its peak, the Mini was a strong seller in most of the countries where it was sold, with the United Kingdom inevitably receiving the highest volumes.
It was a huge seller in the mini-car market, which it virtually monopolised until the arrival of the Hillman Imp in 1963. It comprehensively outsold the Imp, and it was 16 years before the Mini received a serious threat to its sales success. This threat came in the shape of the much more modern and practical Vauxhall Chevette of 1975, but the Mini continued to sell in huge volumes and was still very popular when its "replacement"—the Metro—arrived in 1980. By this time, the Mini's design had been overtaken by numerous more modern and practical efforts, but it still offered sheer driving fun that was almost unbeatable in this size of car.
Although the Metro never actually replaced the Mini, production figures for the Mini dipped during the 1980s, and interest in the now-iconic design was not revived until the re-introduction of the famous Mini Cooper in 1989. This helped the car retain its desirability and driver appeal throughout the 1990s, right up to the end of production on 4 October 2000. Nearly a decade after its demise, the Mini is still a common sight on Britain's roads, and the many surviving pre-1980s models in particular are now widely regarded as collector's items.
A total of 1,581,887 Minis were sold in Britain after its launch in 1959. The last new one to be registered was sold in 2004, some four years after the end of production.
Between 1960 and 1967, BMC exported approximately 10,000 left-hand drive BMC Minis to the United States. Sales were discontinued when stricter federal safety standards were imposed in 1968 and the arrival of the larger and more profitable Austin America (sold in the United States until 1972) sealed the fate of the Mini. Mini sales slipped badly in the 1967 calendar year and the US importer was expecting the forthcoming Austin America to find a larger market. The America was finished in 1972 due to lacklustre sales (like the Mini's final year) and the introduction of bumper height standards, that would have killed the Mini as well, had it survived.
Minis that were originally sold in the United States are becoming hard to find, so many of the restored Minis now running in the United States have been imported by individual enthusiasts from Australia or New Zealand, where the climate has limited the amount of rust formation and cars are available for relatively low prices. There is increasing difficulty in finding cars that are old enough to meet the 25-year emissions exemption and yet are still in a reasonable condition. This has led some importers to place the vehicle identification number (VIN) plates from older cars onto Minis that are less than 25 years old, claiming that the car was "repaired" by replacing every single part with the exception of the VIN plate. Such vehicles are termed "re-VINs" and are surprisingly common. This may leave such importers open to accusations of a " Ship of Theseus" fraud such as befell the late Boyd Coddington from the state of California.
Issigonis designed the Mini with an emphasis on active safety. Asked about the crash worthiness of the Mini he said "I make my cars with such good brakes, such good steering, that if people get into a crash it´s their own fault". and "I don’t design my cars to have accidents".
In July 1965 BMC announced that following "comments by safety experts" about the Mini's external doorhandles, these would be modified on new cars so that the gap between the handle and the door panel would be effectively closed.
Nicholas Faith states in his book that Murray Mackay, one of the UK's leading motor vehicle crash and safety researchers, was critical of the pre-1967 Mini's passive safety features, including the protruding filler cap, the door latch, and the vulnerability of the passenger space to engine intrusion.
The Mini was withdrawn from the American market because it could not meet the 1968 U.S. safety regulations, and more intense emission standards, and was never updated to comply with those regulations. However, it continued to be sold in Canada until 1979.
Throughout its life, the Mini was modified in various ways to improve its safety. In 1974 a prototype Mini experimental safety vehicle was built (Mini Clubman SRV4) which featured a longer crumple zone, a "pedestrian friendly" front-end, run-flat tyres, strengthened door sills, extra internal padding and recessed door handles, the latter having been used earlier on Australian-built Minis due to local laws. Jack Daniels, one of the original Issigonis team, is stated to have been working on further safety improvements for the Mini when he retired in 1977. Several times it was thought that safety regulations would stop Mini production Safety improved in 1996, with the introduction of airbags and side impact bars. The Mini, challenged by increasingly demanding European safety and pollution standards, was planned by British Aerospace to be taken out of production in 1996, but BMW chose to invest to keep the Mini legal until the launch of the BMW MINI.
In January 2007, the Which? magazine listed the Mini City in its "Ten worst cars for safety (since 1983)" list, alongside other economical, lightweight, fuel efficient cars like the Hyundai Pony 1.2L, Fiat Panda 900 Super, Suzuki Alto GL, Daihatsu Domino, Citroën AX 11 RE, Yugo 45 and 55, Peugeot 205 GL, and the Citroën 2CV6.
A UK Department for Transport statistics publication, presenting estimates of the risk of driver injury in two car injury collisions, based on reported road accident data, estimated that the 1990–2000 Mini was one of two small cars (the other being the Hyundai Atoz), which, with an estimated 84% of drivers likely to be injured, presented the greatest risk of driver injury. The average risk for the small car category was 76%.
Several key events marked the 50th Anniversary of the Mini in 2009.
On 13 January 2009, The Royal Mail released a limited edition of stamps entitled ‘British Design Classics’ that featured an original, Egg-Shell Blue, MK1 Mini, registration XAA 274.
On 25 May 2009, 10,000 Minis and 25,000 people attended an anniversary party at Silverstone Circuit in Northamptonshire.
Between 7–10 August 2009 approximately 4000 minis from around the world congregated at Longbridge Birmingham to celebrate the 50th Birthday of the Mini.
On 26 August 2009, smallcarBIGCITY launched in London to provide sightseeing tours of the capital in a fleet of restored Mini Coopers.