The Revolutionary Mini
By the mid-1950s, with Britain starting to recover from the Second World War, fuel was in short supply and petrol rationing was reintroduced. While sales of big cars slumped, there was a boom in more economical vehicles. The British Motor Corporation charged Alec Issigonis with designing something that would actually look like a car, hold four adults, and be small and economical. His design was a revolutionary space-saving front-wheel-drive that for the first time mounted the engine transversely. Virtually all small front-wheel-drive cars that followed employed a similar configuration.
The Racing Mini
The Mini’s popularity soon spread to the world of motor sport when racing driver and carmaker, John Cooper, saw its potential for competition. He developed the Mini Cooper with a racing-tuned engine, twin SU carburettors, a closer-ratio gear-box and front disc brakes. Its superior handling led to 22 victories in important international rallies, including three wins at the famous Monte Carlo Rally. A good number of Mini Coopers are now owned by people of all ages who use them for racing, rallying and stunts, proving that the Mini today is as cool as it always was.
The Swinging Sixties
Although many celebrities like The Beatles, Steve McQueen, Twiggy and even Her Majesty The Queen were proud owners of a Mini, its reasonable price tag made it affordable to almost everyone. This was a decade when the number of car owners doubled from 5.6 million to 11.8 million and London saw its first traffic wardens; it was the era of Carnaby Street, mods and rockers, and mini skirts. The Swinging Sixties was the Mini’s heyday and it soon became the country’s most popular car.
A British Classic
The British Motor Company’s most economical car got its name from an abbreviation of the Latin word for ‘smallest’ minimus. Within a few years of its launch, the Mini was all the rage, featuring in both big and small screen film productions including The Italian Job, the 1969 movie starring Michael Caine which made international stars of the much-loved British cars, turning them into a motoring icon. The Mini has won many awards over the years including ‘Car of the Century’, ‘Number One Classic Car of All Time’ and ‘European Car of the Century’ in a worldwide Internet poll in 1999.