June 15, 2007


Classic Mini Cooper: This 1964 Mini Cooper 1275S Works Rally is the forerunner of todays modern, BMW-owned Mini (Paul Frost, 6/15/07, Business Week)

In 1956, the Suez Crisis caused the folks at Austin to invite Alec Issigonis (later Sir Alec) to design a new car to combat what they saw as looming fuel rationing. When he had finished, the engine was the only part of the car that was not completely new. The compact four-seater famously mounted the enlarged A30 engine transversely, driving the front wheels through a four-speed box located in the sump. Independent all-round hydrolastic suspension used ingenious rubber blocks in compression.

The first prototypes ran in October 1957 and the car was launched in August 1959 with several thousand being pre-built for dealer stock. While the Morris version was called the Mini Minor, the Austin was known as the Se7en, but the name never caught on and soon they were all known as Minis.

The top speed of the first 33-hp models was 70 mph, and the Mini's excellent handling soon attracted tuning specialists. With BMC's agreement, race builder John Cooper produced the first Mini Cooper in 1961. The engine was 997 cc tuned to produce 65 hp, and with twin SU carbs, top speed rose to 85 mph. The Mini began its rally career in 1962. In 1963 the Cooper S with 1,071 cc was quickly followed by the 1,275 cc, which delivered 75 hp and 100 mph. From 1964 to 1967, the Mini was almost unbeatable and would have won the Monte Carlo Rally three times in a row, save for a last-minute rules change. Production of the Mini Cooper continued to 1967 and 44,859 were made. BMC built the Mini Cooper S until 1971, by which time 191,242 had been made.

If you've ever seen the original Italian Job the cars are very nearly the stars of the movie, which isn't bad despite a literal cliff-hanger ending that's only redeemed by the cool title song that plays over the credits. There are suddenly tons of them up here. They seem to be replacing the Subaru, which we used to be rotten with. Consumer Reports gave them a glowing write-up and said they're even excellent in the snow.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 15, 2007 3:46 PM

You're right about their stealing the show. Minis in cool colors tooling along looking cool. Worth the prize of an otherwise silly movie.

Posted by: erp at June 15, 2007 6:04 PM

I just wish the Mini was 6" longer. The back seat is too small for a 14-year old.

Posted by: Mike Morley at June 16, 2007 5:59 AM