Many Mini returns

The first Mini rolled off the production line on August 27, 50 years ago today.

Wikipedia says  its space-saving front-wheel-drive layout (that allowed 80% of the area of the car’s floorpan to be used for passengers and luggage) influenced a generation of car-makers.

It also confounded some people who thought they knew more than they did.

My first car was a second-hand Mini. It took several friends and me on many happy excursions, including various ski trips. Once  when we stopped to put on chains we could see car loads of blokes laughing at us because they thought we were putting them on the wrong wheels. When one of them stopped laughing and came to point out our mistake, we pointed out his, explaining that chains are supposed to go on the front wheels of front-wheel drive cars.

It probably wasn’t one of the advantages the designers had thought of, but the front wheel drive enabled passengers to sit on the bonnet to give more traction when going up steep, snowy hills.

dairy 10005

It’s a difficult to tell from this photo, taken in Leith Street Dunedin in the winter of 1975, but the car was a sort of dull mustardy orange colour.

Six years later, a bright yellow Mini raced on to movie screens in Goodbye Pork Pie:

The Wellington chase scene is here.

3 Responses to Many Mini returns

  1. Deborah says:

    I learned to drive in a Mini that belonged to a family friend. A week or two after I got my licence, her husband got his boss’s car for about six weeks, so she used her husband’s car, and she lent her Mini to me. We could get the whole seventh form into that car (small single sex school – there was a mere seven of us) to go down to the local shops to get custard tarts for morning tea.


  2. Ed Snack says:

    That’s not even a “real” mini, it’s a Clubman ! I had a real 1968 998 Cooper which was great fun. It was a bit sad as it was ex UK and had been on salted roads. It had more bog than metal in the sills (and sundry other places) by the time I bought it.

    On snow, the trick was to put chains on the front, apply the handbrake, and just keep your foot down. You did need to be a dab hand at opposite locking though, and best down with plenty of clear space around.


  3. Red Rosa says:

    Lots of good Mini memories from the 60s.

    One of the ironies of history is that while BMW were making radial engines for the FW190 65 years ago, Nuffield were making Spitfires in their Castle Bromwich plant, which much later became part of Leyland.

    Well, we all know who won the first round, and who won the second! The current BMW Mini is a superbly engineered car which is selling like hot cakes.

    As a technical engineering aside, the first Issigonis mini prototypes had the engine sideways, but turned round 180 degrees. They went like rockets – top speed 150 kph even with that dated 850 engine.

    But the carb in front meant icing problems, which couldn’t be fixed. So the engineers popped another cog in the gearbox and turned the engine around, and the extra friction cut top speed to 115 or so.

    Probably just as well, given the driving habits of my youth!

    Sadly, BMC underpriced the car and it never made serious money in spite of those great sales figures.


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