The Mini has been produced in countries like Portugal, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Spain, Belgium, South Africa, Chile and Venezuela. But it's spiritual home was Longbridge in the West Midlands (UK), where it remained in constant production for over 41 years.
One of the more improbable claims that have been made for the Mini was that it caused the collapse of the British Motor-Cycle Industry.
The record for a Mini Cram was 26. The event happened on the Noel Edmunds Late Late Breakfast Show.
The legendary Mini was voted 'the greatest car of all time' by Autocar & Motor Magazine in March 1991.
It is believed that more British people have either learned to drive in or had a Mini as their first car than any other car.
The Mini is still one of the shortest production cars at fractionally over 10 feet long and inspired the 'short vehicle' sticker.
The Mini is a motoring legend and has been in production during the 50's, 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's and into the 21st century - effectively 6 decades.
The Mini has been in production for well over a third of the entire history of the UK motor industry, which had its centenary in 1996.
In 1997 Rover Cars produced a 160bhp Mini capable of 0-60 mph in less than five seconds.
If you laid all the Minis ever made end to end, they would stretch from London to Sydney, Australia.
The Mini was one of the most the most unique and revolutionary cars ever made and it's also true to say that it exceeded well beyond all expectations, but many claim that it never made an honest profit in it's life.
The final production number of Minis produced is 5,387,862.
To most people, the basic shape of the Mini appeared unchanged, although it did evolve and was even developed with many useful variations added to the range during it's 41 years of production. Although on many occasions it faced the axe, the car always seemed to survive against all the odds and even make a big come back. What's amazing is how the car survived so long, especially when it's considered that it never made a substantial profit and as such, some even blame it's success for the decline of the British Motor Corporation. Below is a brief run through of the changes that affected the Mini, in the course of its production life.
If any production car lent it-self to being adapted, it had to be the Mini. With the drive train neatly packaged at the front in its own sub-frame it could be stretched, adorned and stripped, hence the variations that took the Mini concept to its limits. As soon as the car was launched, it wasnt long before there was a Mini for every job and eventuality.
Firstly, came a commercial vehicle, in January 1960 the Mini Van was launched, then in September 1960, after it's success, windows were installed in the Van body-work and the Mini Estate versions were born. More upmarket versions of the Mini Estate even got the wood trim similar to that fitted to the Morris Minor Traveller, but it was not structural on the Mini models.
Then in February 1961 another commercial vehicle, the Mini Pick-up was launched, this was identical to the van except for the missing roof and side panels. But it also had van-like versatility because an optional (later standard) canvas cover could be fitted over two steel hoops.
Next up, in October 1961 the Riley Elf and Wolseley Hornet arrived. These were pocket-sized Rolls Royces, but not only did their interiors resemble the smallest room in a stately home, with their leather-like seats and upmarket dashboards (full width walnut on the Elf), BMC also gave the cars distinctive body styles too. At the back there were little fins and a larger boot, up front there was an upright grille amongst other upmarket fixtures. These were also the first Mini models to later receive wind-up windows and concealed door hinges.Also at the same time as the Riley Elf and Wolseley Hornet, thanks to the insight of racing car constructor John Cooper of the Cooper Car Company Ltd, the legendary Mini Cooper was launched, with it's performance engine, snappy remote gear change and up-rated disc brakes it was immensely successful and from 1963, with the birth of the giant killing Mini Cooper S, it was unbeatable and brought home all the trophies in all forms of motor-sport, including 4 outright wins on the famous Monte Carlo Rally. This was the model that proved just how effective the Mini concept was to the initial sceptics and no doubt saw the
whole range become a major sales success as a result. The Mini Cooper could easily be spotted with its contrasting roof colours, sporty trim and from 1966 in the case of the Cooper S, twin fuel filler caps for it's secondary right hand fuel tank. The short-lived and very rare Mini Super was similarly trimmed, but fitted with the basic engine, drum brakes and direct (magic wand type) gear change.
Then there was also the Mini Moke, this started out as a stab at military application. The idea was that as every armed force in the world wanted a vehicle sturdy enough to withstand a parachute drop, light enough to be lifted by a small helicopter and which could be packed flat and stored one on top of another, the Mini Moke would fit the bill. Unfortunately the Moke lacked the required ground clearance and as such was impractical and so got the thumbs down from the military (even though Issigonis proposed a twin engine four wheel drive version). So instead BMC tried their luck with the civilian population and the open-top utility Mini was then launched in January 1964. The initial attractive selling point for the UK was that as a commercial vehicle there was no purchase tax and so it cost just �405. But its re-classification as a passenger car in 1967 added a further �78 and so helped bring about the end of production in Britain in 1968. So production moved to Australia where it evolved and was a great success for many years, before it moved once again, but this time to Portugal during the early 1980's until production finally ended in 1993.
