The Mini at 60: 6 Decades of an Automotive Icon
2019 sees a celebration of an automotive icon, the Mini. First seeing the light of day back in 1969, the Mini has been on quite the journey and over the last 60 years has helped to shape today's motor cars.
Designed and built against the backdrop of the swinging ’60s the Mini was very much the car of the times. With a design team led by the now-legendary car designer Sir Alec Issigonis, the Mini was the product of the 1956 Suez Crisis and falling car sales.
The Suez Crisis had dramatic implications for Britains car industry. As oil and fuel become rationed, sales of traditional larger-engined cars began to stall. Looking to overcome this difficult climate, manufacturers started to look towards smaller-engined cars that were more frugal on fuel, thus the Mini was born.
A small yet versatile machine, the Mini was instantly a hit as it ticked a number boxes for Britains motorists. Whilst at first glance space may have been at a premium in the Mini it actually wasn’t the case thanks in part to Issigonis’ intelligent design. It featured a groundbreaking layout in which the engine was mounted transversely. With its front-wheel-drive configuration, it allowed for 80 per cent of the car's floor pan to be used for passengers and luggage. This produced a car that was not only efficient on fuel but capable when it came to carrying passengers and luggage in equal measure.
It was also a great handling car too thanks to its small wheels and skinny tyres being placed at all four corners of the car. This played a major part in the Mini’s acclaimed go-kart handling feel.
It’s go-kart handling prowess was also put to good use in the 1960’s crime caper The Italian Job. The film, starring the legendary Michael Caine, saw a trio of Mini’s play getaway cars in an audacious gold heist which saw a car chase sequence play out in the heart of Italy’s capital, Turin. This film alone helped to capture the hearts of a legion of Mini fans and gave it the perfect springboard to bolster its profile around the world.
Over the decades the Mini has been produced in a number of guises and the range has included higher performance variants such as the Cooper S. These more powerful versions of the standard Mini were put to good use of the worlds motorsport stage as the Mini had enviable success in both the World Rally Championship and British Touring Car Championship where it often took on and beat much more powerful competitors.
Today the Mini is still produced at BMW’s Oxford plant. Whilst the style of the Mini and the companies owners may have changed over the years, the recipe has remained the same, fun and enjoyable motoring.
Happy Birthday Mini here’s to the next 60 years.