The Mini Cooper has been voted the second-most influential car of the twentieth century (by international group Cars of the Century) behind the Ford Model T, and ahead of the Citroën DS and Volkswagen Beetle.
This iconic British car was designed by Sir Alec Issigonis, a Greek-English car designer. Rumor has it the first design of the Mini Cooper was drawn on a napkin in Switzerland. Consumers had instantly welcomed the Mini Cooper, since it was a reliable, economical and a good-looking car. While it was originally designed for the lower classes, it become popular among the elite of English society.
Over the course of its history, the Mini Cooper has been manufactured all over the world. The first generation of the Mini Cooper remained almost unchanged for 41 years. Over 5.5M first generation Mini Coopers were produced by the time production stopped in 2000. In 1961, the Morris Minor Mini became the first British car to sell more than 1M. While the overall design changed little, this car’s name had to change quite often, due to the fact it’s been owned by several different companies over the years – think Aston Mini, Morris Mini, Rover Mini etc.
Here are some more fun facts you may not have known about the Mini Cooper:
Celebs & royals love Minis
- The Mini Cooper instantly became a classic. Members of the British royal family, all four members of the English rock band The Beatles, Peter Ustinov, Charles Aznavour, and Jean-Paul Belmondo have all owned a Mini. Even Enzo Ferrari owned one! The original Mini Cooper was sold for £497 in 1959 – about $1,838 in US currency.
- The Mini Cooper dates back to 1957 and was named for one of the top names in rally racing, John Cooper. Cooper was a designer of Formula 1 cars who created the sporty version of this beloved car in 1961.
- The Mini holds victories in the famous rally Monte Carlo (1964, 1965, and 1967) as well as the famous rally raid Paris-Dakar.
Obscure original design elements
- The Mini Cooper was the first car maker to turn the engine sideways in order to create more room inside of the vehicle.
- The doors on the first Minis had sliding windows that allowed for storage. Rumor has it that Sir Alec Issigonis designed the storage pockets to fit a bottle of Gordon’s Gin, since he enjoyed a drink here and there.
- Instead of a car radio, the first generation had an oversized ashtray. Issigonis was an avid smoker who considered a radio to be an unnecessary extravagance.
- Issigonis hated the concept of windows that rolled up and down and demanded the windows slide open.
Expensive gas forced reinvention
- Gas prices peaked in the middle of the 1950s due to the Suez Crisis, therefore car manufacturers started to rethink their approach to car designs. BMW tasked its design team to construct a small and reliable car. They succeeded and in 1959 the Austin Mini was introduced.
Mini Cooper & fashion
- Designer Mary Quant was inspired by the vehicle when she created the mini-skirt
BMW Mini or Mini Cooper?
- The BMW-owned Mini is a successor to the hugely popular Mini Cooper, but isn’t technically related to the original model.
- Today the Mini is an independent division of BMW and has its own unique model range. The modern lineup consists of models like Mini Countryman, Mini Clubman and Mini Pacemen.