As the 1960s moved on, so the Mini had been refined with better brakes and an improved baulk ring syncromesh transmission. Then in September 1964 all saloon models were equipped with (Alex Moulton) hydrolastic suspension, which was then the state of the art suspension system. This used interconnected front and rear pipes allowing fluid to run through special displacers giving a smoother ride, which was used on other BMC models at the time, and a four-speed automatic transmission option (the only automatic gearbox in the world suitable for cars under 1.3 litres, yet another Mini first) became available in 1965. Then in 1967 the Mini received a makeover in the form of the Mark II Mini.
At the end of the 1960's, there was much speculation that the Mini from day one had been under-priced and as a result wasn't making any real profit. In fact, when the Mini was first launched, Ford who like all other manufacturers, had nothing like a Mini to offer, got hold of one and stripped it and after pricing each individual component, claimed that BMC must be losing money on every car sold. They also came to the conclusion that small cars return small profits and didn't produce a small car until it was economically possible by efficient robots, with the original Fiesta (still considerably larger than a Mini) some eighteen years later. The closest Ford did get was after thirty-seven years with their Ka, but even that is larger than a Mini and doomed to became dated.
In 1968, BMC merged with the Leyland truck makers to form BLMC or British Leyland as it was commonly known. As a result and with no money to launch a completely new small car range, bigger changes to the Mini lay ahead.
The Mini range had already been successfully updated, becoming Mark II in 1967, but with British Leyland as its new owners, the Mini was forced to evolve once again. Firstly in 1969, the Riley Elf, Wolseley Hornet, Mini Countryman/Traveller Estates and Mini Cooper models were all discontinued, then the Mini was given a radical face-lift and got a longer, more square front end and updated interior for the Mini Clubman range which British Leyland initially marketed as "The Big Happening". There was a saloon (with all the new Clubman features), an estate (which was the same basic shape as the earlier estate models, only with the Clubman front and radically updated interior and trim) and sporty 1275GT (originally marketed as a replacement for the smaller engined Cooper, it had all the right features including for the fist time in a Mini, a tachometer) that were, like the out-going Riley Elf and Wolseley Hornet, fitted with wind-up windows and concealed door hinges and they proved as effective sellers as the models that had gone before.
Unfortunately many motoring journals and books over the years, have given the Clubman range a lot of criticism, mainly blaming the 1275GT for the demise of the Cooper and later the Cooper S during 1971 too. But Donald Stokes the then chairman of British Leyland was really to blame because he had no rapport with John Cooper or any interest in motor racing and he didn't believe it had any effect on car sales either even though it had without a doubt helped make the Mini a great success. But then he had made the Mini Cooper S redundant in 1970 anyway when he closed the legendary Works Department at Abingdon. Still even old Stokes couldn't put the brakes on the lavishly equipped Italian built Innocenti Mini Cooper and the Spanish built Authi Mini Cooper that continued in production for another several years longer. Anyway, the Clubmans are true Minis through and through and although some purists are no fans, they now have a following of their own, are appreciated by most Mini enthusiasts and are well worth restoring.
But despite all the change, the Minis traditional front was still available and from late 1969, they then for the first ever came time with wind-up windows and concealed door hinges in the form of the Mini 850 & Mini 1000. The Mini 850 & Mini 1000 models were not fitted with hydrolastic suspension, instead they reverted back to the original rubber suspension system, as did the Clubman range during 1971, with the Mini Cooper S also briefly updated to Mark III spec during early 1970 being the last Mini to feature hydrolastic suspension before it was axed in July 1971. There were no other major changes for the Mini during the 70's, apart from slight revisions and refinements being applied, like from 1974 when the Mini 1275GT became the first Mini to feature 12" wheels and larger disc brakes (something all Mini's would benefit from during the mid-eighties) and later it also featured the revolutionary but short lived Dunlop Denovo run flat tyres, that would instantly inflate themselves with fluid in the event of a puncture, so saved all the hassle of carrying and using a spare. From 1975 the Clubman saloon and estate got the 1098cc engine and then from 1976, Mini subframes became rubber mounted and all cars featured new controls, switchgear and once again updated trim. Soon and for the first time, Mini grilles became matt black instead of chrome, the seats resembled deck-chair covers and with all the hype from British Leyland on the soon to be announced, so called replacement Mini, the "MiniMetro", the Mini range was thought to be nearing the end of it's natural life.
