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The Mini Cooper is celebrating it's 60th Birthday!

| In Motoring News

2019 marks the 60th birthday of the Mini, the small car which remains as popular today as when it first launched all those years ago.

During the fuel shortage caused by the Suez Crisis in 1956, petrol was rationed in the UK, and the demand for big cars fell dramatically. Despite this, across Europe, the popularity of smaller ‘bubble’ cars like the Fiat 500 boomed, much to the disgust of the head of BMC, Leonard Lord. He wanted to create a ‘proper miniature’ car that would fit in a box measuring 10×4×4 feet. The passengers had to take up 6 feet of the total length and due to financial restraints, must use an existing engine. Alec Issigonis was tasked by Lord to make such a concept a reality.

In 1959, the Mini was born, a tiny 848cc, 72mph 4-seater car. To maximise interior space, the engine was mounted transversely with the gearbox in the sump; this also allowed both components to share the same oil, a key feature considering the effects of the Suez crisis. There was no space for a boot compartment, so storage bins were added to both doors which meant the windows would have to slide open. The car’s tiny 10-inch wheels helped to reduce the impact of big intruding wheel arches.

Issigonis and friend John Cooper worked together to create two more powerful versions of the Mini, the Austin Mini Cooper and Morris Mini Cooper. Both featured a bigger 998cc engine and larger disc brakes. In tandem, a track focused Mini was being worked on, dubbed the Cooper S. That stored either a 1,071cc or 1,275cc engine, but only the largest engine carried on into the MK2 era.

41 years and three generations later, BMW took over the Mini brand and immediately modernised the small car. It was released in four trim levels, One, Cooper, Cooper S and finally the sporty John Cooper Works (JCW) guise. All variants used a 1.6 litre petrol engine despite the One, which used a 1.4 litre unit. The engine in the S and JCW was turbocharged.

It was very easy to see where the designers got their inspiration from. Just like it’s 1950s predecessor, the new Mini was available as a 3 door only vehicle and featured a central speedometer dial, circular ‘bug like’ headlights and extruding wheel arches.

In 2005, the new line-up was joined by a convertible model before the whole family went through a facelift in 2008. This new generation car was 2.6 inches longer and despite looking very similar to the previous model, was built with new panels all round. From 2006, the engines were built in the UK, making the Mini a British built car once again. Over the years, we’ve had petrol, diesels, manuals, automatics, 3 and 5 door hatchbacks, convertibles, coupes, the Clubman, Paceman and Countryman.

Now in it’s third generation, the Mini family may have expanded extensively and the basic car no longer a ‘miniature’ vehicle but the car remains one of the common and popular on our roads.

Check out our range of used Minis at Cargiant!