© 2006 NMOC
MINI 'buggy' heads wild LA stars
They call it La La Land - and judging by these concept cars, the famous Californian city is certainly living up to its name! Starring at the Los Angeles Motor Show in November 2006, this amazing machine was certain to attract big crowds. But although they look like flights of fancy, they have a serious side, too. Each model has been penned by some of the world's leading design students to offer an environmentally friendly solution for the future - and some of the ideas could well make it on to production cars. Perhaps the most eye-catching is MINI's BioMoke . Resembling a beach buggy, it features huge wheels on an extended track, and has an interior with no windscreen. Incredibly, the BioMoke's body is biodegradable and is reduced to compost as it reaches the end of its five-year lifecycle!
MINI's chiller thriller
How cool is that? You can now buy a MINI fridge! Available in the maker's exclusive colours , the fridges also get bonnet stripes and the hatch's winged badge. But MINI isn't putting car building on ice - only 250 of the FAB28MCS units will be available worldwide, making it one of the most exclusive fridges ever. Expected to cost around £1,350, the stylish MINI cooler will be on sale only in official SMEG outlets.
Issigonis v MINI What would the inventor of the Mini, Sir Alec Issigonis, have made of the new model, and in particular the new MINI Cooper S Convertible? The chances are that Sir Alec would have been appalled. He would have thought the retro styling frivolous, as he disdained all styling; he would have hated the poor use of space in the new car " as big as a Maxi outside but not really bigger than his inside; and he would have been apoplectic at the idea that 'his' very own creation would be built by a German company.
Despite his family connections (he was a distant relative of the one- time BMW boss Bernd Pischetsrieder) and his Greek origins, Issigonis's affection for England was so pronounced it became a little Germanophobic. In the MINI S Convertible on the windscreen there is a warning sticker about fitting child seats. It is headed 'Achtung!' - Issigonis would have exited the car immediately.
We know all this because " after many years during which both he and his reputation were rather neglected " two scholarly biographies of Issigonis have come along at once by Gillian Bardsley and by Jonathan Wood, and they make for entertaining reading. He died in 1988, when his little miracle was still rolling off the production lines at Longbridge. It seemed then that production wouldn't last much longer, but it was to carry on until 2000, and it would outlast its cousin and would-be successor, the Metro.
Both authors come to much the same sort of conclusions about Issigonis's career. In a nutshell it is this: the Mini concept that 'Issy' created for his beloved British Motor Corporation (BMC) in 1959 was technically brilliant, as was the 1100 and even the ungainly 1800 that followed them. The problem was that the cars were expensive to make, had too many niggling faults that led to costly warranty claims and made little, if any, profit.
Issigonis's obsession with design purity and maximising interior space was fine on the Mini and 1100, but less well advised on the bigger models such as the 1800 and Maxi, and those understyled, unglamorous machines proved to be commercial disasters. It wasn't Issigonis's fault that no one challenged his autocratic ways and arrogance when he was running things in the 1960s, but his refusal to listen to others didn't help his beloved BMC to survive. It made a loss in 1967, was taken over by Leyland Motors the year after, went bust and was nationalised in 1975, and bought, sold and dismembered by British Aerospace and BMW, with the final closure of Longbridge. It took a long time, but the seeds of financial failure were sown in the 1960s, and possibly by Issigonis, that flawed genius, himself. Design icons are all very well, but if they are to prosper they must make a return.
One of remnants of the old BMC/British Leyland empire that has survived is the Cowley works, now known as BMW Group Plant Oxford and home to the new MINI after the assembly lines were moved there from Longbridge.
BMW was warned that its new MINI would make mini-profits, too. We don't know how much the company does actually make on them, but given that you can easily spend more than £30,000 on speccing up a MINI to your own tastes there must be a bit of margin in there somewhere.
MINI Odyssey - Three MINIs, Ten Countries, One Giant Adventure
Three MINI Cooper S hatches completed the final leg of a 49-day, thrill-a-minute adventure yesterday. At the end of the 8,000-mile journey that took them from South Africa to England across ten countries, they arrived at Plant Oxford, the home of MINI.
set off from Johannesburg on 8 March 2006, this overland voyage saw the
trio of MINIs navigate the eastern side of Africa, travelling through
Botswana , Zambia , Tanzania , Kenya , Ethiopia , Sudan and Egypt . Decorated
top-to-toe in South African flags, the MINIs were tested at every opportunity
as they sped across Africa 's diverse terrain, conquering demanding mountain
paths, vast expanses of desert land and gazelle-filled grassy plains.
Great little car, literally, to the furthest extremes.”
