Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Epic Battles -

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.

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