The original Mini is one of a tiny handful of vehicles that are truly iconic, immediately recognizable even by people who know nothing about cars. It’s as enduring a symbol of sixties Britain as the Beatles and James Bond — a revolutionary little shoebox on wheels that rewrote the rules for compact cars. This week, we look at the history of BMC’s original Morris and Austin Mini.
THE BUBBLECAR INVASION
Just as the first Big Three compacts of 1960 emerged from the “Eisenhower Recession” of 1957–1958, the Mini was born in crisis. In October 1956, the British and French governments made a secret agreement with Israel to retake the Suez Canal, which Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser had nationalized that summer. Israeli armed forces advanced into the Sinai Peninsula to provide a pretense for an Anglo-French task force, dubbed Operation Musketeer, to invade Egypt, ostensibly to ensure the security of the Canal Zone. However, U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower refused to support the invasion and exerted strong economic pressure on Great Britain to withdraw. The Musketeer task force sailed for home less than 10 days later, but the incident prompted Saudi Arabia to impose an embargo on oil shipments to France and the U.K.
The Suez Crisis and its aftermath nearly collapsed the British pound, brought a brief return to fuel rationing in late 1956, and devastated new car sales in the U.K. Overnight, panicked British buyers turned to tiny, German-made “bubblecars” like the Isetta, Messerschmidt, and BMW 600, which were smaller and more frugal than any contemporary British-made car.
The situation alarmed every British automaker, but it was of particular concern to the British Motor Company (BMC), the conglomerate formed from the 1952 merger of Austin Motors and the Nuffield Organization, which included Morris, MG, Riley, and Wolseley. BMC had controlled a sizable percentage of the British market before Suez, and the new German invasion represented a serious threat. Aside from the business implications, BMC chairman Leonard Lord reportedly took personal offense to the bubblecars and was eager to create a competitive home market alternative.
BMC’s chief engineer at that time was one Alexander Arnold Constantine Issigonis. Born in Smyrna in 1906, Issigonis was a British subject, but he and his mother did not move to England until 1923. Issigonis studied engineering at Battersea Polytechnic, where he famously failed the mathematics exam three times. After a stint as an engineer for Humber and some amateur racing efforts, he joined Morris in 1936 as a suspension engineer.
Although Issigonis was still relatively junior in 1943, Morris chief engineer A.V. Oak allowed him to design the company’s first postwar car, which emerged in 1948 as the Morris Minor. The Minor was a curious-looking car, but it was quite advanced for its time, with unitary construction, independent front suspension via torsion bars, and rack-and-pinion steering. It became one of Morris’s most-important products, selling almost 1.4 million copies between 1948 and 1971.
The success of the Minor won Issigonis great favor with Morris management, who quickly learned that he could do great things if they stayed out of his way. Issigonis was as stubborn as he was iconoclastic, and diplomacy was not among his strong suits. He did not suffer fools gladly and had an unapologetic loathing for styling and marketing.
Issigonis briefly left Morris in 1952, following the formation of BMC. Fearing that he would not enjoy the same autonomy under the new, Austin-dominated management, he went to Alvis, where he and Alex Moulton worked on a V-8-powered luxury car using Moulton’s new Hydrolastic interconnected suspension system. That project was canceled in 1955, and Issigonis accepted Len Lord’s invitation to return to BMC as chief engineer.
At the time of the Suez Crisis, Issigonis was working on a new family sedan to replace the Minor. Code-named XC9000, its shape would have been immediately familiar to any later Mini owner, although it was a conventional rear-drive car. In March 1957, Lord asked Issigonis to put the XC9000 on the shelf and develop a new, smaller car to challenge the bubblecars. The new project was code-named XC9003.
TRANSVERSE ENGINE, FRONT-WHEEL DRIVE
By the mid-fifties, BMC had developed a reputation for conservative engineering and product planning. Len Lord had great faith in Issigonis, however, and gave him a free hand for the XC9003 project. The one proviso was that it had to use an existing engine — BMC did not have the money for both an all-new car and an all-new powerplant. At that, BMC did not have a lot of money, period; even before Suez, its financial condition had been far from robust. The tooling budget for the XC9003 was a modest £10 million, about $28 million at contemporary exchange rates, perhaps $220 million today.
