Really, to call this a “mini” history would be a mistake, but we’re only referring to the length of this article. Indeed, Mini idea has been around for thirty years, its first inception in England in 1957, the first cars making it to production in 1959.
The result of merging of two existing automobile companies, Morris Motors and Austin Motor Company, British Motor Corporation was formed in 1952. After World War II, constantly fluctuating fuel prices weren’t advantageous to automobile companies in England, especially the big sedans that were all the rage of the day.
After one particularly harsh spike in fuel prices, following the 1956 Suez Crisis, England was flooded with German “bubble” cars. Morris designer Leonard Lord would have none of that, and endeavored to create “a proper miniature car” and get rid of the bubble imports.
The result was something dramatic and never-before-seen. The Mini was, well, “mini,” and and had lots of passenger space, thanks to the unique idea of pushing the wheels out to the corners and installing a longitudinal engine and integrated transmission. Ostensibly, it was also “fun,” as loads of future rally racers would soon discover.
Originally, the new Mini was marketed under the old marques, such as the Austin Seven and Morris Mini-Minor. In the mid-1960s, the performance-oriented Mini Cooper and Mini Cooper “S” were overwhelmingly successful in rally racing, winning the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964, ’65, ’66, and ’67. The ’66 win was overturned by a highly-disputed disqualification for unsanctioned headlights.
By 1969, Mini was marketed as it’s own marque, though it was marketed again as the Austin Mini in 1980 and as the Rover Mini in 1988. Interestingly, BMW acquired the Rover Group in the mid-1990s, only to sell off most of it just a few years later. Smartly, BMW retained the rights to build Mini cars, now stylized to MINI.
While modern MINI cars are still reminiscent of their two-door classic Mini predecessors, they’re replete with modern technology and are available in a number of variants. There are two-door, four-door, sports, economy, convertible, even all-wheel drive variants. What really sets MINI apart is its almost limitless range of customization – you can make your MINI truly “yours,” possibly unique in all the world.
Whereas Mini sold some 5.4 million “Classic Mini” from 1959 to 2000, an average of 132,000 cars per year over 41 years, BMW’s involvement was a revolution. Since the “New MINI” launch, in 2001, over 3 million have been sold around the world, currently selling nearly 340,000 per year.
Mini was uniquely “British,” practically the symbol of youthful rebellious independence that so engendered 1960s England, but it went so much further. As it turns out, the small car was so affordable that practically anyone could enjoy it, and it’s appeal has crossed lines both political and cultural. Today, Mini is marketed in over 100 countries across six continents – only because there are no cars in Antarctica.