WHAT'S THE STORY?

In 1956, amid fuel shortages in a number of countries including the UK due to the crisis in the Gulf of Suez (look it up!), there was a pressing need to design a fuel-efficient car. Lord Nuffield of British Motor Corporation (BMC) charged his chief designer, Sir Alec Issigonis to create an "orderly saloon" that could still compete with the onslaught of fuel-efficient microcars on the market. The first Classic Mini made its debut on August 26, 1959. The Classic Mini was the first mass-produced automobile with a transversally placed engine. It fit 4 adults, was gas-frugal, had great handling, and was priced under $800! The placement of the engine created a commodious passenger area and allowed a proportionately large wheelbase: the Classic Mini became the first sedan to truly handle like a sports car.

Later, Queen Elizabeth II was seen behind the wheel of a Classic Mini and sales began to take off. After a series of celebrities bought Classic Minis, the car became a "must-have" auto, and over the decades it has become the most popular British car ever made with over 5.3 million units sold. The Classic MINI influenced the design of Mary Quant's mini-skirt and in a poll organized by Autocar Magazine in 1995, Classic Mini was named their Car of the Century. In 1996, a panel of experts from Classic and Sportscar magazine voted the Classic Mini to be the “No. 1 Classic Car of All Time,” and in 1999, an international panel of judges voted the Classic Mini to be the European Car of the Century, taking second place in the Global Car of the Century Competition, topped only by the Ford Model T.

WHERE WAS THE MINI DEVELOPED?

They were developed in the UK by the BMW Group's Development Division. 

WHY ARE THEY CALLED THE MINI COOPER AND MINI COOPER S?

In 1961, legendary British race driver John Cooper re-tooled the Classic Mini to create a higher performance, racing version. He gave it a more powerful engine, higher and closer gear ratios, better brakes, wider tires and a color-contrasting roof to stand out in the crowd. Thus, the Mini Cooper was born. A few years later in 1963, Cooper boosted his version of the Classic Mini even more, creating the purest racing car, the Mini Cooper S.

As time went on, the Mini Cooper became a racing phenomenon, winning three times at Monte Carlo (1964, 1965 and 1967) and taking home first place in numerous other races on the international rally circuit.

WERE MINIS EVER SOLD IN THE US MARKET?

Between 1960 and 1967 about 10,000 Classic Minis were sold in the US. The stay was brief, but the Classic Minis left their mark with dozens of Classic Mini Owner's Clubs still thriving in the US to this day.

WHY DID MINI LEAVE THE US?

In 1968, the US Government issued new Safety and Emissions Regulations that, at the time, MINI was not prepared to implement. So you could say we lost our green card.

WHEN DID THE NEW MINI COOPER S MAKE ITS GLOBAL DEBUT?

At the Tokyo Auto Show in October 2001.

WHEN DID THE NEW MINI COOPER MAKE ITS US DEBUT?

At the Paris Auto Show in October 2000. It first became available in the US March 22, 2002.

WHY DO YOU GUYS SOMETIMES USE MINI IN ALL CAPS, AND OTHER TIMES “Mini” WITH ONLY THE FIRST LETTER CAPITALIZED?

We use “Classic Mini” when we're referring specifically to the older, classic version of the car, and “MINI” when referring to the brand-spanking new models or when referring to MINI as the brand.

ARE MINIS RACED?

We're extremely excited about bringing MINIs back into racing. We have already received classification from most of the major amateur and race sanctioning bodies in the U.S., and we expect to continue our heritage of success in competitions. Of course, we also strongly encourage amateur racers to get out there and have as much fun getting involved with rallies, races and autocrossing as possible.

And because last year ended on such a high note, the new MINI WRC, which will contest the FIA World Rally Championship from 2011, will receive its world premiere in Paris. This year, the MINI Countryman, the model for which the MINI WRC is based upon, is a big inspiration for this rally.