A car doesn’t need to do 0-60 in 3.5 seconds to be a true classic. While Ferraris, Shelbys and Veyrons make the automotive headlines on a daily basis, the humble Mini Cooper occupies a special place in the hearts of car enthusiasts around the world. The ultimate symbol of 1960s British pop culture, the Mini Cooper is still going strong after more than 50 years.
Funnily enough, the Mini didn’t set out to be an icon. It had its origins in the 1956 Suez crisis, which affected oil supplies and led to gas rationing in the UK. This created demand for small, fuel-efficient cars, and BMC (the original manufacturer of the Mini Cooper) knew they needed to respond. They turned to Alec Issigonis to come up with the design, and by 1957 several prototypes had already been built. The new car launched in 1959 under two names – Morris Mini Minor and Austin Seven. The car rapidly gained in popularity, and came to be known simply as the Mini. It went on to be the most successful British car of all time, selling over 5.3 million vehicles between 1959 and 2000.
The Mini wasn’t just an economical car – it became the toast of racing circles, winning the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964, 1965 and 1967. It also gained a huge cult following, spurred on by the breathtaking chase scene in the 1969 classic film “The Italian Job.” The Beatles were also fans – George Harrison owned a psychedelic Mini which appeared in the 1969 film “Magical Mystery Tour.”
By the 1990s, the Mini had come under the control of Rover, which was then bought by BMW in 1994. In response to mounting losses, BMW broke up Rover in 2000, selling off well-known brands such as Land Rover and MG. However, it held on to the Mini brand, and launched a completely new version in 2001 that was much larger and more powerful. However, it still retained the same visual appeal, and recaptured a waning market. Mini sales in 2012 hit 300,000 cars, a figure not seen since 1971.
Of course, you will pay a lot more for a Mini today than in 1959 – but it’s worth it. Back then, you could get a Mini for slightly less than $1400, whereas today the car lists between about $20,000 and $23,000 depending on the model. It pays to shop around to get the best deal, however – companies such as Truecar Automotive Consultants can help you find the best prices in your area.
Looking forward, the future for the Mini looks bright. BMW is planning to boost production at the Mini plant in Oxford, UK by 20,000 units a year, and has a number of new models in the starting blocks. This includes a new three-cylinder engine variant and a production version of its “Rocketman” concept car that was unveiled in 2011. BMW has also introduced the Mini Connected platform, an in-car infotainment system that links directly to your iPhone, giving access to services such as web radio, RSS news feeds, Twitter, Google and Facebook.