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  • Writer's pictureRich Honiball

Today in Brand History: The Mini

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In 1959, the British Motor Corporation introduced the Morris Mini-Minor, designed by Alec Issigonis, it was only 10 ft long but seated 4 passengers.

BMC was a UK-based vehicle manufacturer, started in early 1952 as part of an agreed upon merger between two businesses, Morris and Austin. The idea of producing a smaller car, a "mini" was driven by the 1956 Suez Crisis and resulting fuel shortage. At the time, the Fiat 500, launched in 1957, was hugely successful across Europe. Leonard Lord, the head of BMC, reportedly hated Fiat so much that he vowed to 'rid the streets of them' and design a 'proper miniature car'.

The first production of the new Mini's were shown to the press in April 1959 and by late summer, several thousand cars had been produced. Sold as the Austin Seven and the Morris Mini-Minor, they were officially announced to the public on 26 August. Over 2,000 cars had already been sent and displayed that day in almost 100 countries.

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The first Mini's arrived in the United States in 1960, with the media giving the Mini incredible coverage, based on the impact it was having on the European market. People were intrigued by the unique layout, design, and overall specifications. In 1961, British racing legend John Cooper fell in love with the Mini because of its balance, wide stance and handling and starting using it for racing. His newly designed version of the Mini with a more powerful engine, brakes, and some other tweaks dominated 1960s racing, winning Monte Carlo four years in a row.

By the late 1960's, over 2 million Mini's had been sold across the world. for a personal footnote. My interest in the Morris Mini-Minor? Years ago, my daughter (seven at the time) and my dad were on a three week road trip through the mid-west states so I could check off a bucket list item of visiting all fifty states. During our stay in South Dakota, we woke up one morning to a car show outside of our hotel. Passing a vintage Morris Mini-Minor, my dad told us the story of how this was the car that he taught my mom to drive in.

Is Morris Mini-Minor (and other Mini's) related to the modern day Mini?

In 1966, BMC merged with Jaguar Cars and changed its name to British Motor Holdings Limited (BMH). BMH merged, in 1968, with Leyland Motor Corporation Limited, which made trucks and buses and owned Standard-Triumph International Limited, BMH becoming the major part of British Leyland Motor Corporation.

BMW acquired the Rover Group, formerly British Leyland in 1994, and sold the greater part of it in 2000, but retained the rights to build cars using the Mini name, launching a new MINI family of vehicles that have been produced since 2000. (Ever since I posted about the launch of Encyclopedia Britannica, and they responded with "love, but a correction" because I had the wrong date, I've tried to dig deeper and not only learned more, but tried to check my facts. That said, I still can't say that everything I've written is if you find something you don't think is right, let me know. Encyclopedia Britannica was kind enough to!)


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