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Classic MINI Cars Which Made the Brand Influential: TOP 10

Here we propose to remember the classic Mini cars which created the brand’s history and contributed to the recognition of the Mini as the 20th century’s second-most influential car, behind the Ford Model T and ahead of the Citroen DS and Volkswagen Beetle.

The Mini is a very special, unmistakably identified car. This article is dedicated to the Mini manufactured from 1959 to 2000. Today the models from that period, before BMW Group, are considered classic. They were small, transverse-engined, front-wheel-drive 2-door 4-seaters in the wagon, convertible, and fastback body styles.

Until 1969, Mini cars were marketed under the Austin and Morris names (Austin Mini and Morris Mini). After 1969, Mini became a stand-alone marque, although the Austin and Morris names continued on certain models for certain markets, like Australia, and special editions.

Manufacturers of classic Minis were British Motor Corporation (1959-1968), British Leyland (1968-1986), and Rover Group (1986-2000). Since 1996, Mini has been owned by BMW.

The original Mini is an icon of 1960s British popular culture. Nowadays, classic Minis are sought-after vehicles, and the best examples cost much, especially first-generation cars. Fortunately, Mini does not have so many models to make it difficult to select ones for our TOP 10 list.

Here they are:

1. Mark I Mini / Mini Mk1

Production: 1959- 1967

Mark I Mini Cooper S 1965
1965 Mini Cooper S Mk1

When the first Mini arrived in 1959, it was a revelation. The wheel-at-each-corner car was designed by a British-Greek automotive designer Sir Alec Issigonis, who was also the founder of the British Motor Corporation (BMC). The first models were sold under the Austin Seven (SE7EN) and Morris Mini-Minor names in the homeland of the brand, or the Austin 850 and Morris 850 in some export markets. 

The public liked the Mini’s originality, its charming look with huge door bins, a”mustache” grille, external hinges, and sliding side windows. Its innovative space-saving transverse engine (BMC A-Series I4) and front-wheel-drive layout allowed using of 80 percent of the vehicle’s floor pan for passengers and luggage.

There’s an interesting fact about the Mark I cars: certain components were stamped with the date they were made on. Today those dates help define the age of a specific vehicle or estimate its originality.

2. Mini Station Wagons / Estates

Production: 1960 – 1982

  • Morris Mini Traveller 
  • Austin Mini Countryman 
  • Mini Clubman Estate
  • Mini HL Estate 
1969 Morris Mini Traveller image
1969 Morris Mini Traveller
1964 Austin Mini Countryman photo
1964 Austin Mini Countryman
Mini Clubman Estate 1977
1977 Mini Clubman Estate
Mini Clubman HL Estate 1981
1981 Austin Mini Clubman HL Estate

Mini’s 2-door station wagons (estate versions) were sold well in the Austin Countryman and Morris Traveller guises, and today they continue capturing many hearts. Those practical, attractive, small cars powered by 848-cc 34-hp and 998-cc 38-hp engines were available both in a rustic Woody style or, at a later time, an all-steel version for export markets.

The former, with a squared-off, woody-like back end, and twin side-hinged rear doors, was reminiscent of a typically British half-timbered house.

In 1969, the Clubman Estate replaced the Countryman and Traveller. The automaker used wood-mimicking adhesive plastic film instead of real wood in the new car. In 1980, the Clubman Estate was renamed to the Mini HL Estate and ran for 2 years under that moniker.

3. Mini Van / Pick-Up

Production: 1960 -1983

Mini Van 1962
1962 Mini Van
Mini Pickup 1972
1972 Mini Pickup

The Mini van and pickup arrived and ran the same years as the Traveller and Countryman.

The Mini Van was a ¼-ton commercial panel van (sedan delivery in the USA), essentially a cheaper variant of the Traveller with a longer chassis and without side windows but with stamped steel slots instead of a more costly chrome grille. In the 1960s, the vehicle gained popularity. More than half a million vans were produced.

The van and pickup were renamed to the Mini 95 in 1978. “95” meant the vehicle’s gross weight of 0.95 tons. The Mini Van derivative was the Mini Estate Van from the late 1970s. It came with a single rear window and single rear door that was hinged at the top and opened upwards for rear access.

The Mini Pick-up was an 11-feet long vehicle that weighed up to 1,500 pounds and was technically a coupe utility with an open-top rear cargo area and a tailgate. It sat on the Mini Van’s longer platform and had a fuel tank of 27 liters/7.2 US gallons.

A fully equipped Mini Pick-up offered a recirculatory heater, a passenger-side sun visor, seat belts, a laminated windscreen, tilt tubes, and a cover. The manufacturer built a total of 58,179 pickup models.

4. Mini Cooper 

Production: 1961 – 1971

Mini Cooper S 1966
1966 Austin Mini Cooper S

Alec Issigonis designed the Mini as an economical car for families. The Mini Copper appeared in 1961 as a result of the collaboration between Issigonis’ BMC and the Copper Car Company owned by John Copper. The latter was a builder of vehicles for Formula One and a friend of Issigonis, who saw the Mini car’s great handling capability and its potential for race competitions.

A more capable race-tuned version of the Morris Mini-Minor’s 848-cc 34-hp engine was used for the new model. The Mini Cooper’s engine had a displacement of 997 cubic centimeters (998 cc from 1964) and 55 horsepower (41 kW). It came with twin SU carburetors, a closer-ratio gearbox, and front disc brakes – uncommon features on a small car at the time.

In 1963, the Copper received a hot “S” version with a 1071 cc engine. Further, the car evolved into variants with smaller and larger engines. Any original Mini Copper is a desirable car today, and you must have deep pockets to buy one.

