Car talk: 7 Facts You (Probably) Didn’t Know about the Mini

Want to know more about the Mini? read on...

The mini has been around for a long time, 60 years in fact. Today we're going to tell you 7 facts that you probably didn't know about the British icon and if you did know, consider us impressed. 

Mini fact 1: It came about due to an oil crisis.

That's right, the original Mini can trace its existence back to the Suez crisis in the mid 50's. The Suez crisis is the name given to the invasion of Egypt by Israel, The United Kingdom and France with the intention of regaining the Suez canal. The canal at the time was an important shipping route for oil from the middle east and, after the events of the Suez crisis, shipments were blocked.

The greater difficulty shipping oil to the west meant that petrol was rationed in the UK and many people started to look for more fuel efficient motors to keep them on the road. Sales in larger cars tumbled as smaller European cars began to take the market by storm, the Fiat 500 for example did incredibly well.

The head of the British motor corporation at the time (Leonard Lord) utterly detested these new vehicles and promised to create a 'proper' miniature car.  After stipulating a few basic requirements, he put designer Alec Issigonis and a small team of motor engineers to work full time on their existing, low priority project and by July 1957 the Mini was approved for production.

Mini fact 2: It's your own fault if you crash one, says its creator.

Due to its small size and lack of 'Armour' the Mini was often subject to questions about its safety & security during its production run. The mini was reportedly designed with an emphasis on active safety and, when questioned, Its creator Alec Issigonis said 'I make my cars with such good brakes, such good steering, that if people get into a crash it's their own fault!' - So there you have it, straight from the man himself.

One of the most famous incidents involving a Mini happened in 1975 when British rock star, Marc Bolan, was killed in one. He was the passenger in a 1275GT when it collided with a crash barrier and killed him instantly, his girlfriend was driving at the time and survived despite suffering severe injuries.

It should be noted however that vehicle safety wasn't anything like it was now back when the Mini was first produced and as such the car shouldn't be judged too harshly. Safety eventually improved in the later models when airbags and side impact bars were made standard across the range.

Mini fact 3: It outlasted it's successor.

In the late 70s the Mini wasn't doing so well. It had been in production for 20 or so years and remained much the same throughout its then four generational span. There had long been rumours of a more modern Mini that was set to replace the outgoing model which was beginning to look tired and outclassed by more modern rivals.

That replacement came about in 1980 in the form of the Austin Mini Metro - This 'modern Mini' retained many of the features people loved about the original including the A series engines & transmission but added a then modern twist. The car was fairly innovative and was one of the earliest production cars to use gas suspension, it also won what car? Car of the year. Twice. 

The Austin metro had an incredibly successful run, spanning 18 years and selling over 2 million units in all its guises but that success began to dwindle by the early - mid 90s and by 1997 production was stopped entirely after a poor crash rating and sale numbers falling.

During the 18 years that the Metro was produced, the Mini found its fortunes had somewhat turned around thanks to special editions and a new found love for the now classic car.

Although the mini was loved world wide and continued to sell into the late 90's, it was eventually time for production to end on the 40 year old car thanks to ever tightening European safety & emissions regulations. In October 2000 the last Mini rolled off the production line, 3 years after its 'successor' had been scrapped. Thankfully there are still 1000s around today, unlike the Metro which never reached the same level of fame and has all but disappeared from our roads. 

Mini fact 4: They were difficult to get hold of in America.

While the Mini was tremendously successful in Europe and other parts of the world, the Americans had a hard time getting in on the action. Just 10,000 or so left hand drive Minis were exported to the United States from 1960 to 1967. In 1968 stricter emissions and tougher safety laws in America meant that the Mini was discontinued in the region. It managed to remain on sale North of the border, in Canada, until 1980.

Americas notorious import laws also made it hard for Americans to get hold of the Mini, and even if they could get hold of one, registering it for use on public highways proved to be problematic. The law, introduced in 1988, means that there is a 25 year waiting period before a car can be imported and registered for use. Sorry America!

Mini fact 5: Wet feet!

This one's a funny one. Back when the Mini first came out, it was common place for them to be delivered one at a time by drivers as large vehicle carriers weren't so popular back then. One time of the year that the drivers weren't too fond of was the winter time - can you guess why?

When the Mini first arrived it had a sketchy record when it came to weather sealing and as such water used to creep its way into the cabin, water that had nowhere to go.

In the winter this got so bad that some drivers would put the carpets in the back and put on wellies to deliver the cars in an effort to combat wet feet! once the cars arrived at the garage they were dried out and re-sealed to a much higher standard so that the customers wouldn't have to endure the same problems. Thankfully this was sorted out on subsequent models.

Mini fact 6: Man in the Miura.

The humble Mini was a source of inspiration for the creator of the Lamborghini Miura, you know - one of the best looking car ever built. Here's how it came about;

Many car enthusiasts will know that the Mini made use of a transversely mounted engine (in simple terms, its mounted sideways) which is one of the reasons the Mini was able to be so small. The transverse engine had been around for a little while before the Mini came to production but no one perfected it quite like Alec Issigonis and his team. 

With the Mini, the transverse engine received world wide acclaim. Nowadays it's common for small front wheel drive cars to utilise this setup but back in the early 60's it wasn't common at all. The designer of the Miura reportedly took inspiration from the Minis transverse engine that had a common crank case for both the engine and transmission. The Miura, of course, didn't use an inline 4 A-series engine but rather a 3.9 litre V12 producing nearly 400 horsepower.

Mini fact 7: It packs a punch!

Although it was small and originally designed as a practical, fuel efficient car for the family, the Mini packed a mighty punch. And it punched well above its weight. The reason for this was simple - where many people saw a small city car, race teams of the day saw a lightweight go kart that could easily out manoeuvre the slow and lumbering competition. Soon, specially prepared Minis were entered into various motorsport events and did tremendously well.

The Mini took a host of titles in both on and off road categories - it won the 1964,1965 and 1967 Monte Carlo Rally and initially won the 1966 rally too but was later disqualified for a lightbulb infringement (To this day one of the most controversial decisions in motorsport history).  But that's not all, the list of other wins that this little car racked up is astounding - not just for the Mini but for any car to achieve. just look at it;

Three 1000 lakes rally wins, five British saloon car championships, the Finnish rally championship TWICE, the British rally championship three times, the European rally championship twice, the 1963 Finnish grand prix, two European touring car championships,  six Australian touring car class wins, nine class wins at the 6 hours of Le Mans and whole trophy cabinet more! The Minis racing record really is remarkable.

So that's it 7 facts you probably didn't know about the Mini. The Original Mini really was a brilliant car and what it achieved in its was phenomenal, There's so much history and so many facts to cover that doing it all in one short article would be almost impossible, but we tried our best and hopefully you'll see that there's a reason why we have this little car as our mascot.

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