Mini Range Mk I to VII From 1959 to 2000
Mark I Mini: 1959–1967
850 cc (0.9 l) I4 997 cc (1.0 l) I4 998 cc (1.0 l) I4 1,071 cc (1.1 l) I4 1,275 cc (1.3 l) I4
The production version of the Mini was demonstrated to the press in April 1959, and by August several thousand cars had been produced ready for the first sales. The Mini was officially announced to the public on 26 August 1959. Some 2,000 cars had already been sent abroad and would be displayed that day in nearly 100 countries.
The first example, a Morris Mini-Minor with the registration 621 AOK, is on display at the Heritage Motor Centre in Warwickshire. Another early example from 1959 is now on display at the National Motor Museum in Hampshire.
The Mini was marketed under BMC's two main brand names, Austin and Morris until 1969, when it became a marque in its own right. The Morris version was known to all as "the Mini" or Mini-Minor. The word minor is Latin for "lesser"; so an abbreviation of the Latin word for "least" – minimus – was used for the new even smaller car. One name proposed for the Austin version was Austin Newmarket. Austin dealers sold their almost identical car as an Austin Seven (sometimes written as SE7EN in early publicity material – the '7' the letter V rotated left so it approximated the number 7), which recalled the popular small Austin 7 of the 1920s and 1930s. "Morris Mini-Minor" seems to have been a play on words; the Morris Minor was a larger, well known and successful car that continued in production.
Until 1962, the cars appeared as the Austin 850 and Morris 850 in North America and France, and in Denmark as the Austin Partner (until 1964) and Morris Mascot (until 1981). The Morris name Mini (Mini-Minor) was first used for Austin's version by BMC in 1961 when the Austin Seven was rebranded as the Austin Mini, somewhat to the surprise of the Sharp's Commercials car company (later known as Bond Cars), who had been using the name Minicar for their three-wheeled vehicles since 1949. However, legal action was somehow averted, and BMC used the name "Mini" thereafter.
In 1964, the suspension of the cars was replaced by another Moulton design, the hydrolastic system. The new suspension gave a softer ride, but it also increased weight and production cost. In 1971, the original rubber suspension reappeared and was retained for the remaining life of the Mini.
From October 1965 the option of the unique Automotive Products (AP) designed four-speed automatic transmission became available. Cars fitted with this became the Mini-Matic.
Slow at the outset, Mark I sales strengthened across most of the model lines in the 1960s, and production totalled 1,190,000. Ford purchased a Mini and dismantled it to see if they could offer an alternative. Ford determined that the BMC must have been losing around £30 per car, and so decided to produce a larger car – the Cortina, launched in 1962 – as its competitor in the budget market. BMC insisted that the way company overheads were shared out, the Mini always made money. Larger profits came from the popular De Luxe models and from optional extras such as seat belts, door mirrors, a heater and a radio, which would be considered necessities on modern cars, as well as the various Cooper and Cooper S models.
The Mini entered into popular culture in the 1960s with well-publicised purchases by film and music stars.
Mark II Mini 1967–1970
Engine 1,275 cc (1.3 l) I4 998 cc (1.0 l) I4 850 cc (0.9 l) I4
2-door saloon, 2-door estate, 2-door van, 2-door truck
The Mark II Mini, of which 429,000 were produced, featured a redesigned grille. A larger rear window and numerous cosmetic changes were introduced.
Mark III 1969-1976
2-door Saloon 2-door Pick-up 2-door Van
848 cc (0.8 l) I4 998 cc (1.0 l) I4 1,275 cc (1.3 l) I4
The Mark III Mini had a modified bodyshell with enough alterations to see the factory code change from ADO15 to ADO20 (which it shared with the Clubman). The most obvious changes were larger doors with concealed hinges. Customer demand led to the sliding windows being replaced with winding windows—although some Australian-manufactured Mark I Minis had adopted this feature in 1965 (with opening quarterlight windows). The suspension reverted from Hydrolastic to rubber cones as a cost-saving measure. (The 1275 GT and Clubman would retain the hydrolastic system until June 1971 when they, too, switched to the rubber cone suspension of the original Minis.)
