After the Second World War it became apparent that cars in post-war Britain were dated in both engine technology and design at a time when petrol was still rationed. Across the pond the American car industry was burgeoning with fantastic, modernist vehicles rolling off the production lines. Something needed to be done. Then, one day in the middle of the 20th Century, a man said, “Hang on a minute lads, I’ve got a great idea”. Unfortunately, that was Michael Caine in the Italian Job movie. It is not known what the engineer Alec Issigonis said when he came up with the ‘great idea’ of the four-cylinder transverse engine in a small and economical car, but the outcome was a motor that in 1959 transformed an industry. The BMC Mini was born.
Early Days & Latter Years
Although front wheel drive was not a new idea the idea of turning the engine sideways to allow eighty percent of the floorpan of a small car to be given over to passengers and luggage was. The Mini, with it’s funky round centre console and long, thin gear stick, went on to become the iconic car of the 1960’s and continued to be popular for the next two decades as it evolved.
Despite the instant allure, the fact is the build quality, especially by today’s standards, was terrible. It was a cheap car and made no apologies for that. It was a ‘people’s car’, a car for the masses and the masses bought into it in droves. It handled well, sipped fuel and offered the average driver that ‘in-crowd’ vibe.
Later variants lost that early magic as the designers struggled to stretch out the useful life of the car and sales slumped as the car became superseded by other models. Eventually the bell tolled in 2000. The Mini was no more.
From inception the Mini proved immensely popular in motor sport as people found ways to tune the diminutive BMC ‘A’ series 850cc engine. BY 1964 the car was sweeping the board on the international rally scene. The company jumped on this and introduced the more powerful Cooper and Cooper S versions, the latter even making an appearance as police cars.
When BMW absorbed what was left of the moribund company, now called the British Leyland Group, it stripped out the assets but retained the Mini name. This was a smart move as it turned out because, although the car was no longer being built it remained popular as enthusiasts continued to keep fifty year old cars on the road, thus maintaining the legend. The German brand was quick to see the opening of a niche and began producing the Mini as we know it today. As a clever marketing ploy they retained the round centre dash but now packed with the latest technology. Although purists may grumble BMW have somehow managed to incorporate the historic sense of the original car into a 21st Century product, even if the loveable rascal has grown up and gained a city suit.
The hard truth is that in so many ways the latest version is far better than the original version from sixty years ago although anyone who loves cars would give almost anything to own a 1959 original. It is also fair to say that the name Mini is a bit of a misnomer now; they are hardly small. The really good news though is that here at eCars247 we regularly offer the latest Mini
variants among our ever-changing stock
. One day perhaps we can deliver
a little memory of a great motoring history direct to your door.