The continent-conquering MINIs needed very few modifications. Aside from raising the
ground clearance to approximately 230mm, changing the shock absorbers and adding steel rims and robust tyres, the cars were mechanically identical to the MINIs available to customers.
A further requirement for MINI Odyssey was that each MINI Cooper S be essentially self-sufficient for the entire journey. This involved the removal of the rear seats and interior cladding in order to accommodate the supplies needed. Each car carried two spare wheels, food and all sleeping equipment required by the team.
The drivers were led by Roger Pearce, Chairman of Motorsport South Africa and three-time winner of the South African Historic Championship. Steve Mearns , journalist and rally driver, took charge of the second MINI. Matthew Nash, a certified MINI mechanic and racecar builder, piloted the third.
Pearce said: “For this trip to succeed we needed a top quality car. North of Kenya the roads just deteriorate into stony desert tracks and when we reached Ethiopia and explained our journey to some interested locals, they laughed in disbelief. They were sceptical that we'd make it in anything smaller than a four-wheel drive truck, yet here we are! Our adventure is now complete and none of the MINIs suffered a single mechanical breakdown.”
The team put the MINI trio through their final few paces as they crossed the Mediterranean by ferry into Italy . They then headed up through France and finally reached England .
The entire MINI Odyssey was broadcast live via the MINI Odyssey website, www.miniodyssey.co.za.
Famous coach building name returns with a new spin on Mini luxury.
The Radford coachbuilt Mini is back. Forty years after the London coachbuilder made the original Mini a celebrity icon with its hand-crafted Radford Mini de Ville, the new company, Harold Radford Coachbuilders ( London ) Ltd., is applying its coach building skills and individual expression to the MINI.
Rare, opulent, with unique celebrity status, the original Radford coach built Mini was the ultimate motoring designer label of the 'Swinging Sixties'. With its burr walnut dashboard, hide interior, opulent trim, and exclusive personal options, coachbuilder Harold Radford elevated the Issigonis creation to celebrity status for star-studded customers. All four of the Beatles had Radford coachbuilt Minis, and Peter Sellers bought one as a present for Britt Ekland - the couple famously pictured at Harold Radford's main London dealer with Sellers at the wheel of the car, driving out of a giant birthday cake.
Today, the Radford fame is rekindled in the MINI via exclusive coachbuilt conversions, the cars individually created to customer preference, echoing the same Radford craftsmanship and unique luxury status as before. Every new Radford coachbuilt MINI is hand-crafted to specific customer preference. And, as choice is limitless, 'style profiles' enable customers to specify a bespoke car that will precisely match their character and mood. It's what Harold Radford did so successfully 40 years ago, nothing has changed.
Radford have taken the wraps off an example of a Radford coachbuilt MINI. Very much for the individualist who is seeking to combine luxury with ultra-performance, the MINI, based on a Cooper S, sports an up rated, supercharged engine developing 65% more power, adjustable, lowered suspension, up rated AP brakes, magnificent Michelin-shod 18" Konig alloy wheels, colour coordinated bodywork, and a sumptuous, fully re-trimmed Red/Charcoal Alcantara interior with deep pile carpets, additional instrumentation, and more interior refinements. A MINI by Radford to this specification would cost in the region of £30,000, dependent on factory specification, however, as all cars are tailored exactly to customer preference, no two cars are priced the same. To view the company's extensive portfolio of services, visit the website www.radford-coachbuilders.com
Shock Ban for MINI drop-top
Learning to drive in a MINI Conver tible is probably every teenager's dream. But now that's all it will ever be, as the sporty Cabriolet has been banned from test centres across the UK . The drastic decision was made by the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) on Health and Safety grounds, after one examiner complained pupils' rear view was blocked by the drop-top's roll bars.
It was discovered when instructor Keith Howells from Llandrindod Wells, Powys, contacted Auto Express. He has passed more than a dozen learners in his MINI Convertible already this year. But Keith is "disgusted" he's being forced to trade his Convertible in for a hard-top after an examiner at his local test centre refused to take any more candidates out in it.
"He thought the hoops blocked the rear view, so learners can't see what's behind them," Keith told Auto Express. "But I've never found that a problem!"
A DSA spokeswoman explained its decision. "In the interests of Health and Safety, a car being used for tuition should enable the candidate and instructor to have good all-round visibility," she said. "The MINI Convertible has restricted rearward vision, and would be unsuit able for tuition and test. A number of vehicles - mainly Cabriolets with large blind spots - present instructors and pupils with problems of observation."
A MINI spokeswoman told Auto Express "It's astonishing that the DSA is only now thinking about the suitability of Convertibles, given how long they have been around." She disagreed with the agency's suggestion that the car was unsafe, and added: "I understand the DSA hasn't even driven it."