Originally conceived as a cheap form of transport, the Mini has grown to be a fashion icon known around the globe.
When Prime Minister David Cameron visited the BMW Mini factory in Oxford in late August to celebrate its two-millionth Mini in ten-years of production, he did more than celebrate the rebirth of a brand. He paid tribute to a great British icon of 50 years.
Since it acquired the model from the Rover Group in 2000, the New Mini has been built by BMW. But, as is often the case, it was adversity that spurred the original innovation. In the case of the Mini it was the 1956 Suez conflict, which caused the first of many global oil crises. British Motor Company (BMC) decided that it needed an affordable, fuel-efficient vehicle to compete in the so-called ‘bubble car’ market and set Sir Alex Issigonius the brief to develop a new model.
When it hit the streets in 1959 it was more than just a car to compete in that sector, it created a whole sector in itself.
- After the initial launch, many upgraded versions were developed including the 1964 Morris Mini Cooper S that went on to claim victory in three prestigious Monte Carlo rallies.
- The Mini become more an icon than a vehicle. Throughout the sixties and seventies it became a fashion statement for the rich and famous, with owners such as Peter Sellers, Britt Ekland, Marianne Faithful, and Michael Nesmith all owning one. Celebrities were also used in the advertising campaigns such as this 1976 advert featuring British supermodel Twiggy.
- The Mini was immortalised on celluloid in the 1969 film, ‘The Italian Job’, where a group of British criminals led by Michael Caine carried out a gold bullion robbery in Turin with three Mini Coopers.
- Until 2000 Minis were manufactured on the Longbridge assembly line, but in 2001 it moved to BMW’s Oxford facility.
- One of the most famous Mini owners was Beatle John lennon who drove a psychedelic Radford Mini de Ville that featured in the film ‘Magical Mystery Tour’.
- Despite the demise of the old Mini it continued to feature in modern culture including with Rowan Atkinson’s Mr Bean character, who famously drove his Mini from the roof of the car.
- Produced since 2000, the New Mini, from BMW, has continued to build on the brand, although it has moved from its roots as an affordable car. The Mini Cooper D Countryman has a starting price of £20,400 with accessories that can rise to £28,600. A far cry from its early days when you could put a Mini on the road for £496.