Maximum Manufacturing, Mini Car
The original Mini design was penned by Sir Alec Issigonis and was approved by BMC Chief, Sir Leonard Lord for production in 1958, dually badged as the Morris Mini-Minor & the Austin Seven.
The Mini production assembly at Longbridge (UK) started in August 1959 and remained virtually unchanged for over 40 years, with the last Mini rolling off in October 2000 after an impressive production run of 5.3 million, making it the most popular British car ever made.
Many cars are dubbed as innovative, but the Mini literally turned car design around, taking advantage of a front wheel drive platform and transversely mounted engine that is so commonly seen today.
It also pioneered the use of compact rubber cones instead of conventional springs, giving it a raw (albeit entertaining) ride; coupled with the tiny wheels’ position at the furthest corners of the car and the incredibly short wheelbase, it unanimously made all the people who drove a Mini, feel like they were driving a Go-Kart.
The Mini was originally assembled in two separate factories with two separate badges 60 miles apart, the Nuffield factory at Cowley and the Austin factory at Longbridge, which eventually became the sole Mini factory.
The production line itself is notable for its automation and processes including the flow-line assembly, so that bodyshells dropped down on engine and transmission packages as well as rear suspension and subframes.
Enduringly proportionate and loveable from every angle, it manages the perfect balance of form and function, with a level of charm and self-assurance rarely seen by many cars before or since. This economical, humble and practical approach to motoring has had quite the resurgence in recent years and 50 years on, there are still many things we can learn from the Mini. Most of all, it tells us that austerity doesn’t necessarily have to get in the way of fun.
It’s a people’s car, a driver’s car, and appeals to your bank manager as well as your friends. And while the Jaguar XK-E may have been retrospectively heralded as the symbol of the swinging sixties, the title should really perhaps be given to the Mini…
If you’d like to know a bit more about the Mini, check out our Driven by Design feature, here.