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.

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