CARS - MUSIC - FASHION
+44 (0)1584 781588
2021 - The Mini Commences its 7th Decade
Image: (from left) John Fitzpatrick, Warwick Banks and Paddy Hopkirk MBE at Shelsley Walsh. Photo copyright Russell Brown.
Our special guest star at E-type 60
was the Mini
The Mini, in all its forms, was featured throughout the weekend where it was taking part in numerous activities including The Italian Job vehicle display plus Mini hillclimb classes. Mini car clubs joined us, plus, rally legend and Mini ambassador, Paddy Hopkirk.
Images below were taken at E-type 60
Paddy Hopkirk & The Mini
'My relationship with the Mini began in 1963 with competitive outings in Alec Issigonis’s latest creation on the Tour de France Automobile and the world-famous Monte Carlo Rally. On the former, we found ourselves sharing the road with some formidable opponents, and although they outshone us on the straights, they were no match for the Mini through the corners and curves, and as a result a ‘David and Goliath’ situation developed – the plucky Mini endearing itself hugely to racegoers and television viewers in the process.
'A year later, and with the invaluable support of the diehard mechanics, engineers and support crew that made up the BMC Competitions Department, Henry Liddon and I took 33 EJB to victory on the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally, and although the Mini had already cemented its place in the public’s affections, it was this success on the rally stage that confirmed the little car as a must-have for everyone from midwives to movie stars.
'That win helped shape the rest of my career, but it’s also fair to say that it was further confirmation of just how capable the groundbreaking Mini was – an essential ingredient in automotive design if any product is to enjoy longevity... and what a well deserved life it has had: 60 years so far, and thanks to the latest incarnation, there are no signs of the Mini bloodline passing into folklore any time soon.
'I know that I’m not the only one that holds the Mini in great affection,
and I hope you will join me in raising a glass to a true motoring icon.'
Paddy Hopkirk MBE
Paddy Hopkirk pictured above with a Mini and below outside Jaguar with his E-type.
Pride of Britain
The Mini has remained synonymous with the UK capital and became a symbol for the country's vibrancy through the 1960s and '70s.
Many cars have, over their production lifetime and beyond, created a following of enthusiasts, owners and devotees, but arguably none have become such a part of the fabric of society, fashion, popular culture and film in the way that the Mini has.
From scene-stealing lead roles in The Italian Job to boasting the likes of the Beatles and Peter Sellers as ardent owners, the Mini has enjoyed unrivalled success, but crucially remained a car of the people - transporting individuals and families all over the world.
On the racetrack and rally circuit, the Mini found new fame thanks to its diminutive size and ability to be tuned to make the most of its legendary handling qualities. In the hands of sporting icons such as Paddy Hopkirk, Rauno Aaltonen and Timo Mäkinen, the Mini Cooper won trophies and led championships - suddenly even more people wanted to get behind the wheel of Issigonis's design!
With the Mini name living on thanks to the creation of the Mini One in 2001, the marque still thrives and continues to enjoy huge success as it evolves and adapts to cope with the very different demands of the world 60 years on.
At the same time, the classic Mini is kept alive by owners, specialists and suppliers with an undying passion for the little car. Long may that continue.
Mini: a motoring icon is born
The spring of 1959 saw the first Mini roll off the production line at Longbridge, and with it began a legacy that is still enticing new owners today – albeit with a slightly more ‘robust’ version thanks to modern design approaches. But just what made the original Mini such an unbridled success? Other small cars had come and gone, but suddenly here was a diminutive marvel that almost instantly captured the public’s imagination and tugged at the heartstrings of the potential purchaser.
With the first models costing around £500, people needed little persuasion to dig deep and plump for the Mini over one of the other mainstream alternatives on the market at the time, but it wasn’t just the average family that fell in love – soon track and rally drivers were clamouring to get behind the wheel, and for very good reason.
The Mini wasn’t just an aesthetically pleasing piece of automotive design of course – it was, arguably, Alec Issigonis’s finest feat of engineering innovation, as decades of success readily testify. Even another Great British icon, Sir Stirling Moss admitted to being slightly besotted, after first setting eyes on the car at the 1959 Earls Court Motor Show: ‘I thought it was startling,’he admitted in an interview with Classic & Sports Car, ‘I got to try one as soon as they came out because I was writing for various magazines and I knew Issigonis quite well. Having driven one, you could see why they made such good racers.’
Moss on Mini
Despite never having actually competed in one, Moss owned a Cooper S and knew just how to get the best from it: 'Being front-wheel drive they had to be driven quite hard and you had to keep your foot in through the corners - and it was the same on a circuit: some of those cars led a very hard life.'
His own Mini, bearing the registration SM 773, was used to court his wife Susie, although she was less than enamoured thanks to the fact that Moss's example wasn't quite finished and she frequently found herself on the floor thanks to the lack of seating!
But for Stirling, the draw of the Mini came thanks to comparisons with other smaller offerings of the time: 'I had a bubble car and I remember test-driving it around Berkeley Square. The salesman told me I could keep my foot down around the corner of the square but it turned over!'
Moss's love affair meant that his Mini didn't remain as 'standard' for too long, but the one thing he didn't touch was the mechanical aspect: 'I didn't have to do anything to it because it was already an S. It was wonderfully manoeuvrable - once I had mastered the handbrake turn I could do it as I got to the end of the road and it would be ready to reverse into the garage.'
So Issigonis's creation got the thumbs up from one of the all-time greatest racers, but why was that? Moss summed it up in just a few words: 'They were so convienient and so fast - not many people could beat you in a 1275 S on a country road!'
Extract from the Mini Scrapbook.
Timeline of Mini Production
1959 - Alec Issigonis's two-door saloon car goes into production and is launched in August.
1960 - Austin Countryman and Morris Mini Traveller models introduced.
1961 - Mini Cooper and Cooper S models launched with input from racing car tuner John Cooper
1964 - Utility model, the mini Moke introduced, remaining in production until 1989.
1967 - The gently face-lifted MkII range goes on sale to the general public.
1968 - Mini production at the Oxfordshire Cowley plant ceased.
1969 - Clubman range introduced, including the 1275GT.
1976 - Mini MkIV models launched, with British Leyland already looking at a replacement.
1980 - The A-Series engine was dropped and replaced with the A-plus Metro version.
1981 - The 'Classic' Mini enjoyed its last stint in the top ten list of Britain's best-selling cars.
2000 - Production of the 'classic' Mini officially ended in October.
2001 - The new BMW-produced offering - the MINI One released in July.
Extract from the Mini Scrapbook.