by clicking the arrows at the side of the page, or by using the toolbar.
by clicking anywhere on the page.
by dragging the page around when zoomed in.
by clicking anywhere on the page when zoomed in.
web sites or send emails by clicking on hyperlinks.
Email this page to a friend
Search this issue
Index - jump to page or section
Archive - view past issues
Journeys : August September 2009
Life on the move Locating the gearbox beneath the engine saved further space and weight and occupied a mere 45cm overall. Front-wheel drive and transverselymounted engines were not new but no-one had previously attempted to incorporate them into such a small area. The space-saving front wheel drive layout allowed 80% of the car’s floor-pan area to be used for passengers and luggage. The 25cm diameter wheels seemed frighteningly small for a passenger car (they were later increased to 30.5cm) but they were a masterstroke, as they limited wheel intrusion into the passenger space. The initial use of sliding windows, cablepull door releases and the characteristic externally-welded body seams allowed for additional cost-cutting. The saloon measured a measly 3.05m from bumper to bumper, with a width of 1.40m and a height of 1.35m. The sub-frames allowed for a huge variety of Mini derivatives, including a van, a pick-up truck and an estate wagon, as well as the Jeep-like Mini Moke and the cabriolet. The Mini was intended to be a small family car, but John Cooper (designer/ builder of Formula 1 and rally cars) persuaded BMC to make the most of the vehicle’s innate handling prowess by increasing the power output and turning it into a pocket-sized performance saloon capable of knuckle-whitening speeds. Its size and manoeuvrability, coupled with its front-wheel drive, enabled it to scamper around bigger and more fancied opposition. The Mini Cooper went on to become one of Britain’s great motor sports legends and the definitive and dominant rally car of the sixties, blitzing the competition in events such as the Monte Carlo, Tulip and Alpine Rallies. BMC was the largest British car manufacturer of its day but by 1966 the bubble burst and the company became defunct. After four decades of takeovers and mergers it is ironic that a car starting out as a direct response to the high-fuel consumption German imports of the day would ultimately become a German acquisition itself. BMW purchased the Rover Group from British Aerospace in 1994 and has continued the legacy with the BMW MINI, capitalised to distinguish it from its Mini predecessor. Many people still have a soft spot for the Mini – and a story or two to tell about it. It is one of those rare cars that without even trying seems to have written itself into motoring folklore by becoming a family daily-driver, a star of the screen (remember Austin Powers?) and a popular celebrity choice, as well as covering itself in glory on the racetrack. For one so small the Mini has achieved much in its first fifty years. August / September 09 21 Paul Granston Paul Granston
June July 2009
October November 2009