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The Orginal Mini Cooper

Fads | August 27, 2021

The upgraded up racing Mini Cooper S. (motorbiscuit)

Endless ill-conceived sports cars account for much of Britain’s automotive history, however, the original Mini Cooper stands apart. Voted the “European Car of the Century” in 1999 by 130 motoring journalists, the original mini exuded innovation and plucky personality. Inspired by the Suez oil crisis of 1957 and a post World War II economy, the Mini offered affordability on multiple levels. Although designed on solid principles, even its inventors, Sir Leonard Lord of the Morris Company, and his engineer, Alec Issigonis, could not have predicted such rabid popularity. The original Mini hit everyone differently and this is its history.

The Mini Coopers of today dwarf the original. (BMW)

Origins And Innovations

To fulfill Sir Lord’s wish: create a small affordable and economical car that could carry four adults, Issigonis made two paradigm-shifting changes. First, he pushed the wheels to the outermost corners of the car. The larger wheelbase set the car low like a go-kart, allowing for nimble turning. It also turned the original Mini Cooper into a sprightly speedster.

Next, the engineer installed a transverse engine which gave passengers maximum space despite the tiny packaging. Quick and spacious for a car the size of a loafer, the Mini won the hearts and minds of England.

The '67 Mini that won the Monte Carlo rally. (bmwblog)

Small But Speedy

As Minis flew off the lots, the British Motoring Company realized their pint-sized people carrier could do more than enamore buyers. Its pitbull-like pedigree made it a racer. To turn it into a rally car, they beefed up the engine and added bigger brakes. One or two more adjustments later and the Classic Mini Cooper 997 was unleashed. In ‘62, Pat Moss, a trailblazing female rally driver, took the punchy Mini to its first motorsport victory at the Netherlands Tulip Rally.

Eventually, the Mini challenged the big boys, taking the checkered flag three times at the prestigious Monte Carlo rally between 1964 to 1967. Those victories help fan the flames of the Mini’s growing popularity. Quickly, it became the quintessential car of the Groovy Era.

Don't get between a McQueen and his Mini. (schompMINI)

A Mini Lane

Paul McCartney, Steve McQueen, Mick Jagger, and some old guy named Enzo Ferrari all cherished their Mini Coopers. In fact, all Beatles owned Minis! McCartney’s even made an appearance in their “Magical Mystery Tour” movie. As McQueen’s good buddy Lee Brown said, “Back in the 1960s if you didn’t have a Ferrari and a Mini Cooper, you just weren’t a movie star.” By the turn of the 21st century over 5 million Mini Cooper found proud owners all over the world. It came in second to the Godfather of cars, the Model T, for Car of the Century.

George Harrison and his beloved Mini. (reddit)

Pint-Sized Personality

Eventually, other car companies copied the Mini’s compact blueprint to great success. By the ‘80s, the era of excess, the Mini lost its unconventional appeal. It mustered a few valiant comebacks, most on the back of movies like the “Italian Job” and “Mr. Bean.” By 2001, BMW owned the rights to Mini Cooper and remade it into their own German efficient vision. The new Minis function fine but grew to stretch the definition of “compact car.” Nevertheless, the spirit of the original Mini remains history.

Tags: Car & Auto | Mini Cooper

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Kellar Ellsworth

Writer

Kellar Ellsworth was born and raised in Hawaii. He is an avid traveler, surfer and lover of NBA basketball. He wishes he could have grown up in the free love era!