Issigonis did not let the lack of capital dampen his ambitions. His goal for the XC9003 was to provide room for four adults in a car only 10 feet (305 cm) long and 4 feet (122 cm) wide. Such packaging made a conventional front-engine, rear-wheel-drive (FR) layout impractical; obtaining the necessary interior space would require either a front-engine, front-wheel-drive (FF) or rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive (RR) configuration, both of which were uncommon in Great Britain at the time. Citroën, of course, had used front-wheel drive since the mid-thirties, while some German and Italian automakers had opted for RR layouts, but most British manufacturers remained firm adherents of the front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout.
BMC did briefly study rear-engine layouts in the late fifties, but Issigonis was convinced that front-wheel drive was the way of the future. The problem was packaging. Most early FWD cars, like the Citroën Traction Avant and the American Cord, had longitudinally mounted engines with the transmission mounted ahead of the engine — a bulky arrangement even with a four-cylinder engine. As a result, while FF cars were more efficient in their use of interior space than FR contemporaries, they were not necessarily any smaller.
Issigonis decided that the solution was to mount the engine transversely, a concept he had studied even before his sojourn at Alvis. A transverse engine would be much shorter than a longitudinal engine, but presented an additional problem: where to put the transmission. The XC9003 was wide enough to mount the Austin/BMC A-series four between its front wheels, but it was not wide enough for both the engine and transmission. Issigonis considered cutting the A-series engine in half, creating an inline two, but the resulting twin was hopelessly gutless, even for an economy car. He finally resorted to mounting the gearbox in the engine sump, sharing the engine’s oil supply. It was a simple solution, albeit a daring one; engines and transmissions have very different oiling requirements, and a compromise suits the needs of neither. Nevertheless, this solution reduced the powertrain’s total length to a mere 18 inches (460 mm).
The familiar Austin gearbox, a four-speed with an unsynchronized low gear, was far from happy in its new role. The prototypes routinely broke their synchronizers, and there was neither time nor money to redesign the transmission before launch. As a stopgap, Issigonis turned the engine 180 degrees, using spur gears to drive the transmission. The additional gears reduced the load on the synchros, although the gearbox would remain a weak point of the early cars.
The XC9003 was originally slated to use the 948 cc (58 cu. in.) A-series engine, shared with the Morris Minor 1000, but prior to production, the engine was de-stroked to 848 cc (52 cu. in.). The smaller displacement reduced output to a modest 34 net horsepower (25 kW), but provided better fuel economy and better range from the tiny fuel tank, whose capacity was only 6.5 U.S. gallons (5.4 Imperial gallons, 24.7 liters).
Every aspect of the XC9003 was carefully designed to maximize packaging efficiency. Like the Minor, the new car had unitized construction, although front and rear suspension subframes were added late in the development process to reduce the stresses on the body shell. Inside, the seats were extremely upright, improving legroom without increasing the length of the cabin. Nearly every scrap of usable space was put to good use.
The XC9003 had rack-and-pinion steering and fully independent suspension: double wishbones in front, trailing arms in back, with no anti-roll bars. The new car was originally supposed to have Alex Moulton’s Hydrolastic springs, but the scaled-down Hydrolastic suspension wasn’t ready in time, so compact rubber springs were substituted at the last minute. The Hydrolastic system would resurface several years later.
Perhaps the most noteworthy space-saving measure was the 10-inch (254mm) wheels. Their size allowed the wheelhouses to be kept as small as possible, improving packaging efficiency. They also reduced unsprung weight — an important consideration in a car whose sprung weight was barely over half a ton (454 kg). At the time, no manufacturer made wheels or tires that small, so Issigonis and Lord persuaded Dunlop to make some. There would later be an entire cottage industry creating wheels and tires for the little car.
