This year, the Mini is 60 years old. In that time, it has been an ever-present in the automobile industry, not just in Britain but worldwide.
Engrained into the history of British culture, the Mini is one of the UK’s proudest exports and biggest design icons. It’s certainly been an interesting journey to where it is today but, even through a number of ownership and design changes, the Mini has managed to maintain its popularity as a universally loved, fun-to-drive vehicle.
Here’s a brief history of the Mini from then to now.
The Mini was born out of the Suez Crisis in the late 1950s. With fuel in very short supply, the popularity of smaller vehicles like German bubble cars and Italy’s Fiat 500 was skyrocketing.
In response to this, the British Motor Corporation (BMC) looked to introduce a ‘proper miniature car’ to the market, and the Mini Mk I was officially released in 1959.
Designed by Sir Alec Issigonis, the Mini was launched under BMC’s two main brands: Austin & Morris. With its unique look and engine layout, it immediately gained popularity and market sales soared through the 1960s.
By the end of the 60s, the Mini had cemented itself in British pop culture, becoming a stalwart of the ‘swinging sixties’ era, a successful rally vehicle and even starring in 1969’s The Italian Job.
The standard Mini’s design was so iconic that, between its beginnings and the turn of the millennium, barely any design changes were made. Over the next forty years, various forms of the model were produced, including vans, pickups and a utility vehicle intended for the British Army. In October 2000, the final Mini based on the ‘classic’ design, the Mk VII, rolled off the production line.
The German Takeover: 1994 Onwards
In 1994, German manufacturer BMW purchased the Mini Brand from Rover as it looked to diversify its production line with more SUVs and compact cars.
Things stayed fairly quiet for the next seven years, with BMW releasing occasional concept designs that never came to fruition. In 2001, however, BMW released the first of the new generation of Minis in the form of the MINI One Hatch.
Significantly bigger than the two-door classic, the MINI One stayed true to several of the original design concepts but brought the brand into the 21st century with a slicker build, personal customisation options and impressive performance upgrades.
Praised for its excellent handling while still maintaining its ‘fun’ driving style, BMW’s design managed to find a sweet spot appealing to both diehard Mini fans of old and to drivers new to the brand. BMW would continue its success from then until now, releasing various new concepts and keeping MINI firmly embedded in the popular auto market.
The Mini of Today
Today, six decades on from its inception, the brand is arguably stronger than ever. The MINI comes in five main styles: the 3-door, 5-door, Convertible, Clubman and Countryman.
With over 60,000 MINIs sold in the UK alone in 2018 and hundreds of thousands worldwide, the brand is looking at updating again in the modern, eco-conscious market. 2019 can expect to see MINI’s first fully electric vehicle to go alongside their hybrid line released in 2017, which future proofs the brand for the foreseeable future.
With continuing evolution in its design and performance, and an impressive ability to stay relevant in a highly competitive vehicle market, it looks like the MINI is here to stay for a long time yet.
If you’re looking to get behind the wheel, Peter Vardy offers a full range of new and approved used models.