5. Riley Elf / Wolseley Hornet 

Production: 1961 – 1969

1961-69 Riley Elf/Wolseley Hornet
1961-1969 Riley Elf/Wolseley Hornet

These two products from the 1960s are the epitome of the British Motor Company’s engineering. With a standard Mini as a basis, they came with unique exterior elements and upscale interior features like very small tail fins, a distinctive Riley or Wolseley front grille on a new front part, a protruding trunk, and a veneered wooden dashboard.

The differences between a more expensive Riley Elf and a cheaper Wolseley Hornet were purely cosmetic: grilles, badging, and trims, for example, the first had more wood and leather. Performance differences came between the 848cc Mk1 and the 998cc Mk2 and Mk3: later cars were more flexible to drive due to increased torque.

Both models were and are costly due to their limited run and stand-out appearance. Only 30,912 Elfs and 28,455 Hornets rolled off the production line in total.

6. Mini Clubman and Mini 1275 GT 

Production; 1969 – 1980

1972 Morris Mini Clubman
1972 Morris Mini Clubman Sedan
1979 Mini 1275 GT image
1979 Mini 1275 GT

The Clubman was intended to replace the upmarket Riley and Wolseley Minis. An ex-Ford stylist Roy Haynes worked on the project, and the new model was launched in 1969 by a newly formed British Leyland.

Unlike the standard round-front designed Mini, the Clubman looked more modern and had a squarer front part protruding some 4 inches further forward, Initially, it came with a 998cc (1.0-liter) 38-hp A-series 4-cylinder engine that was subsequently replaced by a 1098cc (1.1-liter) variant.

The Mini 1275 GT was a more sporting model with a 1275cc (1.3-liter) single-carburetor 59-hp I4 engine, that effectively replaced the 998cc Mini Cooper, though the 1,275 cc Mini Cooper S continued alongside the 1275 GT for 2 years until 1971.

7. Innocenti Mini 90/120

 Production; 1974-82

1974-82 Innocenti Mini 90 and120
1976 Innocenti Mini 90/120

By the early ’70s, Innocenti, Leyland’s Italian subsidiary, began to develop its own replacement for the Mini. That’s how the Innocenti Mini 90 and 120 cars appeared in 1974 and stayed on the market until 1982, with minor changes made. Innocenti aimed to offer a car to compete with the Fiat 127 and Autobianchi A112 in the home market, as well as with the Renault 5 class leader outside of Italy.

It was a chunky 3-door hatchback on the Mini’s platform, powered by Mini’s familiar 998cc and 1275cc engines with outputs of 43 hp, 49 hp, and 65 hp. The Innocenti Mini had a different bodywork styled by Bertone – an Italian industrial design company.

The Innocenti Mini was never sold in the United Kingdom. On the Italian market, the Innocenti 90/120 model was more expensive than its rivals, had inferior interior equipment than the original Mini, and it was not a genuine 4-seater. Nevertheless, today the car is regarded as one of British Leyland’s most stylish missed opportunities, and it is remarkable enough to be mentioned here.

8. Mini Limited Editions

 Production; 1979 – present

1982 Mini 1100 Special
1982 Austin Morris Mini 1100 Special

The Mini model has spawned a great number of various editions, both with a focus on appearance and performance.

To celebrate the brand’s 20th anniversary, the Mini 1100 Special was introduced in 1979. The Mini 25 and 30 cars arrived in 1984 and 1989. respectively, to commemorate 25 and 30 years. The 80s also added color-themed editions, such as Jet Black, Sky, Flame, Rose, or the Red Hot. In 1985, the Ritz and Chelsea special editions joined.

The 1990s were productive too, and more limited-edition Minis came out into the light, including the Cooper Monte Carlo, Paul Smith, or the Mini 40 to mark the 40th anniversary of the British marque.

9. Mini Cooper 

Production: 1990 – 2000

1991 MINI Cooper  photo
1991 Mini Cooper  RSP

With the revival of the legendary Cooper in the 90s, after a 20-year break, the manufacturer got a second wind. A new model was named the Mini Cooper RSP (Rover Special Products), and it became a desirable classic car very early.

It was first unveiled in September 1990 and then went into full production in late 1991, after it became clear that the trial batch was a success. The final example rolled out of Longbridge in October 2000.

The RSP was one of the last carburetor Minis before the introduction of fuel injection. Under the hood, it had Rover’s 1275cc A-series engine with a 1.5” SU carb and 61 horsepower (boosted to 78 hp, and up to 90 hp on later models). In 1997, the car received a multi-point fuel-injected engine along with a front-mounted radiator and a number of safety improvements.

The Mini Cooper RSP featured a red leather-bound steering wheel, twin spotlights, body-colored door mirrors and wheel arches, RSP Minilite alloy wheels, a Tudor Webasto sunroof, a half-leather interior, and a three-clock binnacle with green faced dials.

10. Mini Cabriolet 

Production: 1993 – 1996

1994 Mini Cabriolet
1994 Rover Mini Cabriolet 

The Mini Cabriolet arrived 33 years after the birth of the core Mini model. It debuted at the 1992 British Motor Show in Birmingham as the world’s smallest 4-seat convertible. Its deliveries began in 1993. The vehicle was solidly built and attractive, available in British Racing Green, Nightfire Red, and Caribbean Blue exterior colors and with cloth upholstery in Granite Grey inside.

The car featured stout 12-inch alloy wheels on low-profile tires, a 1.3-liter, 63-hp, 4-cylinder engine with Single Point Injection, and a soft-top roof resting on the rear ledge, in textbook fashion. 

Production ceased in 1996, and only 1,081 examples were built. However, this model acted as a terrific publicity machine for Mini and the Rover Group. Like other small convertibles of the time, the open-top Mini was not a budget option, but there were people willing to own it,

Source; Autospeed

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