THE MORRIS AND AUSTIN MINIS
The XC9003 project, subsequently renamed ADO (for “Austin Design Office”) 15, proceeded very quickly. The first prototype was running by the early summer of 1957, less than three months after the project’s inception. In July, Leonard Lord drove the prototype and gave Issigonis his approval.
Preparing the ADO15 for production was brisk but troublesome. Despite the familiar engine, the project was new territory for BMC. Issigonis’s contentious relationship with the production engineers only made things worse; he strenuously resisted any compromise of his design. The production car remained remarkably true to his vision, but emerged with a variety of serious flaws that would later cost BMC dearly. Pilot production began in early April 1959, and the new car met the press in mid-August, going on sale August 26.
At launch, the Mini was not yet called the Mini, and BMC marketed it as two separate models: the Austin Seven (stylized “Se7en”) and the Morris Mini-Minor. Although it had been seven years since the BMC merger, the company still showed no inclination to consolidate the well-established Austin and Morris dealer networks. BMC lacked the resources to develop separate product lines for each brand, so it resorted to badge engineering, which would reach new and ludicrous heights in the years to come. The ADO15 was typical: despite separate marketing campaigns, the Austin and Morris versions differed only in grille texture and badges.
The new cars’ names were familiar to British buyers. The Seven revived the name of Austin’s seminal prewar car, while “Mini-Minor” suggested a relationship with the still-popular Morris Minor. The “Mini” prefix was apparently suggested by former Morris president William Morris, Lord Nuffield. It was an evocative moniker, and the Austin version adopted it officially in 1962 after an out-of-court settlement with Sharp’s Commercials, which had been selling a three-wheeled mini-car under that name. Issigonis’s new baby would be called “Mini” for the rest of its long life.
"WIZARDRY ON WHEELS"
Regardless of what badge it wore, the Mini quickly won favor with the motoring press. Most automotive journalists of the time believed strongly that bread-and-butter cars should be smaller, more sophisticated, and more fun to drive; the Mini was all three. Its arrival was almost as much of a sensation as the debut of the Jaguar XK120 had been 11 years earlier. While none of the Mini’s individual features was entirely new (save for its tiny wheels), it was a remarkable package. Even its size was a shock — it was not as tiny as the bubblecars, but it was a good deal smaller than any British family car of the time.
The Mini’s road manners were anything but dull. Issigonis felt that adept handling was an important safety feature even for a family car, so the Mini was exceptionally nimble. Its steering was quick and accurate, abetted by a usefully short turning radius. The stiff rubber springs gave good roll control, and the short wheelbase and minimal overhangs meant a low polar moment of inertia. It was easy to flick out the tail, and catching the resultant slide was just as straightforward. The Mini was not fast by any means, but its cornering ability shamed many contemporary sports cars.
At the same time, the Mini was remarkably practical. It could indeed seat four adults, although the seats were hard and the driving position far from ideal. It had room for a modicum of luggage, with many useful nooks and crannies for the storage of oddments. With its minimal curb weight and modest engine, the little car returned commendable fuel economy and was easy to park.
The icing on the cake was the price. Despite its sophistication, the base model started at £497 (around $1,400), undercutting the Ford Anglia — the value leader among low-priced British family cars at the time — by a substantial £93 (about $260). Even in Deluxe trim, the Mini was only £537 (about $1,500) at launch, a legitimate bargain.
The Mini’s low price and abundance of personality served it well because it was also flawed. Aside from the aforementioned fragile synchros, road spray could soak the front-mounted ignition coil and spark plugs, stalling the engine. On early cars, the body sills allowed substantial water infiltration, which required a costly last-minute redesign of the entire floorpan. Some of those problems were eventually addressed, but others, including high noise levels, rapid tire wear, and a choppy ride, remained endemic.
