The distinguished Mini was officially announced to its enthusiastic public on August 26, 1959, and is still going strong 60 years later.
It may seem the blink of a watering eye but sixty years ago driving a motor car radically changed. The year was 1959 and the Twighlight Zone had just premiered on the square box in the corner of the sparsely decorated living room.
Ken wasn’t on the scene yet but Barbie the fashion doll was donning her short skirt and being introduced to the world by the American toy company Mattel, Inc. The first American astronauts were publicly announced by NASA as part of Project Mercury, and Hawaii and Alaska became the 49th and 50th states in the United States of America.
Meanwhile, the 10 foot long Mini was being thrust into the automotive limelight in a bid to capture the imagination of a market that was eager to be satisfied.
In response to fuel shortages caused by the Suez Canal crisis and also to compete against the quirky French and German micro-market, the first Mini debuted in Oxford, England on August 26 1959. The legendary Sir Alec Issigonis was driven to design the first mass-produced car to boast the now extremely popular transverse engine.
This, along with the car’s unique placement of its wheels at the four corners and lack of transmission tunnel meant the ‘Tardis’ like classic would easily fit four adults despite its compact size, thus establishing the brand’s famous go-kart handling and design philosophy focused on the more creative use of space.
Steve Ambeau, Department Head, MINI Brand Communications:
“There are few automobiles in history that were created and developed based on a design philosophy that has gone on to be recognized by so many pioneers, rebels, and racers.
“Both the Classic Mini and the modern-day MINI have become the centrepiece of passionate owner communities and clubs while retaining their status as an authentic cultural icon chosen as a daily driver by movie stars, musicians, athletes and automotive enthusiasts around the world.”
The Mini was also famed for its incredible car chase scenes through the busy streets of Turin in Italy, watched by real onlookers.
Just two years after the introduction of the Mini, John Cooper of Cooper Car Company got involved with the brand in a big way. Cooper – a pioneer for developing rear-engine racecars – made modifications to the Mini and eventually created the Mini Cooper S, which was seen as a sportier version of the iconic original.
His modifications eventually lead to the Mini Cooper S winning numerous racing championships against more formidable competitors throughout the 1960s, including the well-known Monte Carlo Rally in 1964, 1965 and 1967. The image of Mini as a champion on the track helped it gain the notoriety that propelled Mini to become a symbol of the growing youth culture.