3 Millionth MINI Leaves Oxford Production Line
In September of this year, the 3 millionth MINI rolled off the brand’s Oxford assembly line, thirteen years after the labels 2001 re-launch.
First launched in 1959 to worldwide acclaim, 5.3 million original MINIs were sold worldwide between their 1950s introduction and their discontinuation in 2000. The 3 million produced in the last thirteen years take this total to 8.3 million, making MINI one of the most successful car brands ever. In celebration of this, we decided to look back at some of the greatest cars ever produced under the MINI banner.
MINI Mk 1 (Original MINI Minor)
The famous MINI didn’t actually start its life as the MINI. In early advertising, it was known as the ‘SE7EN’. Its name would later be changed to reflect its size, one of its most recognisable features.
The need for a ‘MINI’ car was born from the 1956 Suez Crisis, which had reduced oil supplies and forced the UK government to introduce petrol rationing. BMC knew that to revive their falling sales a small vehicle was needed as soon as possible.
The MINI’s design featured a conventional BMC four-cylinder, water-cooled engine, mounted transversely. The radiator was placed on the left side of the car, allowing the engine-mounted fan to be retained, but with reversed pitch which blew air into the natural low pressure area under the front wing. This fit snugly inside the vehicle’s rather conservative length, although it did have a downside; the radiator was fed with air that had been heated by passing over the engine.
A number of other smart, technical novelties helped to produce a car with Minimum overall dimensions, maximising space for passengers and luggage. One of these innovations was the introduction of front-wheel drive, and the MINI was the first car to trial the drive-train layout.
The car was not only small, but also fast. Thanks to the carburettor mounted at the back of the engine, an extra reduction gear fit between the engine and the transmission, which reduced loads on the gearbox and prevented rapid wear. The cleverly designed engine had 51.7 cui and offered an impressive top speed (for its size and the period) of 72 mph.
The first production version was released in April 1959; by August, several thousand had been produced ready for general sale to the public. Initial sales were far from promising, but through the course of the sixties the handy little MINI would become a global hit, with a final total of 1,190,000 Mk I’s being produced.
The Mark I would be the vehicle that earned MINI its place in history and popular culture, going down as the small car icon of the swinging sixties.
MINI Cooper S
The MINI Cooper, a car that won the hearts of millions of motoring fans from across the globe, was never part of BMC’s plan. Initially conceived to broaden the appeal of the ordinary MINI after its slow start, the Cooper S would go on to become one of the greatest rallying cars of all time.
It was Grand Prix-winning team owner John Cooper who first suggested the idea to BMC, telling those in the driving seat that it had the potential to be a phenomenal competition car. Cooper volunteered his own skills to make the transformation happen, working alongside Alec Issigonis to create a faster, more agile MINI.
It would be 1964 before the design really took off – the year that Irishman Paddy Hopkirk charged to victory in the Monte Carlo Rally driving his 1,071cc Cooper S. The Monte Carlo Rally was the most prestigious motorsport even in the world, and the win transformed MINI’s image overnight. There’s even still a rallying version of the MINI Cooper S still rallying today.
MINI Mk 2
By the late 1960s, Issigonis was ready to unveil the brilliant Mk I’s replacement; the Mk II. The car originally intended as its successor was shorter and much more powerful, but thanks to arguably poor management decisions, BMC would never build it. Instead, the Mk II would be born. Featuring a redesigned front grille (which would not change after this point), it had a larger rear window along with some other minor cosmetic changes.
Although it would never be as famous or as successful as its older Mk I sister, selling only 429,000 vehicles, it would achieve some fame in its own right; as star of the 1969 film ‘The Italian Job’. In fact, the scene became so legendary that when The Italian Job was remade in 2003, it was its successor, the new BMW MINI, which was chosen to take its place.
A plethora of brilliant cars have followed on the heels of these iconic models, but these were the motors that made the MINI name. Brilliant, innovative and entirely novel, these vehicles would inspire all of the MINIs that followed, and would spawn a host of pint-sized vehicles from those who would become their competitors. However brilliant today’s designs and those that succeeded them may have been, these were the true legends, and will always be the holders of the original, iconic and unique MINI magic.
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