Friday, April 27, 2007

The Mini: small on the outside, big inside

Towards the end of the 1950’s, the Suez Crisis created a fuel shortage in Great Britain and the need arose of a new kind of small car. In 1957, Sir Alec Issigonis designed the Mini at the request of the British Motor Corporation (BMC) in Birmingham. This new car had to be very small in appearance but spacious inside. The Mini has two doors, four seats and a large boot for luggage. The configuration of the Mini, characterized by transverse engine and front-wheel drive, would influence a generation of car makers. The story of the Mini started in the United Kingdom but its production rapidly spread all over the world. At the beginning, the Mini appeared under the brand names “Austin” and “Morris”. The first time the name “Mini” was used was in 1961.

In the 1960’s, the Mini became a real cultural icon and even a fashion statement. Most of the celebrities owned a Mini Cooper, including the Beatles, Enzo Ferrari, Clint Eastwood, Paul Newman and Brigitte Bardot.

This car also appears in several movies, such as Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.
The Mini has won a lot of awards troughout the years. The most noteworthy are “Car of the Century” in 1995 and “Number One Classic Car of All Time” in 1996.

In total, 5.3 million Minis have been sold since 1957. The Mini is “the most popular British car ever made”. There are several variants of the Mini, including the Mini Countryman, the Mini Van, the Mini Pick-up and also sports versions. These sporty kinds of Mini had a lot of succes as rally cars and even won the Monte Carlo Rally three times in the 1960’s.

In 2001, the production stopped and BMW took over the brand name to launch the New MINI, also called BMW MINI. The name is written in capital letters to distinguish it from the traditional Mini. Some people are very sceptical about this New MINI and think that it cannot replace the original Mini since it is not its natural successor. However, the majority of Mini drivers like the new car and even think that it is safer than the original one, according to the modern principles of manufacture. The BMW MINI is indeed larger and heavier than the classic Mini. Several models are available on the market. One example is the Mini Cooper Convertible, equipped with an automatic roof.

By Anne & Delphine

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