Micro-cars powered by motorcycle-sized engines came out in Europe during the late 1950’s. Sales of large cars dropped in Europe due to the 1956 Suez Crisis, and fuel was rationed due to fuel shortage. Answering the call for a “proper miniature car”, the ADO15 (Amalgamated Drawing Office project number 15) or the Mini Cooper was born, thanks to the vision of Leonard Lord, Alec Issigonis, and the Morris design team. The Mini Cooper became a British icon and was voted as the second most influential car of the 20th century, next to the Ford Model T.
1959 to 1967: Mark I Mini
The first Mini was launched in August 26, 1959, and it was available in two variants: the Austin Seven and the Morris Mini-Minor. The Mini integrated a split radiator cowl, pivoting quadrant on radius arm for the handbrake cable, and a three-degree castor angle during this generation. In 1961, the Mini Cooper was launched, and it sported welded wheels instead of the old riveted ones. The new hydroelastic suspension system gave the Mini Cooper a softer ride, but it increased the car’s weight and production cost. Automotive Products (AP) also designed a four-speed automatic transmission for the Mini--this model was called the “Mini-Matic”.
1967 to 1970: Mark II Mini
A larger rear window, redesigned front grille, and other cosmetic changes were adopted on the Mark II Mini. The engine options for the Mini ranged from an 850cc to a 1,275cc displacement. In 1969, the Mini became the star of the film,“The Italian Job," starring Michael Cain. The Mark II Mini spawned various variants including the Wolseley Hornet, Riley Elf, Morris Mini Traveller, Austin Mini Countryman, Mini Van, Mini Moke, and the Mini Pickup just to name a few.
1961 to 2000: Mini Cooper and Cooper S
Alec Issigonis and John Cooper collaborated to create the Mini Cooper with the blessing of the BMC management. Powered by a 997cc engine, the Mini Cooper had a race-tuned engine, twin SU carburetors, front disc brakes, and a closer-ratio gearbox. A more powerful Mini Cooper S was developed, and it featured a 1,071cc engine, large servo-assisted disc brakes, and a nitride-steel crankshaft. During the 1964, 1965 and 1967 Monte Carlo Rally, the Mini Cooper S earned acclaim and victories. The Mini Cooper wasn’t seen in the market for nearly 20 years, but in the early 90’s it was relaunched once more. The new Mini Coopers had fuel-injected 1,275cc engines, various safety improvements, and a front-mounted radiator.
2000 to Present: The BMW Mini
BMW took control of the Rover Group in 1994 and disposed some of its companies due to massive losses. BMW decided to keep the Mini and allowed Rover to manufacture the run-out models. It offered four versions: the Cooper Sport, Mini Classic Cooper Sport, Mini Classic Cooper and the Mini Classic Seven. A red Cooper Sport was the last Mini built by the Rover Group in October 2000. A total of 5,387,862 Mini Coopers were built over the years. BMW now owns the Mini and the company will continue its heritage and classic styling for the next generation.