The Mini Cooper is one of the world’s most recognisable cars.
It’s one of Britain’s most recognisable exports, one of the world’s most popular cars and an icon for all things compact and cool. The BMC Mini, and the new Mini Cooper, are two cars that are impossible not to spot almost anywhere in the world.
An icon of the 20th century, the original Mini was one of the world’s most important and innovative cars. It used a unique design and engine layout, had enough space to fit four people relatively comfortably and was amazingly affordable.
Over the years, it was released in a huge range of different configurations, starred in some of the world’s most well-known movies and sold well into the millions, making it an icon of British engineering, design and motoring.
From its 40+ year production period to its huge sales popularity in both the UK and overseas, read on to learn seven things you probably didn’t know about the Mini.
The original Mini Cooper was produced until 2000
Although most people remember the original Mini as an icon of Britain during the 1960s, the car was actually produced for over 40 years. The last of the classic Minis rolled off the production line in 2000 – over 40 years after it was first launched.
The Mini was first released in 1959 after three years of development. At first, there were two versions of the Mini: one produced by Austin as the Seven, and a second version from Morris released as the Mini-Minor.
In 1969, with the Mini a mega-successful car, the Mini brand was made its own and new cars were simply branded as “Mini”. Production continued for over 40 years as the Mini grew from a cheap economy car into a famous motoring icon.
The final version of the Mini rolled off the production line in 2000 and was given to the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust. Later in the year, BMW launched the new Mini Cooper, creating a second generation of sales for the iconic compact car.
The Mini passed one million sales just six years after it launched
Although the Mini was never the most popular car in Britain (that honour goes to the Ford Fiesta) or the first British car to sell one million units (the Morris Minor reached that milestone earlier) it was one of the fastest selling British cars ever.
The millionth Mini rolled off the production line in 1965 – just six years after the model originally went on sale. Mini sales increased throughout the 1960s, largely due to the car’s popularity across all classes of society.
Unlike other iconic British cars, the Mini was equally popular with celebrities and the wealthy as it was with people on a limited budget, earning it a reputation as a car that transcended class.
A total of 5,387,862 Minis and Mini variants were sold throughout the car’s entire production run, making it one of the most popular British cars and one of the most popular cars around the world.
Source / CC 2.0
The Mini was designed in response to the 1956 Suez Crisis
Although many people think the Mini was designed in response to the mega-popular Volkswagen Beetle, it was actually designed because of the 1956 Suez Crisis, which convinced many politicians that Britain’s future fuel supply could become limited.
During the crisis, Britain’s fuel supply was cut off and fuel vouchers were issued to car owners. With fuel in short supply, British car designers got to work producing a car that could easily operate without using much fuel.
The front-wheel-drive, four cylinder Mini was incredibly fuel efficient, making it a top seller even after the crisis ended and giving Britain an answer to the increased popularity of fuel efficient cars from Germany, France and later Japan.
The Mini uses a unique design to increase passenger space
Although the classic Mini is an absolutely tiny car, it’s capable of seating four adults in relative comfort. This is because of its unusual engine design, which involves the engine being mounted transversely to free up space in the interior of the car.
The Mini’s engine configuration was revolutionary at the time, resulting in several other car manufacturers, including high-end brands like Lamborghini, copying it to save space and fit larger engines into their own vehicles.
Today, transverse engine mounting is used in a wide range of vehicles, from large buses to small compact cars, to reduce the amount of space required for the car’s engine, simplify production and improve comfort for passengers.
Amazingly, 28 people can fit inside a Mini with the windows shut
Think the modern Mini Cooper is small? Although the new Mini Cooper is slightly bigger than the classic Mini, it’s still one of the smallest four-seater cars available today.
Its small size, of course, hasn’t stopped people from testing just how many people can fit inside it. In 2012, a team of gymnasts from Sussex tested the Mini’s interior space, fitting a total of 28 women inside, albeit probably not all that comfortably.
During the 60s, the Mini was a big part of the British Invasion
In the 1960s, British culture rapidly spread around the world. The British Invasion, as it was dubbed by the media at the time, saw bands like The Beatles dominate the charts around the world and characters like James Bond take over the box office.
At the same time as Britain’s cultural invasion taking over the United States, the Mini was making waves in foreign car markets. The Mini was a top-seller in the USA during the 1960s, as well as a major success in Japan until the end of its production.
Although the Mini was initially a hit in America, it was forced out of the market by a change to safety standards. The Austin America, a larger model, replaced the Mini in 1968 but failed to achieve the huge sales it made in the UK throughout the 1970s.
From the 60s until today, the Mini has always been a movie star
As well as being one of the world’s most popular cars, the Mini was a favourite of British and American film directors searching for an iconic, quirky and fun vehicle for their films.
Legendary 1960s crime-action movie The Italian Job turned the Mini into one of the first on-screen car stars. The Mini was later used in the remake, as well as a massive assortment of movies, from action series to Austin Powers.
Along with James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 and Steve McQueen’s Ford Mustang in Bullitt, the Mini is a car that’s always associated with the movies thanks to its great roles in 1960s cinema.
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