Despite its many positive attributes, the Mini’s early sales were not sensational. It was embraced by journalists, cash-strapped young people, and fashion-conscious urbanites, but working-class Britons were more skeptical. The typical British car buyer did not have quite the same expectations of automotive size and prestige as did his or her American counterpart, but the Mini was fully 16.5 inches (42 cm) shorter than the smallest contemporary Austin, and its adorable appearance was the antithesis of the Detroit-influenced English Fords and Vauxhalls of the time, giving a faintly comical air. It was definitely not for every taste.
THE MINI EXPANDS
By mid-1960, Mini sales had improved markedly. The calendar-year total for 1960 was nearly 117,000 units, quite respectable for a British car and a good deal better than the bigger Austin A35 the Mini had replaced. Sales increased by more than a third for 1961 and almost 50% for 1962.
Unfortunately for BMC, the Mini’s low price proved to be a ruinous miscalculation. After the Mini was launched, Ford of England bought several examples to disassemble and study. Ford’s cost analysis estimated that BMC was losing £30 (about $84 at the contemporary exchange rate) on every car sold. BMC management disputed that figure, although their own estimates suggested a profit of only £5 (about $14) per car, compared to about £50 (around $140) per car for the Ford Anglia.
Exactly how much money BMC actually made or lost on the Mini remains a subject of debate, but its margins were at best razor-thin. Any production delays or work stoppages — of which there were many — pushed it deep into the red. The Mini was not popular with dealers either, in part because it was more challenging to service than other BMC cars. Ironically, that proved to be a commercial asset; any profits the Mini earned probably came mostly from a thriving trade in replacement parts.
Hoping to expand the Mini’s volume enough to make it profitable, BMC added a host of derivatives, including a long-wheelbase estate, a commercial van, and a little pickup truck. There were also two upscale saloon versions, the Riley Elf and Wolseley Hornet, with bigger engines, roll-up windows, and plusher interiors.
The standard Mini was progressively upgraded, as well, gaining improvements like Porsche-type synchronization for the gearbox and a splash shield for the ignition system. In early 1965, the Mini finally received Hydrolastic suspension, which improved ride at the expense of handling. A four-speed automatic transmission became available that fall.
The most famous and influential of the many Mini derivatives, however, was launched in 1961: the Mini Cooper.
JOHN COOPER WORKS
With the Mini’s excellent road manners, it was clear early on that it could be a strong racing contender in the under-1,000 cc (61 cu. in.) classes. Indeed, some private teams began racing the Mini as soon as it appeared; Sir John Whitmore won the 1961 British Saloon Car Championship in a Mini-Minor.
In 1960, Alec Issigonis was approached by his old friend John Cooper, a well-known racing driver and race builder. Cooper and Issigonis had known one another since Issigonis’s racing days — Issigonis had even let Cooper drive a pre-production Mini months before launch. Cooper suggested that the Mini would do well in Group 2 touring car competition and asked Issigonis if BMC would be willing to build 1,000 suitably modified cars for homologation purposes. It would be a fairly minor investment for BMC and the potential publicity value was considerable.
To Cooper’s surprise, Issigonis was adamantly opposed to the idea, preferring the Mini to remain an unpretentious people’s car. Cooper went over his friend’s head to BMC managing director George Harriman, who was far more easily convinced. Cooper and Harriman struck a deal to build a special Mini carrying the Cooper name, which went on sale on September 20, 1961. Starting price, tax paid, was £679 7s 3d.
The press, unsurprisingly, loved the Mini Cooper even more than the standard car. The Cooper was still not especially fast except compared to a standard Mini — top speed was around 87 mph (140 km/h) — but the modifications served to amplify everything that was entertaining about the basic car. The Mini Cooper was infectiously fun to drive even at moderate speeds (which felt much faster than they were) and sacrificed only a modest amount of the Mini’s economy, although super premium fuel was now required.
