We love these little buggers, even though our rally project is still sitting, a little unloved, under a tarp’. Restoring a rotten one, like ours, is hard; but not as hard as writing something about the classic Mini that hasn’t already been trotted out a thousand times before, but here goes anyway.

Don’t worry, there’ll be no mention of John Cooper tweakery, Monte Carlo heroics or Italian Job cameos! We’ll assume that the average car-savvy MotorPunk that peruses this site already knows the highlights of the classic Mini’s 41 year production run. The challenge here is to try and entertain you with some of the lesser known facts about Blighty’s best-loved pocket rocket.

What’s in a name?

It wasn’t always known as the Mini. The gawky-looking prototype was nicknamed the Orange Box, and for the first few years of production until 1962 Austin version of the car were called the Se7en. At one point it was going to be called the Austin Newmarket, to sit alongside the dreary Somerset, Westminster and Cambridge saloons in the BMC model line-up. Mini-geeks may already know all that guff, but I bet you didn’t know that the Danes called theirs the Morris Mascot; apparently that was because someone told Issigonis that ‘Mini’ in Danish was some sort of tortoise-based sex act. This fact hasn’t been verified, ever.


Lauda versus Hunt

Throughout the 70s James Hunt always seemed to out-cool his Austrian nemesis, but not when it came to the Minis that kickstarted their racing careers!

Any of you that have seen the film Rush will know that Hunt rather cockily asked his wedged-up daddy to bankroll his racing ambitions; when that backfired he had to scrape the cash together for a shagged out mk1 850 working as a builders mate, van driver and hospital porter.

Lauda’s Mini-funding-scam was far more devious. He persuaded an artistic chum to forge a glowing college certificate and got a brand new 1275cc Cooper S as a graduation present off his proud parents.


1000cc too fast!

Issigonis reduced the stroke on the original Mini’s engine fearing that the 1000cc car was just too fast for the average motorist in 1959. The resultant 850cc mk1 took 26.5 seconds to reach 60mph which sounds pretty sluggish these days, but bear in mind the rival Ford Anglia took 29.4sec, the Triumph Herald 31.3sec and the Morris Minor 1000 a positively glacial 36.4sec. In 1959 the all-conquering VW Beetle was about as quick off the mark but had a much bigger 1200cc engine to produce the same 34bhp. However it was noisier, thirstier, had a lower top speed and cost around £700, more than £200 than the basic Mini!

Stretching it

BMC chairman, Leonard Lord, stipulated in the design brief that the new car should fit in a box measuring just 10ft X 4ft X 4ft. If all the classic Minis ever built over its 41 year production run – including vans, clubman and other variants – were parked bumper to bumper it would stretch twice around the UK’s coastline.

Up Periscopes

The constant velocity joints on the Mini, which allowed this ultra-compact FWD car a descent turning circle, were adapted from a Czech design used in submarine periscopes.

JC approves

Jeremy Clarkson is a big Mini fan: ‘The lovely thing about the Mini is when one goes by you have no idea what sort of person is at the wheel. It’s hard to think of any product that is quite so classless. Branston Pickle maybe, but that’s about it.’


Too ugly for Italy

Fiat’s Chief Engineer, Aurelio Lampredi, was so eager to try out the new BMC motor that he begged to take out an early press car that had been driven to the 1959 Italian Grand Prix at Monza. Lampredi loved the Mini’s handling but never felt that it was ever going to become a rival to Fiat’s products as it was ‘so damned ugly.’

The Nuts

There were 3,016 screws, nuts and bolts in a typical Mini – if the work-shy commie workforce could be bothered to do the job properly – and barring the all-to-common strikes, took about 30 hours to put together. In the 1990s the Japanese could lash together a Nissan Micra in just six!

Last year celebrated the 60th birthday of the Mini, and to mark the occasion the good folks over in the USA at Motorbooks commissioned Giles Chapman to put this thing together. Covering everything from the 1950s Orange Box to the modern-day incarnations, it’s a great addition to any Mini-fan’s library. Click below:

About The Author

Darryl can usually be found up to his elbows in some unloved piece of BL detritus when he isn’t snapping and scribbling for various print magazines or producing the book on road tripping or tally-ho adventurers. As an occasional presenter on CBS's Carfection YouTube channel, his other hobbies include vintage Scalextrics, ‘60s Bang & Olufsen and dabbling in grassroots motorsport.

8 Responses

  1. Speedyk

    Re: Beetle traits, they didn’t agreed with me. You must have experienced the diplomatic ones.

  2. David Lieb

    “All-concurring” VW Beetle? Perhaps you meant “all-conquering”?

    • Rich Duisberg
      Rich Duisberg

      No. All-concurring. The Beetle agrees with everything, you see.

      See me after class.

  3. Aidan

    There is a 1275 GT Mini being restored by my car mad mate. Once completed ( not long now) it will be the best 1275 around and one of the best Minis. Trev is anal about detail and has found New old parts long thought extinct, you really need to have a chat to him.

  4. W. Fugate

    Very well written and researched article, Sir. Truly appreciate you taking the time to post it all. They look like good fun when sorted properly. Looking forward to driving a few. Cheers!!

  5. Alan

    Thought everything could be written about the Mini had been done – and admittedly, I had heard a couple of those nuggets before – but a bloody good go Motorpunkers.


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