Facts, Features & Specs
History of an Icon
THE (SHORT) STORY OF MINI
Roughly 50 years of fun and motoring and a few simple ideas have all added up to this: hundreds of innovations, thousands of checkered flags, millions sold, legions of devoted fans and one International Car of the Century award. Here's how it happened.
A FAMILIAR DILEMMA
The year was 1957, and in post-World War II England the Suez Canal Crisis had sent fuel prices soaring, leading many to start wondering if the large, gas-guzzling vehicles of the day made much sense.
A CAR FOR EVERYONE
So Sir Leonard Lord of the Morris Company issued his top engineer, Alec lssigonis, a challenge: design and build a small, fuel-efficient car capable of carrying four adults, within economic reach of just about anyone. As fate would have it, the challenge of fitting so much function into such a small package inspired a couple of historic innovations.
The two most important innovations Issigonis came up with were to create more room in the cockpit: pushing the wheels all the way out the corners and turning the engine sideways. The world had never seen a car quite like it. And when the Mini first launched in 1959, the public was a bit baffled.
THE SPIRIT OF THE STREETS
Soon enough, though, people began to recognize that the Mini was not merely a car. The unique combination of style at a low-cost, small size and nimble-handling came to symbolize independence and spontaneity. The very essence of the youthful 1960's. It was a whole way of life.
A CULTURAL PHENOMENON
One of the most remarkable elements of the Mini's popularity was how its infectious spirit transcended traditional class barriers. From hipsters and mods to milkmen, rock stars and royalty to rally racers. Everyone could have fun and feel free motoring in a Mini.
A JOY RIDE
It also soon became apparent that Issiogonis's numerous layout innovations, intended to create more passenger room, also happened to help make the Mini incredibly fun to drive. Wheels at the corners meant a wide, go-kart stance and nimble handling. And the transverse engine kept weight over the front tires, helping provide great balance and grip.
BIRTH OF A RACER
It was 1961 when the humble little people-mover fell into the hands of British racing legend John Cooper. A more powerful engine, bigger brakes and a few tuning tweaks later, the Mini Cooper 997 was introduced. And a rally demon was born.
A GIANT KILLER
Before long, the nimble little Mini was outracing and outlasting the larger, more powerful, but clumsier sedans of the day. Visits to the winner's circle became a regular event as Mini chalked up numerous international race wins - including 3 at the prestigious Monte Carlo rally from 1964 to 1967.
In addition to being so exhilarating to drive, owners loved how easily their Mini would become an extension of themselves. A statement of their unique individuality. A personality-packed sidekick that was always up for a bit of fun.
By 1969, over 2 million Mini's had been sold. Pickups and station wagon versions were introduced and all were incredibly durable - whether rallying or doing the daily errands. Every owner knew they could depend on their Mini to get the job done. And smile the entire time.
EVERYWHERE BUT AMERICA
By 1977, Mini's popularity had truly taken off around the world with over 4 million cars sold in each corner of the globe. Sadly, Americans never quite got the chance to catch the fever since new emissions regulations in the late 1960's forced Mini to give up its U.S. green card.
EUROPEAN CAR OF THE CENTURY
Fast forward to 1999. Over 5 million Classic Minis had found happy homes around the world, leading a panel of 130 international automotive journalists to vote Mini "European Car of the Century." In fact, only Ford's Model T received more votes for the global title.
THE NEXT EVOLUTION
In October of 1999, just a few days before the final Classic Mini rolled off the production line, the concept for a new MINI is unveiled at the Paris Auto Show. The distinctive design and personality is immediately recognizable. But it's clear that the new model has also taken a healthy dose of automotive steroids.
AMONG THE WORLD'S BEST
Making its US debut in the spring of 2002, the new MINI is bigger, stronger and faster than ever. Slalom tests prove that this surprisingly affordable head-turner hasn't lost a step, and that it now ranks among the world's top performance vehicles.
MORE THAN JUST A CAR
Taking the 2003 North American Car of the Year, the general public and auto enthusiasts alike find the new MINI hard to resist. Invoking smiles and curiosity everywhere they go, new owners quickly discover just how much fun a MINI can be. Owners personalize their MINIs to their hearts' content and form motoring clubs all across the country.
THE NEXT 50 YEARS?
Around the world, the MINI phenomenon has been reborn. For all the same reasons its predecessor was such a success - great fuel efficiency and practicality, an incredible set of custom options, unbelievably tight handling and an undeniably cheeky personality - people easily fall in love. So what will the next 50 years of motoring hold? We can't wait to find out.