The Cooper was a great success, eventually accounting for around 20% of all Mini sales. It did wonders for BMC’s image, particularly following its victory in the 1962 British Saloon Car Championship. The Cooper even won over the skeptical Alec Issigonis, perhaps its hardest-fought victory. John Cooper subsequently persuaded George Harriman to authorize a 1,071 cc (65 cu. in.) version with 70 hp (52 kW). Dubbed Mini Cooper S, it was capable of 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h) in around 13 seconds with a top speed of up to 95 mph (152 km/h). The 1071S, as it is commonly known, was offered for only a year, but Patrick “Paddy” Hopkirk and Henry Liddon drove one to victory in the 1964 Rallye Automobile Monte Carlo.
The 1071S was replaced in 1964 by new 970 cc (59 cu. in.) and 1,275 cc (78 cu. in.) versions. Timo Mäkinen and Paul Easter used the latter to win the 1965 Monte Carlo Rally and nearly did the same in 1966. Unfortunately, all three Mini teams were disqualified for technical violations, although French race officials overlooked similar infractions on the part of the winning Citroën ID. Undaunted, BMC returned in 1967, allowing works drivers Rauno Aaltonen and Henry Liddon to claim the Mini’s third and final Monte Carlo victory.
Just as important to the Mini’s growing reputation was its starring role in the 1969 caper film The Italian Job, in which a trio of Mini Coopers tears through the city of Turin, outmaneuvering hapless Italian pursuers in amusing and sometimes improbable ways. It was not a great movie, but the onscreen action perfectly encapsulated the Mini’s cheeky spirit. Ironically, BMC’s marketing department had participated in the film project only grudgingly, but it was the best advertisement the Mini would ever receive.
THE DAWN OF BRITISH LEYLAND
By the mid-sixties, the Mini was fast becoming a cultural icon. It was both humble and irreverent and its racing exploits gave it an aura of tongue-in-cheek patriotism that perfectly suited the tenor of the times; it might as well have been created for a contemporary Richard Lester film. Unsurprisingly, it became very popular with celebrities, including John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Marianne Faithfull, and Peter Sellers. By the end of the decade, there were innumerable Mini-based kit cars and an array of aftermarket parts to rival the flathead Ford.
Despite such celebrity, it was gradually dawning on BMC management that the Mini was not making any money. The Mini cost more to build than some of the company’s bigger cars and efforts to boost production volume were stymied by constant strikes at both BMC plants and those of its suppliers. By 1965, BMC’s total revenues had increased by more than one-third from 1960, but the company was no longer making a profit. A 1966 merger with Jaguar to form British Motor Holdings (BMH) only made things worse; BMH lost some £7.5 million (about $21 million) in the first half of 1967 alone.
The prospect of a BMH collapse was not politically appetizing, so the Wilson government pushed for a merger between BMH and Leyland Motors, which had already absorbed Standard/Triumph and had recently merged with Rover. In 1968, BMH and Leyland merged to form the British Leyland Motor Company (BLMC), with Leyland’s Sir Donald Stokes as chairman and former Triumph director George Turnbull as the general manager of the new Austin Morris division.
The arrival of Sir Donald (Baron Stokes from 1969) brought many changes to the former BMC organization, few of them positive. Although by most accounts Lord Stokes was an exceptional salesman, the vast and unwieldy structure of BLMC would have daunted even the most effective manager. The corporation had a vast assortment of brands, many of which were direct competitors, and ambitious plans for rationalization repeatedly stalled for lack of funds. Furthermore, British Leyland’s relationship with its workforce remained antagonistic and the strikes only increased.
Lord Stokes did not share Leonard Lord and George Harriman’s faith in Alec Issigonis, who had become BMC’s technical director in 1961. Although Issigonis was undeniably brilliant, he was not an easy man to deal with by corporate standards. Even before the Leyland merger, there was a growing perception that he was too much of a blue-sky thinker, out of touch with economic realities and the needs of the marketplace.
Issigonis’s planned successor for the Mini, the 9X, was canceled in 1968. Lord Stokes moved him to a research position and appointed Standard-Triumph technical director Harry Webster as Austin Morris chief engineer. BLMC officials remained publicly solicitous of Issigonis, who was named a Commander of the British Empire in 1969, but he was increasingly marginalized. Sir Alec retired in December 1971, and while he remained in a consulting role until the mid-eighties, his active participation in product development was effectively over. The last vehicle developed under his auspices was the five-door Austin Maxi hatchback, which appeared in the spring of 1969.
