The Mini Cooper is arguably one of the most easily recognizable automobiles ever produced. The original Mini started production in 1959 and quickly became one of the best-selling cars in Europe, with many attributing the transverse engine front-wheel drive layout as a main factor of this success.
Like many inventions throughout history, the Mini was invented to meet a demand. During the early 1960’s, Great Britain had great need of a vehicle with high fuel-efficiency. As such, in 57 Sir Leonard Lord (of the Morris Company) asked his top engineer, a man called Alex Issigonis to lead a team of designers with the goal of providing a solution to this demand. The vehicle created as a result was a compact vehicle with a transverse engine and a gearbox (allowing for front wheel drive) and all four wheels being pushed out to the far corners of the vehicle, maximizing both interior space and handling of the vehicle. At a local car show in south Florida a few ago, I met a man whose uncle was Alex Issigonis. He did not know how famous his Uncle Alex was until he traveled to England. The Queen of England knighted Alex to Sir Alex.
Many features that enthusiasts love about the classic Minis were originally included to keep costs to a minimum. This includes external door and boot hinges, and of course the sliding windows which were used instead of the more expensive roll-up style side windows. However, shortly after this vehicle reached the market, John Cooper (the race car builder) saw the potential in this vehicle, the engine’s displacement was increased from 848cc to 997cc, SU carburetors increased the power from 34 to 55 horsepower, and front disc brakes and a close-ratio gearbox were added to complete the performance boost.
One out every 57 mini’s produces were either a van or a pickup. They were sold as work vehicles for business and farmers as we use trucks today.
My mini pick up was made in Oxford plant and then imported to the US in 2000’s. It was originally in a shop called Classic Motor Sports Ft. Myers, Florida owned by Paul Ireson, then moved to a barn outside of the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee. This is the first classic mini I have owned. My wife drives a 2021 BMW produced Turbo charged mini.