ERA Mini Turbo
With 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.
The Mini’s history is full of famous variants that have gone on to become classics in their own right. From the first Cooper to the Traveller estate, the many versions enjoy a wide and passionate following around the world.
Except, perhaps, for this one! You are looking at the quickest official production Mini ever built – the 1989 ERA Mini Turbo. Fast, good-looking and exceptionally well made, it was the spiritual successor to the Cooper and the 1275 GT.
Designed and engineered by Brit racing firm ERA, it was essentially a standard 1989 Mini fitted with the Metro Turbo’s 94bhp 1,275cc motor. It had a chunky bodykit, updated cabin and raft of suspension and braking modifications. Immaculately built throughout, the ERA Turbo was pitched as the ultimate no-hassle, no-risk special. ERA would take the standard cars and convert them, while Austin Rover would sell them through its dealers.
And, as the majority of parts were existing Austin Rover components, even servicing was simple. So, why didn’t the ERA become a big seller? Although Austin Rover marketed the car officially via its dealerships, the arrangement with ERA was complicated and, even with a £9,030 asking price, neither party was getting rich on the deal. Also, while interest in the car was strong, orders were hit by a global recession and after a mere 436 were produced, ERA and Austin Rover called it a day.
Today, unsurprisingly, the ERA is a real collectors’ item coveted by Mini fanatics the world over. Our version – owned by Keith Miller – is one of 346 models exported to Japan during the car’s two-year production run. Although time hasn’t been kind to certain aspects of the design, the Dennis Adams-styled bodykit and arch-filling alloys are real head-turners. And while the performance may seem tame by the standards set by the current crop of 200bhp pocket rockets, the combination of that torquey turbo and the Mini’s famously agile chassis is enough to quicken the pulse.
While ERA sales were modest, it proved to Austin Rover bosses that the Mini still had the potential to pull in new buyers. It paved the way for the highly successful Rover Mini Coopers of the late Nineties, and will hold its place in history as the fastest classic Mini ever.
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)Superb 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 Turbo - currently readingWith 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.