Mini Car Reviews and Road Tests

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Mini Car Company

An Alec Issigonis masterpiece, the original Mini was born into a time of rising fuel prices and austere mini cars that were far from desirable. Britain in particular had been hit hard by the 1956 Suez Crisis, and the resultant reduction in oil supply led eventually to petrol rationing, something the British motorist had not suffered since the end of the war. Then head of the British Motor Corporation (BMC), Leonard Lord was far-sighted enough to realise that Britain, and indeed the world, badly needed an economical small car. Issigonis, who had been seconded back to BMC from Alvis in 1955, was the perfect man to head up the design team, his past effort with the Morris Minor being held in high regard.

Joining Issigonis on the design team was Jack Daniels, who had worked with him on the Morris Minor, Chris Kingham, who had been with him at Alvis, two engineering students and four draughtsmen. The genius of the design was obviously in mounting the engine transversely and creating a front wheel drive configuration. The reliable BMC A-Series four was used, with the radiator being mounted at the left side of the car. The rubber cones used in the suspension (rather than the traditional springs) were also very innovative. Designed by Issigonis's friend Alex Moulton at Moulton Developments Limited, the design allowed the wheels to be placed at the corners of the car, allowing the designers to maximise internal space. This design also afforded the Mini incredible handling dynamics, it being arguably the first ever to offer go-cart handling (although this was at the expense of ride quality, the Mini being rather harsh when encountering poor road surfaces.

So small were the 10” wheels that special tyres needed to be developed by Dunlop. Some thought the sliding windows were a means of saving money, and perhaps they were right, however the designers had cleverly allowed special storage pockets to be integrated into the space that would have otherwise been used to house the winding mechanism. To ensure the Mini remained affordable, external welded seams were used on the A and C pillars, and between the body and floor pan. External hinges were also used for the boot. During development, the engineers decided to turn the engine around, having the carburettor at the back of the engine bay rather than at the front. An extra gear needed to be placed between engine and transmission to reverse the engine direction, however this had the added benefit of reducing loads on the gearbox and preventing the rapid wear on the synchromesh which had been a problem on early prototypes.

Having the caburettor at the rear may have helped to reduce carburettor icing, but an unwanted side affect was that it meant the distributor had no protection from water entering through the grille, and we at Unique Cars and Parts experienced first hand the consequences of driving a Mini in a rain storm.

Also see: Founding Fathers of the Automotive Industry - Sir Alec Issigonis
Mini  

Mini

1959 - 2000
Released in 1959, the BMC Mini was Britain's most influential car produced. Other cars had used front-wheel drive and transverse engines, but never in such a small car. More>>
Mini Cooper S  

Mini Cooper S

1964 - 1971
When the Mini Cooper S was released in 1964 it used a 1275cc engine boasting around 70 bhp and capable of nearly 160 km/h. More>>
Mini Moke  

Mini Moke

1964 - 1993
The first production Mini Moke was manufactured in January 1964 at BMC's Longbridge factory in Birmingham, England. Production continued until late October 1968 when around 15,000 English Mokes had been produced. Production then switched entirely to BMC's factory in Sydney, Australia, where they had been producing the Moke since 1966. More>>
Mini DeLuxe Automatic

Mini DeLuxe Automatic

1967 - 1972
As a motoring program from the time reported "...you can still change the gears manually or you can put the lever into the bottom of the gate and car changes itself. BMC call it the his or hers system, for equal appeal for men or women drivers its the first automatic transmission ever offered on such a small car..." More>>
Mini Mk.II 1000

Mini Mk.II 1000

1968 - 1972
It was this brake modification that many believed to be the most important change since the Mini's release. Others cited the decrease in turning circle, down from 32 feet to a mere 28. To do this, the engineers cut the rack with 25 teeth instead of its predecessors 15. More>>
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