In the late 1970s, Innocenti introduced the Innocenti 90 and 120, Bertone-designed hatchbacks based on the Mini platform. Bertone also created a Mini Cooper equivalent, christened the Innocenti De Tomaso, that sported a 1275 cc engine similar to the MG Metro engine, but with a 11-stud head, a special inlet manifold, and used the "A" clutch instead of the "Verto" type. It also used homokinetic shafts instead of rubber couplings.
In 1978, the Mini was one of the key cars made available to disabled motorists under the new Motability scheme.
The Mini was still popular in Britain, but increasingly outdated in the face of newer and more practical rivals. Since the late 1960s, plans had been in place for a newer and more practical supermini to replace it, though the Mini was still the only car of this size built by British Leyland for the home market.
Reports of the Mini's imminent demise surfaced again in 1980 with the launch of the Austin Mini-Metro (badging with the word mini in all lowercase). The Mini was beginning to fall out of favour in many export markets, with the South African, Australian, and New Zealand markets all stopping production around this time.
Mini Mk IV 1976–1983
2-door saloon 2-door van 2-door truck
had a front rubber mounted subframe with single tower bolts and the rear frame had some larger bushes introduced. Twin stalk indicators were introduced with larger foot pedals. From 1977 onwards, the rear indicator lamps had the reverse lights incorporated in them.
998 cc (1.0 l) I4 1,100 cc (1.1 l) I4 1,275 cc (1.3 l) I4
Mini Mk V 1984–1989
998 cc (1.0 l) I4 1,275 cc (1.3 l) I4
All cars had 8.4-inch (210 mm) brake discs and plastic wheel arches (mini special arches) but retained the same Mark IV body shell shape.
Mini Mk VI 1990–1995
1,275 cc (1.3 l) I4
The engine mounting points were moved forward to take 1275 cc power units, and includes the later HIF (Horizontal Integral Float) version of the SU (Skinners Union) carb, plus the single point fuel injected car which came out in 1991. The 998 cc power units were discontinued. An internal bonnet release was fitted from 1992.
Mini Mk VII 1996–2000
1,275 cc (1.3 l) I4
Mark VII (from 1996): was the final version, twin point injection with front mounted radiator. Full-width dashboard replaces the original shelf, internal bonnet release. Introduction of airbag on driver's side.
End of production
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s the British market received numerous "special editions" of the Mini, which shifted the car from a mass-market item into a fashionable icon. It was this image that perhaps helped the Mini become such an asset for BMW, which later bought the remnants of BMC as the Rover Group. It was even more popular in Japan, which took the lion's share of the circa 40,000 Minis produced annually in the early 1990s. It was seen there as a retro-cool icon, and inspired many imitators. The ERA Mini Turbo was particularly popular with Japanese buyers.
By March 2000, Rover was still suffering massive losses, and BMW decided to dispose of most of the companies. The sell-off was completed in May that year. MG and Rover went to Phoenix, a new British consortium; and Land Rover was sold to Ford Motor Company. BMW retained the Mini name and the planned new model, granting Rover temporary rights to the brand and allowing it to manufacture and sell the run-out model of the old Mini. By April 2000, the range consisted of four versions: the Mini Classic Seven, the Mini Classic Cooper, the Mini Classic Cooper Sport and—for overseas European markets—the Mini Knightsbridge. The last Mini (a red Cooper Sport) was built on 4 October 2000 and presented to the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust in December of that year. A total of 5,387,862 cars had been manufactured.
After the last of the Mini production had been sold, the 'Mini' name reverted to BMW ownership. The new BMW Mini is technically unrelated to the old car but retains the classic transverse four-cylinder, front-wheel-drive configuration and iconic "bulldog" stance of the original.
The last Mini to leave the Longbridge plant did so in 2012, when a 1970s 1275GT which was used by staff to travel around the car plant was recovered from the disused tunnels under the plant. The car was damaged by a storage container falling on it and had been left without an engine or gearbox for around 30 years before being recovered during work to infill the tunnels. This car was sold at auction in July 2013 for £1400.