The Iconic Mini – “The Road Show” on Duggystone Radio
Written by kirk on October 25, 2019
Like all 3 of the Top Gear presenters Rolled into One
written by; Jack Mortimer our resident car “Egg Head”
Hello and welcome to this, our very first write up of The Road Show for Duggystone Radio.
I’m Jack Mortimer and if you’re a petrol head like me then buckle up, sit back and prepare yourself for a wild ride of motoring meyhem! Now with it being our first show I felt that we needed something iconic, and me being British there was really one car. It was small on the outside, yet big on the inside. It was a humble second car used for the school run, yet it won several rallies across the globe. It cost under £500 new but it was pride and joy of the likes of Spike Milligan, George Harrison and Enzo Ferarri. Of course, the car we’re talking about is the mighty Mini.
In the 1950s Britain the Suez Crisis skyrocketed the cost of petrol, creating the need for economical cars. Of course, the ever efficient Germans were the first to step in with weird and wonderful bubble cars like the BMW Isetta and the Meserchmitt Tiger. And, whilst they were quite popular their unconventional nature wasn’t liked by us Brits. Enter Issigonis, an architect that previously found fame in the British Motor Corporation through the Morris Minor. He saw the need to make an economical car that felt like a big car. Amazingly, it only took him 6 months to create prototypes of the Mini, along with all its innovations. Looking at Issigonis’ design shows how much emphasis was put onto maximising space.
The Mini was the first British car to place its engine horizontally which meant the bonnet could be shorter and the car had front wheel drive, meaning better grip and no pesky drivetrain filling up floorspace in the cabin. An impressive 80% of the Mini was passenger space, giving it the ability to seat four adults and their luggage in relative comfort. And so the car launched in 1959, using a pokey 848cc engine that allowed it to reach over 70mph, impressive for 50s economy motoring. However for that first year it failed miserably, with only 8000 selling. Ironically, even compared to the bubble cars, the Mini was considered too unconventional to be mainstream. But BMC didn’t let a lack of convention stop them. 80 Mini’s were donated to celebrities who personalised and cherished them. And it showed, the Mini soon became the trendy, classless, liberal vehicle of the swinging sixties.
But the Mini wasn’t just cool to look at, it was cool to drive. Racing driver John Cooper noticed how sporty the Mini felt like to drive and set about modifying it. Out went the 848cc engine and in went a whole litre’s worth. Soon, the Mini Cooper was here. The little £500 econobox soon found itself winning the Monte Carlo Rally three times over and that was enough to make it desirable. And… well, Mini’s kept on going, and people kept on buying.
Naturally the now British Leyland Motor Corporation wanted to revise the car to keep up with the competition with the likes of the square nosed Mini Clubman in 1969 and the totally new mini metro in 1980, however, it seemed that nothing could outlast the original 1959 design. Well, apart from when it did. Yes, over time, all of BL’s competitors moved over to more practical hatchbacks and the Mini was nothing more than a noval (yet no cheaper) alternative. Just before the turn of the century, the BMW designed Mini was released. It’s bigger and more expensive, yes, but in it there are so many design elements that heart back to one man and his vision: Alec Issigonis and his wizardary on wheels, the BMC Mini.
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