Original Mini Minor (1959)
Superb packaging gives space for four adults, although seats are tiny. Practical touches have become design classics, while on-road experience is sheer fun.
If you were to draw a family tree for the modern car market, 80 per cent of the motors would probably have a direct link to the incredible piece of automotive history you see here.
Although most of the original Mini’s celebrated engineering features had been seen before, it combined these technologies to create something genuinely groundbreaking.
Originally conceived as a short-term solution to the Suez oil crisis, the Mini was the brainchild of British Motor Corporation boss Leonard Lord. He commissioned Alec Issigonis – a maverick but hugely talented engineer – to come up with a solution.
The result became one of the 20th century’s most iconic designs – although Issigonis hated the notion of the car as a fashion item. He claimed the Mini looked the way it did because everything was functional.
Examine Mini number one, and it’s hard to argue against that view.
The famous external body seams were there because they made the car simpler to build, while the rubber cone suspension – which gave the Mini its go-kart handling – was the only set-up that fitted. The sliding windows allowed for the doors to be hollowed out for extra cabin width.
And it’s impossible not to be impressed by the interior packaging. Shorn of all luxuries – a heater was standard only on the DeLuxe – the Mini is an object lesson in how to build a car for a purpose. There’s genuinely space for four adults, while huge door bins and underseat storage can swallow vast amounts of kit.
Production continued for 41 years after Mini number one rolled off the Cowley line, and the MkI was built until 1967. The car enjoyed great highs and lows, surviving the axe on many occasions. And while other firms were soon building safer, more comfortable and faster rivals, none had the Mini’s charm or engineering brilliance. It is, quite simply, the most influential road car ever made.
In this review
- 1IntroductionWe rank and rate the best and worst in exclusive 12-car shoot-out.
- 2Ex-Works Monte Carlo Rally MiniMonte Carlo Cooper was specially kitted out for endurance rallying, and boasts additional dials and controls. It still wears competition stickers with pride.
- 3Original Mini Minor (1959) - currently readingSuperb packaging gives space for four adults, although seats are tiny. Practical touches have become design classics, while on-road experience is sheer fun.
- 4MINI Cooper MkI (2001)With comfortable, well equipped cabin, 2001 car is a world away from original, although its retro styling both inside and out remains faithful to forebear.
- 5MINI JCW World Championship 50Special-edition JCW 50 pays tribute to F1 title-winning team of 1959 and bears the signature of racing legend John Cooper. It also features raft of racy upgrades.
- 6Clubman Mini 1275 GTReworked Mini GT clubman has boxy nose, 1,275cc powerplant, a more luxurious cabin and fresh instruments.
- 7Mini ClubmanFunky Clubman builds on Sixties’ rear barn-door set-up With a unique side arrangement to allow easy access for those in the back. Attention to design and engineering detail is true to original car’s revolutionary concept.
- 8Mini TravellerMinimalist, Colour-coded interior and dependable if diminutive engine give estate all the charm of the standard mini, but Traveller’s larger boot and barn-style rear doors ensure added practicality and versatility.
- 9MINI GP WorksHigh-performance Works gp ensured the first-generation new MINI went out in style, thanks to sporty body mods, stripped-out cabin and potent powerplant.
- 10Mini MkII (1967)It may have been touted as all-new, but 1967 MkII still features spartan principles of its predecessor, including sliding windows, simple door handles and a basic dash
- 11Mini MigliaEye-catching Miglia racer’s low ride height and super stiff suspension give it incredible cornering ability. Inside, carbon fibre dash and modern race instruments provide a touring car feel.
- 12Rover Mini CooperModel shares the same cramped driving position as the original, and familiar Cooper badging ensures it looks the part.
- 13ERA Mini TurboWith potent engine and sporty modifications, ERA MINI Turbo had all the ingredients for success, but appeal of fastest classic variant was hit by recession and sold in small numbers.