Released in 1959, the BMC Mini was Britain's most
influential car produced. Other cars had used front-wheel
drive and transverse engines, but never in such a
After having success with the Morris Minor,
Sir Alexander Issigonis was able to revolutionize the
definition of a small car for BMC (British Motor Corporation
- which owned Leyland, Triumph, Land Rover, MG, Austin
This car, in his mind, should be much smaller than
any rivals so that it would be more fuel efficient
and cheaper to build, but it should also offer the
same usable space.
To achieve this he used transverse
engine, with the sump incorporated with the transmissionand
driving the front wheels.
Furthermore, with the application
of small wheels and rubber suspension (to compensate
the roughness of small tires), and by pushing the wheels
to each corner, cabin room could be maximised without
enlarging the body shell.
Every bit of space was used with big door bins, tiny
wheels that kept passenger comfort uninterrupted and
a fold-down bootlid.
The gearbox was secured under
the engine (instead of behind it) and it boasted an
innovative rubber-cone suspension.
models were released as Austin Mini Seven and Morris
Mini Minor. Costs were kept low with sliding windows,
cable-pull door releases and externally welded body
They were very nippy, easy to park and handled brilliantly
and were soon very trendy cars to own. Mini's already
great reputation, was firmed by the 1961 release of
Constructor John Cooper increased power
from the new 997cc (later 998cc) motor from 34 bhp
to 55 bhp which resulted in speeds of 139 km/h being
achieved which was seen as quick enough to warrant
tiny front disc brakes.
In 1964 the Mini Cooper S
was released, boasting around 70 bhp and was capable
of nearly 160 km/h. The Mini Cooper was amazingly successful,
but was sadly dropped in 1971.
Nearly 40 years on, and after many technical changes
including hydrolastic liquid suspension, winding windows,
optional Clubman model and 1275 GT versions the Mini
is still as popular as ever as was recently voted "Car
of the Century". It was a packaging masterpiece and
Britain's best selling car ever.
Around The Mediterranean And Home Again
Early in Spetember 1959 British drivers Ronald Barker and Peter Riviere set about proving the fuel efficiency of the Mini. Waved off at the start line by none other than Sir Jack Brabham
, the Mini covered 8,200 miles, achieving the remarkable fuel consumption figures of 35.7 miles per gallon, using only 230 imperial gallons to complete the trip.
Better still, none of the spares were used with the exception of a rubber band, used to hold a rear window open. Also, a new set of tires were fitted in Beirut as a precaution rather than a necessity, and only the one puncture was experienced, and that on the last day as the pair drove through France.
The greatest distance covered in a single day was 660 miles, and the best recorded average speed was 65.6 mph over a stretch of 82 miles in the Libyan desert. Both Barker and Riviere told officials after the event that they found this to be the most arduous they encountered, given the diminitive nature of the Mini, and the fact they needed to maintain that speed to ensure they completed the event in the alloted time.
The Mobilgas Economy Run
Even though 35.7 miles per gallon was an outstanding figure, given the rigours of the terrain encountered during the Around The Mediterranean run, it was pretty obvious that the Mini was capable of more. In an official R.A.C. test, an unmodified Austin Seven completed a 3 day round trip through England, Scotland and Wales, averaging an astounding 61.87 miles per gallon!
Driven by H. G. W. Kendrick, winner of the 1959 Mobilgas Economy Run (and who in real life was the Managing Director of a Portsmouth engineering firm), the Mini covered more than 1000 miles in a variety of driving conditions, which included both town and country driving.
The average speed attained was 30 miles per hour, and to ensure strict compliance, R.A.C. observers travelled in the car.