Fifty years ago this month a tiny car was launched that would have a huge effect on the motor industry.
The Mini is 50. Like an unidentified driving object at the end of the 1950s it flew in the face of convention; a short, low wheelbase with an engine mounted across the car it looked like nothing else, drove like nothing else, and could carry four people in comfort. Alec, later Sir Alec Issigonis had revolutionised small car design, and the world fell in love with the mini’s looks, performance, and practicality. It won the Monte Carlo rally three times to gain some serious racer’s kudos, was driven by rock stars and models, and starred in the British film “The Italian Job” to seal an enduring place in folklore. So loved is the mini that like the Beetle before it garages have sprung up around the world to keep it on the road well after production ceased nine years ago. “I get lots of passionate people who come to me for spare parts and who only want to drive minis,” said one enthusiastic garage owner. BMW’s retro-styled new Mini has also sold like hot cakes, plugging into the now middle-aged baby-boomer market which wants to relive its swinging sixties youth. It is a better car, but will it still be going 50 years from now?