British Leyland was now known as Austin Rover and after the company had launched it's own small hatchback, the future of the Mini was in doubt. For a start, at the end of 1980, the Clubman range was discontinued, with just the Estate version remaining, but now badged as the HL Estate and like all the remaining Mini models, it was also fitted with the smaller 998cc engine instead until that was discontinued too in early 1982. Then the Mini Van & Mini Pick-up commercial vehicles, which had remained virtually unchanged since their launch back in the early 60's and still retaining the original sliding windows and external door hinges that had been updated on the rest of the Mini range years before, were both discontinued during 1983. As a result of the Mini range being extensively reduced, many motoring journals at the time stated that the end had finally come for the Mini. There were now no Mini variants left in production, but two Mini models with traditional fronts and 998cc engines, badged as the Mini City and the plusher Mini Mayfair soldiered on through the decade, but there were special limited edition models released once or twice a year, generally based on the Mini City. These novel limited edition Minis tended to be adorned with jazzy trim and badges, but they ensured the Mini was displayed at Austin Rover showrooms and helped see the car promoted even though, at that time, they were in the hands of uninterested sales-men. On the whole, for much of the 1980's, the Mini was neglected, any changes were forced by emissions or safety legislation and with no direct publicity, most potential buyers thought the Mini had ceased production, but then production of the car was due to end sometime in 1987 anyway.
But thanks to fresh thinking from new management at Rover and a phenomenal cult following from Japan this didn't happen. So Rover then chose to raise it's profile via a well remembered and successful 1986/87 Christmas television advertising campaign titled "Minis Have Feelings Too" that no doubt helped see sales increase in the UK. Then in 1989 after a massive turn-out of Mini enthusiasts for the Mini's 30th birthday celebrations at Silverstone and the success of a top of the range, luxury Mini 30 limited edition model (which amongst other things, helped re-introduce the classic chrome trim & grille plus introduced the Rover Minilite style alloy wheels), a Mini revival was on the way.
Also that same year and for the first time in quite some time, Rover acknowledged the Minis Motorsport heritage by launching a range of sporty limited edition Minis that harked back to the glory days of the Mini Cooper. The Flame Red and Racing Green Minis (plus the Mini Sky & Rose too) came equipped with duo-tone paint schemes, but the Flame Red and Racing Green got white roofs, sporty interiors and in-line with all Mini models since late 1988, a brake servo too. But Rover also started offering a John Cooper Conversion Kit to boost the performance of these models which they fully endorsed and it was available from any Rover dealer. John Cooper Garages had been supplying a similar type of Cooper Conversion Kit to Rover Japan for several years prior to this, to meet the demand of Japanese Mini enthusiasts. But Rover UK were now also showing great interest too and the 1990's would see the rebirth of a motoring legend that many thought was long dead and forgotten.
So rather than being allowed to just quietly fade away, the Mini was given a new lease of life during the 1990's. Right at the start of the decade, Rover released a second wave of Mini Cooper inspired Racing Green and Flame Red LE's that were joined this time by a black/white duo-tone model called the Check Mate and these models were all equipped with the Rover Minilite style alloy wheels (as fitted to the Mini 30 LE) as standard and a sportier 3.44 final drive. Rover also continued to offer the special John Cooper Conversion Kit too but the summer would bring even bigger news and a big surprise too. On the 7th July 1990 and after an absence of almost 20 years, the Mini Cooper was re-launched with a great fanfare from the motoring press and it even made an appearance on that years Motor Show. The first version was a very special limited edition known as the RSP, before it became a Mainstream model in the Mini range and was developed throughout the decade. For the first time in years, the 1275cc engine was again fitted to the Mini (although it had been fitted to the short-lived specialist E.R.A. Mini Turbo from 1989, but that's another story) and from the start, it was capable of running on unleaded fuel, but it was also the first Mini to feature a catalytic converter as standard and thanks to great investment by Rover, from October 1991 it was the first production Mini to be fitted with fuel injection. Then for the first time in years, a new Mini variant was launched in the form of the Mini Cabriolet, this Mini was fitted with a soft top that could be retracted and the car had a plush interior and a sporty body kit as standard. The Mini Cabriolet was a true collectors car and as such, was only produced in small numbers between 1993 and 1996.
Due to new regulations a considerable sum of money was later spent to bring the car's up to current safety legislation and the latter models, from late 1996 now marketed as Mini and Mini Cooper, plus the occasional top spec limited edition, featured a drivers air-bag, side-impact bars and seat belt pre-tensioners, not to mention tastefully uprated trim and fittings, plus quieter running at motorway speeds thanks to extra sound deadening, higher gearing and for the first time ever, a front mounted radiator and electric fan. Thus making these the best equipped and most lavish Minis yet and they were offered with unlimited optional accessories from both Rover and John Cooper Garages. Time did eventually catch up with the Mini, but the final 500 Mini Cooper Sports off the production line are held in very high regard and some owners have even added little 500 stickers to highlight their status.
