© 2006 NMOC
Celebrating the 45th Birthday of the Mini
Most Mini enthusiasts would know by now that the 'classic' Mini is celebrating yet another landmark of its unique history - its 45th birthday, and the Austin Rover catch line from the 30th Celebrations - 'You never forget your first Mini' - still rings true for many. The Mini has proved to be one of the most popular cars to use for drivers learning to drive and owning, quite often, as their first car. Whether you only own a Mini for a year or many years it does not matter. Quite often you have one as a teenager only to buy another one for old times sake when you are the other side of your own family, having been there and got the T-shirt!
STANFORD 2004 is but a small part of the celebrations happening all over the world to mark the Mini's 45th Birthday.
If you have never been to a Mini show or event of any kind involving the Mini you will have missed out on a unique 'family' meeting. There are many event events held during the year, and if you keep your eye on our events calendar, at some point there will be a show near you!
Little can designer (Sir) Alec Issigonis (1906 - 1988) have dreamt all those years ago that his creation would still be so popular 45 years on. In all probability he would never have given the matter much thought. He was after all, just an engineer doing his job. Although he would have been pleased with the results of his work, he could not have known what brilliance was flowing from his pen. Alec was an engineer of unique talent and brought to car design a single mindedness and an intuitive originality which to this day has never been equaled!
The design was founded on sound and subtle engineering principles, always his aims were the same - excellent road behaviour, space efficiency, compactness and style which would function well. The original idea was to produce a small saloon to sweep the then in-vogue bubble cars off the British roads. It was 1957 and Issigonis and his small team were to turn their hands to what was to emerge as the Mini two years later.
The Mini was to be the last production car to be designed by Issigonis and although he had an enduring fondness for the Mini he never stood still and he was convinced that with a clean sheet of paper he could evolve a new world-beater. A resultant car - the '9X' proved the point, and was as only Issigonis could have designed it. Even shorter than the Mini, it was more spacious, was to have been cheaper to make, and in its ultimate form could have been powered by a six cylinder 1.3 engine. However, internal politics and a lack of funds saw that it was never produced, but Issigonis continued with its development and at the time of his retirement ran around Birmingham in a superficially standard Mini which used all the '9X' mechanicals. After retirement he was kept on as a Consultant with his design office at Longbridge, and carried on working even when ill health kept him housebound.
'Classic Mini' Facts
When royalty like Princess Alexandra and Lord Snowden were seen in Minis, the image really changed. What really got Mini sales going was the reputation that came with its ownership by such stars as Brigitte Bardot, Dudley Moore, Tommy Steele, Steve McQueen, the Beatles and the Monkees to name just a few
Getting as many people into a Mini has always been regarded as a fun thing to do. In Brisbane, Australia students claimed a world record when 46 of them crammed themselves in a Mini. In Scandinavia a baby elephant was persuaded to sit inside a Mini
Radford was one of the first companies to produce expensively customised Minis and Peter Sellars was one of the first clients, the car had wickerwork sides.
In the 60s, souped-up Minis were known as Ministrones. Driving schools using the car were Miniscules and housewives out shopping in them were Minimums.
The official launch of the Mini was planned for 2nd September 1959 and was brought forward to 26th August at the last minute.
The Mini formed one of the strongest backbones of British track racing throughout the sixties and early seventies.
Initial response to the Mini was actually rather slow. Working class buyers could pay £77 less for a Ford Popular than the Mini's selling price of £496, while the car was thought too cheap by the middle classes. An inspired promotion by BMC did a lot to improve the image of the new car. 80 of them were loaned to leading newspaper journalists so that the Mini would be seen at almost every important occasion.