Readers of Autocar have voted the Mini as the “Greatest British Car Ever Made”, despite the fact that the new Mini, produced from 2001 onwards, is built by BMW. However, the classic Mini is British through and through whilst the modern Mini certainly has British DNA and British roots.
The Mini has therefore batted away competition that included the Jaguar E-Type and the McLaren F1. The original Mini was launched in 1959 and became popular throughout Britain due to its dinky size and the fact that it was so cost effective.
The sporty models also added great appeal whilst celebrity owners only enhanced the Mini’s credibility and image. Not only was it relatively economical at the time, as a result of its size, but it was also cheap to get motor insurance for too.
The engine in the Mini was mounted transversely which saved on the length requirements for the front of the car, enabling the whole car to be around just ten foot long in total. Additionally, the Mini shared its oil sump with the transmission.
The original Mini Cooper and Mini Cooper S were released in 1961 and 1963 respectively and these further increased the Mini’s popularity, particularly amongst younger generations. John Cooper, owner of the Cooper Car Company and designer and builder of the F1 and rally cars, was the brains behind the Cooper models due to the fact that he saw some serious competition potential within the Mini.
The very first Cooper model came with a 1.0 litre engine with 55bhp and due to the fact that it was so light, only weighing around 600kg, it was pretty nippy and even by today’s standards it’d be quite quick thanks to the fact that the car is simply so light.
Cooper models that competed in motorsport events were relatively successful with victories in the 1964, 1965 and 1967 Monte Carlo Rally.
These days the Mini is capable of producing over 200bhp, although its kerb weight is significantly higher with the new Mini’s weighing in at around the 1300kg region, which is more than double the original!
Nevertheless, the new Mini is a fantastically popular car that has captured the heart and soul of the original – a small, nimble, fun, fast and relatively cheap car that’ll put a smile on your face.
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