The Mini is one of the most iconic cars in automotive history. Head of British Motor Corporation, Leonard Lord, disliked the bubble cars that were prolific during the Suez fuel crisis so much that he vowed to rid the streets of them by designing a ‘proper miniature car’. His brief to designer, Sir Alec Issigonis, was for a car that could be contained within a box that measured 3m x 1.2m x 1.2m, and the passenger compartment should occupy 60% of that length. The engine had to be an existing BMC unit, and therefore superior to the motorcycle -engined bubble cars.
The Mini was the result and was introduced in 1959. Badged as both Austin and Morris, initially called the Austin Seven or Morris Minor, the Mini was powered by a transversely mounted 850cc four-cylinder engine producing 34 HP powering the front wheels and only weighed 600kg. The Mini was the first successful small car with the technical makeup being the formula for all compact cars to follow. Three stages of development can be noted for the “Classic” Mini divided into MK1, MK2 & MK3 versions. The MK 2 featured a larger rear window and cleaner front end design with the MK3 distinguished by concealed door hinges and wind up windows.
In 1961, John Cooper, a successful Formula 1 racing car constructor, noted the potential of the Mini as a performance car. He gave the 850cc engine a longer stroke, twin SU carburetors, front disc brakes and a closer ratio gearbox. The Mini Cooper was born which went on to win numerous international races including the Monte Carlo rally three times. More powerful Cooper S models were introduced too which saw success in closed circuit motor racing. The appeal as a performance car was enhanced when three Mini Cooper’s starred in the Italian Job movie which used the Mini Coopers in a bank heist.