MINI Car History: Small in Size, Big on Legacy

Get Ready for a Mighty Adventure: Unearth the Charming MINI Car History

1920 – 1929 – Alexander Issigonis

Greek by origin and British by adoption, Sir Alexander Issigonis inherits his father’s interest in technology and machines. After his father’s death, he moved with his mother to England, wherein in 1924, he bought his first car: a Singer with a Weymann body made of leather, which he used to travel around much of Europe. During his adventure, he suffered all kinds of technical problems. A fact that encourages him to study, upon his return, Mechanical Engineering. Although he does not get excellent grades, he passes and gets his first job as a technical and commercial draftsman at London’s automotive technology design office. It is then the year 1929 and, although no one can imagine it, the birth of a myth is near.

1931 – 1940 – Accumulate experience

Issigonis moved to Coventry in 1934 to work in the Projects design team of the automobile manufacturer Humber Ltd. There he participated in the development of the independent suspension system. Two years later, he was hired by Morris Motors due to his skill in-chassis adjustment.

1941 – 1950 – The “Mosquito” project

Fully installed at Morris Motor in 1941, the “Mosquito” project began. The idea is to shape a compact four-seater car, ideal for the post-war period. In just three years, Issigonis and his team manage to finish the prototype. Starting in 1948, the Morris Minor became the brand’s most successful post-war model.

1951 – 1960 – The Classic Mini was born

In 1952, with the merger of Morris and Austin Motor, the British Motor Corporation (BMC) was created. Although the name of Issigonis appears on his staff, he decides to disassociate himself from the new organization that does not seem to give free rein to his creative spirit. He then goes to Alvis, where he works on the development of a luxury saloon. 

The project failed due to a lack of financial resources, and only three years later, he returned to BMC as deputy technical director of the Austin plant in Longbridge. His challenge is to conceive three new series aimed at the small, medium, small segments and Luxury. The first, dubbed the Classic Mini, was released in 1959; three years later comes the four-door Morris 1100, destined for the intermediate segment; and, in 1964, the Austin 1800, a very spacious car.

1961 – 1970 – The Mini family grows.

Although he insists that “I did not invent the Mini, I only designed it,” the truth is that the model’s success makes Isssigonis famous worldwide. He was appointed technical director and member of the board of directors of Austin Motor Company in 1961, and, two years later, he held the same positions at BMC. In 1967 he was appointed a member of the Royal Society, the most respected British research association. 

Finally, the Queen of England granted him the knighthood two years later. The 1960s also saw the growth of the Mini family: in 1961, the Mini Pick-Up truck, the smallest cargo car, arrived on the market. How many are known until then; half a year later, it is followed by two more noble character variants, the Wolseley Hornet and the Riley Elf.

Nevertheless, with the arrival of the Cooper, the legend of the classic Mini takes hold. John Cooper commissions the sports version: he intends to manufacture a small GT based on the classic Mini, with 55 hp and a displacement of 997 cc

The model is so popular that Cooper and Issignonis have no choice but to launch an even more powerful one. Thus, in 1963, the Mini Cooper S, with 70 hp and brake booster system, arrived 1963. In 1964, BMC presented yet another variant of the classic Mini: the Moke, a four-seater car without a roof. By the middle of the decade, the millionth classic Mini rolls off the production lines. Not content with all this and without having yet completed seven years in the market, BMC decides that it is time to renew the Mini. 

A more powerful engine (38 CV) is then mounted, and the Clubman model is added, slightly larger and with a somewhat different design front. At the same time, the production of the Mini Cooper ceased, which was replaced by the flagship of the Clubman series, with a 59 hp engine, and christened the Mini 175 GT. 

Before the end of the decade, the first Mini emblem. Ten years after the first model’s launch, the identities of the Austin Mini and Morris Mini-Minor twins become one, to go down in history as “Mini.” At the same time, the parent company changes its name to become British Leyland Motor Company. As a result, the emblem supports the word “Mini” on the blue pillars of Leyland.

1971 – 1980 – Three million Classic Mini sold

If the previous decade is successful for the classic Mini, that of the ’70s is not far behind. In 1972, thirteen years after its launch, BMC sold three million units of this model, already considered a classic.

1981 – 1990 – Fewer models, but the same success

Between 1980 and 1983, the Clubman, Estate, and Van versions ceased to be built. Only the classic Mini with a 1,000 cc and 40 hp engine remains. However, the clientele remains loyal to the brand, which, in 1986, broke a new record with the five millionth unit.

1991 – 2000 – Return of the Cooper

At the beginning of the decade of the ’90, Rover Group, responsible for the classic Mini at that time, recognized the sales opportunities of the Mini Cooper and decided to make it again. Increasingly stringent exhaust gas regulations put an end to the production of the 1,000cc carburettor engine in 1992: from then on, all models have only the 1,275cc injection engine. The convertible version had been developed and sold in Germany a few years earlier. Finally, the production of the classic Mini officially ceased in 2000.

2001 – 2009 – A new chapter in the history

The last classic Mini, number 5,300,000, was manufactured in the year 2000. However, the story of this myth of English origin has not ended. After 41 years, the manufacturer BMW wrote a new chapter in 2001 to launch the Mini One and Mini Cooper models. Again, the Mini becomes a cult vehicle.

After the acquisition of MINI by the German brand, an ambitious project has been launched, growing the family with new models such as the Countryman or Paceman.

Leave a Comment