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 small car.
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 Healey etc).
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.
the 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 seams.
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 the Mini Cooper
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 kph. 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, deservedly, Britain's
best selling car ever.