Another casualty of the Leyland merger was the Mini Cooper. Despite its considerable prestige value, the Cooper was de-emphasized after 1968 and discontinued entirely in July 1971. Lord Stokes saw no reason for a company the size of British Leyland to employ consultants like John Cooper and was unhappy about paying royalties, however modest, on a car that was losing money. A new 1275GT model took the Cooper’s place in the Mini lineup, but the famous name disappeared until 1990.
MINI MK 3
The Mk3 Mini, known internally as ADO20, arrived in the fall of 1969. Although the Mk3 received luxuries like wind-up windows and internal door hinges, other changes were aimed at reducing manufacturing costs: Trim was simplified and the complex and expensive Hydrolastic suspension was discarded in favor of rubber springs. The model range was also streamlined, abandoning most of the badge-engineered variations and establishing Mini as a separate marque with Mini 850, Mini 1000, Clubman, Clubman Estate, 1275GT, van, and pickup models.
The Mini’s basic design was now more than 10 years old, but its popularity continued to grow. By 1971, annual production had topped 300,000 units and BLMC celebrated the sale of the 3 millionth Mini in October 1972. Newer rivals like the Fiat 127/Autobianchi A112, and Renault 5 had moved the game on technologically, but the Mini was now a known quantity and its personality still compensated for many of its shortcomings. The energy crisis that followed the OPEC oil embargo in late 1973 only enhanced the Mini’s appeal. For a time, it was the only BLMC product to sell in reasonable numbers.
Those strong sales were not particularly welcome news to British Leyland management because the struggling conglomerate had still not managed to make the Mini profitable. After the cancellation of the Cooper, Lord Stokes admitted that British Leyland was losing £20 (about $50) per car, and the production shortfalls during the energy crisis only made things worse. Worse, the Mini was now stealing sales from other, more profitable models, leaving BLMC in an ugly position: they couldn’t afford to cancel the Mini, but the more cars they sold, the more money they lost.
Work began in early 1974 on a Mini replacement, code-named ADO88, but its development was extremely protracted. BLMC’s precarious finances led the Labour government to nationalize the struggling automaker in 1975 in order to forestall either collapse or foreign buyout. Development funds were naturally very scarce and the ADO88 program wasn’t approved until October 1976. Badged miniMetro, it didn’t go on sale until October 1980.
MINI IN TWILIGHT
By the time the Metro appeared, Mini sales had fallen to about half of their early-seventies peak, but the Mini was still selling too well to cancel. Like Ford’s Capri, it was well past its prime, but buyers still regarded it with great affection.
In 1981, British Leyland reorganized its passenger-car divisions into a new Austin Rover Group (ARG). Austin Rover decided that the Mini’s sales didn’t justify the cost of any significant updates, but declared that it would remain in production for as long as it sold. Just as Ford did with the Capri, ARG pruned the model line and offered an assortment of special editions to prop up its still-limited profit margins. The Mini Cooper returned in 1990 and remained part of the Mini lineup until the end.
By the early nineties, the Mini was a niche item, no longer a mass-market car. What little advertising Rover Group (as ARG was now known) bothered to give it traded heavily on nostalgia, with appearance packs designed to evoke past glories. Despite the Mini’s quintessential Britishness, the home market now accounted for only about a quarter of sales. Another 25% went to Japan, where the Mini had become a cult object. The Mini was long gone from the U.S. market; it had never really caught on in America and British Leyland had made no attempt to certify it for federal safety and emissions rules.
The Mini was coasting toward a natural death when BMW acquired Rover Group in 1994. BMW director Bernd Pischetsrieder (remarkably enough, a distant cousin of Alec Issigonis) saw the Mini brand as one of Rover’s greatest assets. He authorized a final update of the existing car to meet the latest European safety, emissions, and drive-by noise regulations and began development of an all-new Mini for the new century. Although BMW divested itself of Rover in May 2000, it retained ownership of the Mini brand.