Sadly, on the 4th October 2000 with 5,387,862 cars produced, Mini production ended. Mini enthusiasts had known for many years that production was due to end that year, but it was still hard to accept that time had caught up with the Mini and the production line at Longbridge would finally come to rest after over 41 years.
Later that same day, many Mini enthusiasts belonging to different Mini clubs around the country took part in funeral processions through their villages, towns and cities as a mark of respect and sadness that their favourite car, the car of the 20th century had ended production.
The good news is that the classic Mini will still be available second hand for years to come and thanks to the British Motor Heritage and all the other Mini specialists around the world, Mini parts will be readily available for many years. In fact the British Motor Heritage now own all the original Mini tooling and have already started to produce the later type Mini saloon and Clubman saloon shells, but hopefully they will also produce earlier model shells and variants too. So Mini enthusiasts can easily restore their pride and joys and for a reasonable price, which is great news as with production now ended, it's essential to maintain the examples on the road today. And since a replica of a famous ex-Works Mini Cooper S recently sold for over one hundred thousand pounds at auction, there really has never been a better time to invest in a real Mini.
After you've thoroughly viewed my site via the 4 navigational buttons above, why not check out these links that are listed below, because a few are for UK & Ireland based Mini Forums that will provide (amongst other things) detailed information and help on buying a Mini, whilst the other links are for websites that provide more specialised Mini related information: -
Anyway for a kick off here's links to several fantastic on-line Mini-Clubs/Forums and The Mini Forum is one of the main big UK Mini Forums. But there's also more local Forums too such as MiniResource.com and for Welsh enthusiasts like me there's the superb South Wales Minis & Celtic Minis (where you can chat about all things Mini and of course get expert help and advice on buying a Mini too!).
Well there's a few Mini Forums to choose from, but here's a fantastic site called WorksMini.com (which provides all the facts and images on the famous giant killing and world beating ex-Works Mini Coopers). For classic film buffs you will find a site offering Mini downloads, amazing images and information concerning the 1969 classic comedy crime caper movie The Italian Job (the film that immortalised the Mini forever) and here's also links to Mini Magazine & Mini World Magazine web sites (the 2 main UK monthly magazines for Minis).
Here's also a link to Austin Rover Online where you will find some information which may be of interest concerning the rare overseas built Minis. The title may have changed, but it is still an "Unofficial" site and there is plenty of interesting information and images there to browse through.
Here's a link from my YouTube account of the BBC1 & ITV afternoon TV coverage of the last Mini rolling off the famous Longbridge Mini production line on the 4th October 2000 at around 9.30am So just hit the play button to view: -
Mini Conclusion Like I said in the introduction on my home page, the Mini was voted by some motoring journals as the car of the twentieth century and by others as the greatest car of all time. It has also been called one of the greatest inventions of all time and one of the most important British cars ever designed. But even though Issigonis showed the world how to effectively package a car and it then exceeded beyond all expectations, some still blame it for the decline of the British Motor Industry.
The fact it was under priced and it never made an honest profit in it's life is always brought up, but it is absolutely ludicrous to say that the demise of Rover is down to Alec Issigonis and his innovative creations. Even Alex Moulton the Minis suspension designer stated in a recent radio interview that the company was in profit during the 1960's and it was the bad things that occurred later on from the endless industrial action of the 1970's to the bland range of cars that didn't catch the public's attention that was really to blame. World production figures and sales also prove that it was just as successful during the 1970's as it had been during the 1960's, even though the endless industrial unrest wasn't helping matters at that time.
It's also laughable how some so called motoring enthusiasts claim that "most small cars today have copied the Fiat formula of the transverse-engined, end-on gearbox package", when before the Mini proved it's point, Fiat were happily stuffing the engines into the rear of their cars and then there's the fact that even their own chief designer (who had designed cars like the original Fiat 500) is said to have written in his memoirs how he regretted not coming up with the Mini concept first.
With all the attention, ever growing interest, enthusiasm and the value of classic Minis forever rising, I'd say that there's a lot of envy and spite being shown and just a little sour grapes too from many other motor enthusiasts. But whatever you think, the Mini was considered to be a good little earner during it's latter years and as a result remained in full production for over 41 years and it was far more of a success around the world than the so called Mini Metro ever was. The Mini also went on to become Rovers greatest export model during the 1990's and created more goodwill towards BMC, British Leyland, Austin Rover and Rover than any other car.
So as a nation should we be proud of the original Alec Issigonis classic Mini? Well surely only a fool wouldn't be.