Mini Cooper History: The Small Beginnings of the MINI

The Mini Cooper isn’t just an automobile. It’s also a cultural phenomenon — and for good reason. Read on to learn about the mini copper history.

What do you do when it is the 1960s in Britain and there is a gas crisis? Create one of the most classic car designs in history, of course. That is the short version of the Mini Cooper History.

However, there is so much more to this iconic British car. So, let’s take a ride through the extraordinary life of this small car.

Born From Necessity, Designed For Functionality

In the late 1950s, Britain was in the middle of the Suez Crisis which lead to skyrocketing fuel prices. It was becoming increasingly apparent the large, gas-guzzling cars which were the norm of the day simply didn’t make sense anymore.

So, Sir Leonard Lord, of the Morris Motor Company, challenged Alec Issigonis, the top engineer at Morris, to design a small fuel-efficient car able to fit four adults comfortably. And boy did Issigonis rise to the challenge and in 1959 debuted the Mini Mark I.

How he accomplished this was by pushing the wheels to the corners and turning the engine sideways. This created not only extra space in both the front and rear seats but also allowed for better handling on tight corners. Little did Lord and Issigonis know how this handling feature was going to shape the future of the Mini Cooper.

The Heyday of the 1960s

The Mini was not an instant success. The British public was initially a little perplexed by this boxy, two-door car. However, as the country moved from the aesthetic of Dior’s New Look to the more youthful mod-inspired look, this fun and fashionable car’s popularity began to soar.

Everyone from working-class heroes to royalty to rockstars embraced the Mini’s fun and unique design. By the end of the decade, more than 2 million Minis had been sold worldwide. It had become a cultural phenomenon.

However, there was another group who saw something special in the youthful automobile: racecar drivers.

Legendary British driver and designer of formula one racecars, John Cooper, realized that thanks to its ability to handle tight turns and fantastic balance the Mini had the makings of a fantastic racing car. So, with Issigonis, Cooper made some tweaks to the original design, including a bigger, more powerful engine and in 1961 the Mini Cooper 997 was born.

It turns out Cooper was right and the 1071cc engine, which was added to the Mini Cooper S model, would become a racing staple. Between 1964 and 1967 the little car that could won numerous international races, including the prestigious Monte Carlo Rally three times.

Thanks to all the racing laurels and the widespread popularity, Mini Cooper was also given a starring role next to Michael Cain in the 1967 British film “The Italian Job”. Unfortunately, the next few decades would prove a little uncertain for the Mini.

Constantly Changing Hands

During the late 70s through the 80s, the license to this iconically British car changed hands several times. Thankfully even though it was owned by several Spanish and Italian car companies, the design stayed close to the original Cooper and Cooper S models. Unfortunately, this meant the car became more of a novelty item than evolving with the times.

All of that changed in 1994 when the Rover Group, who owned the rights to the Mini at the time, was purchased by BMW. And this would breathe new life into the car. The Mini Cooper history was about to be turned on its ear.

It turns out the German automotive giant had big plans for updating the car which would be labeled the European car of the century. Keeping the quintessential boxy design but adding a distinctly modern twist, the car went from a dated, albeit cute, bit of nostalgia into a sleek contemporary powerhouse.

They debuted the new and improved Mini Cooper at the Paris Motor Show in Oct of 1999, just in time for the new millennium.

A New and Improved Mini For a New Millennium

One of the first things BMW did to update the car was expanded the models available to the public. Sure, they still had the famous all-wheel drive and classic hardtop, but starting in 2002 they were also available in a sleek new convertible and four-door options. To learn more about which models offered what features, read on here.

On top of the new designs and models, Minis were now also completely customizable while still being some of the more affordable automobiles on the market. This meant there were more than 10,000 possibilities when it came to how it looked. This meant everyone could have a car which was affordable while still showcasing their own personal style.

Thanks to the updated look and personalization options, the Mini Cooper and Mini Cooper S took off all over the world, but especially in America. In fact, it was so popular in the States that it was named North American Car of the Year in 2003. Soon you could find Mini Motoring Clubs all over the US.

Today the Mini is offered any number of models and options. From the aforementioned hardtops and convertibles to kit cars you can build yourself to special collector’s editions, there really is a Mini Cooper for everyone.

The Mini Cooper History

In the 60 years since its inception, the Mini Cooper history has been an interesting and tenacious one. Through the ups and downs of its life, one thing has been certain, this sporty and unique car has no intention of slowing down or giving up. And thanks to its unique design, youthful vibe, and versatility, it is bound to be around for a least another several 60 years.

If you are interested in cars beyond just the Mini or want to learn more about this amazing little ride, why not check out our blog? You are bound to find something for the car lover in all of us.


~ by velofinds on August 29, 2019.