Journal: Maximum Manufacturing, Mini Car

Maximum Manufacturing, Mini Car

By Petrolicious Productions
March 5, 2014

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.

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Emanuel Costa
Emanuel Costa(@genovevo)
7 years ago

The Longbridge factory, wich gave jobs to more than 10.000 people in some years, is today only a fraction of its size. It was bought by the chinese SAIC (Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation), and they still build the MG cars with the last Rover platforms, but with very low numbers. What they invest a lot there is in engeneering, with more than 300 engeneers and designers. SAIC might not be well known in Europe and Americas, but they produced more than 5 million vehicles in 2013.

Fun fact: SAIC couldn’t use the Rover name, well defend bu Land Rover (thank god for that), so they use the name Roewe in China and some other asian countries.

I visited the factory in 2012 with a group of european journalists, and it was a bit melancholic. But there are other classic factories, like Jaguar in Castle Bromwich and parts factories in Tipton. Another landmark is the Dunlop factory close to Birmingham, that produces motorsports tyres and classic tyres. After 125 years, that factory is probably shutting down this year…

Emanuel Costa
Emanuel Costa(@genovevo)
7 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel Costa

Sorry, the last picture should be turned up…

Rene Borggreve
Rene Borggreve(@reneborggreve)
7 years ago

The new Mini will also be produceded in Born, in the Netherlands. But it’s nice to know that the classic Mini is assembled in the Netherlands as well. Between 1959 and 1966 more than 4.000 Mini’s were made in Amersfoort.

Paul Steel
Paul Steel(@steely)
7 years ago

There is a labyrinth of tunnels and shelters under the factory from the 2nd WW, some great photos of the factory and tunnels taken just after it closed, now what’s left is home to MG cars (Nanjing) and 75\% of the site is being redeveloped, I live a stones throw from the factory, the good old days of transporters full of minis passing my house are long gone, but at least some cars still make it out of the remains of the factory.

Dustin Rittle
Dustin Rittle(@mosler)
7 years ago

I always like story like this because it gives a nice look into the inner workings of some of our favorite car companies. Its really cool to see how they are produced and shipped to us. Its a great way to show the scale of actually putting a car together

Christopher Gay
Christopher Gay(@christophergay)
7 years ago

These factory shots are amazing. The production processes shown in these factory series just fascinates me. I don’t see any robots!