The final Mk7 Mini remained in production until October 4, 2000, expiring about six months before the introduction of BMW’s all-new MINI. The Mini outlived both its erstwhile successor, the Metro, and its creator: Sir Alec Issigonis died in 1988. Total production of all Mini variants was 5,387,862, and we doubt BLMC, Austin Rover Group, Rover Group, or BMW made much of a profit on any of them.
Profitable or not, the Mini was a watershed vehicle. It had few direct imitators (discounting BMC/British Leyland relatives like the 1100), but it redefined what a small car could and should be. The Mini was a challenge that no automaker in that segment could ignore, although its competitors’ responses varied widely. Fiat technical director Aurelio Lampredi decided he could do Alec Issigonis one better, resulting in the Autobianchi A112/Fiat 127, which became the template for almost every modern supermini. Ford and GM measured BMC’s losses and made a deliberate decision not to follow the Mini, leaving them to play catch-up in the seventies. The Mini Cooper, meanwhile, was the spiritual ancestor of a whole genre of sporty little cars. There were sporty small cars before and after the Cooper, but few that approached its cultural impact.
Alec Issigonis has taken a lot of criticism in the past four decades for the Mini’s high production costs and lackluster financial performance. Issigonis was notoriously inflexible and the Mini was undeniably more expensive to produce than a conventional car, but we think the fact that BMC and British Leyland couldn’t figure out how to make money on such a popular product says more about the company than the car. BLMC eventually admitted that setting a price £25 or £30 higher probably wouldn’t have hurt the Mini’s sales and would have transformed it from a liability into the asset it should have been. (Indeed, BMW’s positioning of the new MINI as a “premium” subcompact has been very successful.)
Furthermore, if Issigonis hadn’t been so ferociously stubborn (and Leonard Lord and George Harriman so cooperative), we suspect the Mini would never have made it to production and today’s automotive market would look very different. Some people might prefer it that way, but we think a world without the Mini would be a poorer one indeed.
NOTES ON SOURCES
Our sources included Keith Adams, “Drawings & prototypes,” AROnline, 19 September 2008, www.aronline. co.uk, accessed 25 March 2010, “miniMetro,” AROnline, 12 February 2009, www.aronline. co.uk, accessed 26 March 2010, “The Issigonis 9X,” AROnline, 19 September 2008, www.aronline. co.uk, accessed 26 March 2010, and “The Whole Story: BMC>Rover History,” AROnline, 19 September 2008, www.aronline. co.uk, accessed 19 June 2009; Keith Adams and Ian Nicholls, “Mini: The development story,” AROnline, 14 February 2010, www.aronline. co.uk, accessed 27 March 2010; “Alec Issigonis,” Design Museum – British Council, Design in Britain, 2006, designmuseum. org, accessed 23 March 2010; “Austin Mini Cooper, Saab 850-GT,” Car and Driver Vol. 9, No. 1 (July 1963), pp. 68-73; “Autocar road test 1918: Austin Mini-Cooper S 1,071 c.c.,” Autocar 12 April 1963, pp. 608-612; John Baker, “Wolseley Hornet,” Austin Memories, n.d., www.austinmemories.com, accessed 27 March 2010; Richard Brenner, “Auf Widersehen, Pet: The Last Mini,” CAR December 2000, pp. 102-104; Chris Bishop, ed., The Encyclopedia of 20th Century Air Warfare (London: Amber Books/Barnes & Noble, 2004); Arch Brown, Richard Langworth, and the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, Great Cars of the 20th Century (Lincolnwood, IL: Publications International, Ltd., 1998); Roger Carr, “Car Carshow Classic: 1960 Austin Seven (Mini) – The Future Started