The story of MINI is a moving one on how a small economy car came to be an icon of the British popular culture of the 1960’s and become one of the world’s most influential cars. It is a story of great engineering innovations by Sir Alec Issigonis, of historical giant killings in racing and great successes in the sales department too. The founding principles were to build a car that was not only energy efficient but also managed to fit a lot of function in a small package. MINI has a rich history, and the following story will walk you through its illustrious history.
The origin of the MINI
The year was 1957, and the fuel prices were rocketing largely due to the Suez crisis. The status quo fuel guzzling cars were beginning to make less sense by the day, and someone needed to save the day. The hero was to be none other but the great engineer Alec Issigonis under the orders of Sir Leonard, head of the Morris Company. The challenge was to design a small, affordable car that offered fuel efficiency; and Issigonis delivered that and more. He delivered a small car with great passenger capacity and stability in tight turns thanks to his ideas to push the wheels all the way to the corners and change the conventional placing of the engine. The first MINI was born, and it came to represent the youthful culture of the 1960’s.
Unprecedented performance, the birth of a racer
Issigonis’ innovations as he sought more passenger space had an intended pleasant side effect; they made the MINI a standout performer. For instance, the wheels at the corners ensured it had wide stance while the innovative engine placement provided great balance and stability by keeping weight on the front tires. Great British racer John Cooper discovered that with a more powerful engine and other small tweaks, the MINI could be a true racing demon. That was the birth of the Classic MINI Cooper 997.
The Classic took the racing world by storm, and it dominated the Monte Carlo Rally from 1964 to 1967, outgunning and outracing more powerful but not equally stable cars. It won all of those year’s editions, but the 1966 winner was disqualified under controversial conditions, leaving it with three official wins.
Great global success
The impressive features of the MINI were not lost to the rest of the world, and sales across Europe and Asia were impressive. It established itself as a major international brand, with millions of sales. It was so popular that in 1999, it was voted the European car of the century and just missed out to Ford T on the outright global title. By then, over 5 million MINIs had been sold.
By this time, the company was under the BMW Company after the automaker giant bought the Rover Group (previously BMC) and the MINI with it. The MINI and the Rover fraternity as a whole was not very successful under BMW, and consistent losses led to BMW selling off most of the companies under Rover Group in 2000. The only thing that BMW retained was the MINI brand name.
The present and the future
The MINI has been reborn since the turn of the century, albeit a little bit different. The new MINIs resemble the old one by outward design, but the modern technology has led to more advanced additions. Current MINIs still have that edge in performance and fuel efficiency, and more recent additions to the line include the MINI Clubman and the John Cooper Works. The future looks bright for this great company.