BMC MINI SELLING A FUTURE ICON
In 1956, Britain was beginning to boom following years of postwar austerity, but then came the Suez Crisis, which, among many atrocities, reintroduced petrol rationing and microcars. These were so hated by BMC chairman, Leonard Lord, that he vowed to get them off the road.
Designer Alec Issigonis was told to come up with a new small car. The word ‘revolutionary’ wasn’t included in the original brief but when the Mini appeared on 26 August 1959 the car was just that.
‘Wizadry on Wheels’ declared a proud BMC, doting on its magical new baby. The well-proven BMC A-series engine shared its oil with the gearbox on this car, which also employed Sir Alec Moulton’s rubber cone suspension.
Nothing matched the Mini for its handling and sheer ‘chuckability.’ The newcomer initially had an excellent press,
Motor being moved to say in August 1959: ‘ This compact car, priced at only £537 6s 8d offers a remarkable combination of speed with economy, roominess with compactness and controllability with comfort.’
A Mini van arrived the following year and an estate in 1961, along with lavishly-trimmed Riley Elf and Wolseley Hornet variants with different front and rear panels. Engine capacity would also be increased to an optional 997cc, later 998cc, 1098cc and optional 1275cc, among others.
Most importantly, 1961 also saw the first Mini Coopers introduced, leading to world class race and rally victories and even more accolades for a car which, with its initial teething problems largely sorted out, would appeal to just about everyone.
Every variant of Mini, including the square-snouted Clubman, sold well over the years, contributing to total sales of 5.5 million over 41 years of production. To the surprise of even some ardent admirers, the cars would enjoy something of a renaissance in the 1990s with the revived Cooper.
Morris Mini Minor variant of the car was ‘Wizardry on Wheels’. The familiar Mini name was not otherwise used until 1961 – some two years after launch.
Austin Mini began life as the Se7en – a trendy take on a legendary name.