Here,” Curbside Classic, 16 December 2014, www.curbsideclassic. com/ curbside-classics-european/ car-carshow-classic-1960-austin-seven- the-future-started-here/, accessed 16 December 2014; Mike Covello, ed., Standard Catalog of Imported Cars 1946–2002, Second Edition (Iola, WI: Krause Publications, 2001); “Early history of the Morris Minor,” The Minor Site, 2001, www.theminorsite. co. uk, accessed 23 March 2010; Matthew Field, commentary, The Italian Job, writer: Troy Kennedy-Martin, director: Peter Collinson, producer: Matthew Field, U.K.: Oakhurst Productions, 1969; DVD, Paramount Pictures, 2003; “Hasta La Vista, Mini,” CAR December 2000, p. 217; “History of the Minor: A Car Is Born,” Minor Mania, n.d, www.minormania.com, accessed 23 March 2010; Ray Hutton, “Mini Happy Returns,” Car and Driver Vol. 35, No. 2 (August 1989), pp. 73–78; “John Cooper,” The 500 Owners Association, n.d., www.500race. org/ Men/ Cooper%20John.htm, accessed 25 March 2010; David Knowles, MG: The Untold Story (Osceola, WI: Motorbooks International, 1997); Donald Neff, Warriors at Suez: Eisenhower Takes America into the Middle East (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1983); Ian Nicholls, “The Mini Clubman,” AROnline, 31 December 2009, www.aronline. co.uk, accessed 27 March 2010 and “The Mini Cooper,” AROnline, 16 May 2009, www.aronline. co.uk, accessed 25 March 2010; Paul Niedermeyer, “Curbside Classic: Austin Mini – Yesterday’s Mini, Today’s Micro,” Curbside Classic, 16 May 2011, www.curbsideclassic. com/ curbside-classics-european/ curbside-classic-1959-week-mini- yesterdays-mini-todays-micro/, accessed 16 May 2011; David Phipps, “Mini-Cooper S vs. [Ford] Falcon Sprint,” Car and Driver, July 1964, reprinted in Falcon Performance Portfolio 1960–1970, ed. R.M. Clarke (Cobham, England: Brooklands Books Ltd., ca. 1998), pp. 94-98; John Pressnell, The Mini (Shire Library) (Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire: Shire Publications Ltd., 2004); Graham Robson, Cortina: The story of Ford’s best-seller, Second Edition (Dorchester, England: Veloce Publishing Ltd., 2008); “The Autocar road tests: 1843: Austin Seven Cooper,” The Autocar 20 December 1961, pp. 663-666; The Italian Job.com, n.d., www.theitalianjob. com, accessed 27 March 2010; “The History of Mini,” MiniWorld, 2009, www.miniworld. co. uk, accessed 27 March 2010; Craig Wash, “Mini Mark! Part 5: Mini Cooper 1961-1971,” Rugby Classic Mini Owners Club, n.d., www.rcmoc.org.uk/ bitsnbobs/ files/ minimk_Coopers.pdf, accessed 25 March 2010, and the Wikipedia® entries for for “Mini,” en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BMC_Mini, accessed 25 March 2010, and “The Italian Job,” en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Italian_Job, accessed 25 March 2010.
Historical exchange rate data for the dollar and British pound came from Werner Antweiler, “PACIFIC Exchange Rate service, Foreign Currency Units per 1 British Pound, 1948-2007” (2007, fx.sauder.ubc. ca, accessed 2 January 2010) — in general, we assumed a rate of $2.80/£ through 1968. Exchange rate estimates represent the equivalency of the dollar and the sterling, not U.S. retail prices. Please note that exchange rates listed are approximate and are provided for informational purposes only — this is an automotive history, not a treatise on historical currency trading, and nothing in this article should be taken as financial advice of any kind!
- Five by Five: The Renault 5 and the Mid-Engine Renault 5 Turbo
- From Small Things: The Nash Metropolitan and the Birth of American Motors
- Party Downsize: The Ford Fiesta Mk1 and Mk2
- Rabbit Rocket: The Volkswagen Golf GTI and Rabbit GTI
- Supermini: The Autobianchi A112 Abarth