See Mini Evolve Over 10 Generations To Be Big Deal On The Road
The Mini. Without even seeing a picture, the moniker tells any English speaker this vehicle is small. With just a little more thought, it’s immediately clear that the small size must be one of the car’s most important features because the automaker names the model after the diminutive size. This must be among the best branding decisions in the 20th century.
The original Mini became an automotive icon of 1960s Britain both in the streets and on the track. Even after that initial heyday, the little vehicle managed to stick around with only minor changes until 2000. Then BMW revived the model a few years later and built a whole brand around it.BudgetDirect illustrated the Mini’s changes over the past 59 years. Click through the slides above to see how the little car’s evolution in that time.
Mini Mark I
The Suez Crisis in 1956 forced Britain to institute gasoline rationing. Small cars immediately became a big business there, and the British Motor Corporation responded by fast-tracking development of a tinier model. The Mini was born.
To keep the Mini small, BMC’s Alec Issigonis turned the engine 90 degrees and fitted it transversely under the hood. Front-wheel drive also eliminated the need to run a driveshaft to the rear and allowed for more cabin space. While not the first vehicle to use this layout, the Mini’s success popularized the setup, and it became the popular method for engineering front-wheel drive vehicles.
At launch in 1959, the Mini was only available with an 848cc four-cylinder. Formula One constructor John Cooper thought the vehicle could work on the track. He convinced BMC to homologate a version with a 997cc mill in 1961, creating the Mini Cooper. The Cooper S initially with a 1.071-liter powerplant arrived in 1963.
Mini Mark II
The first-gen Mini was a huge success for BMC, which sold it under the Austin and Morris brands, and the car received some updates in 1967, creating the Mark II model.
On the outside, the Mini still looked similar. The designers changed the grille’s shape and added new trim along the top of it. The rear window was also larger. The taillights had a more angular shape, rather than the original ovals.
The 848cc mill was still the entry-level engine, but a 998cc powerplant was now available, too. The Cooper also featured a 998cc engine, and the Cooper S displaced 1.275 liters.
In addition to the iconic two-door body, buyers could also get the Mini as a station wagon, van, and pickup. There was even a tiny off-roader called the Moke. There were also two-door sedan variants called the Riley Elf and Wolseley Hornet.
Mini Mark III
Big branding changes hit the model lineup for the Mark III iteration in 1970 because the vehicle was simply called the Mini with no longer any reference to Austin or Morris.
In terms of design, the exposed door hinges were gone, and all models now had roll-up windows. The rear side windows were a little bigger, too.
The Cooper and Cooper S also bowed out during this generation. However, the 1275GT kept the torch burning for performance-loving Mini fans.
Mini Mark IV
Arriving in 1976, the Mark IV Mini models are largely identical to the previous generation. Under the skin, the front subframe sat on rubber mounts, and there was more sound deadening. Both measures were attempts to make the cabin quieter. The taillights gained reverse lights.
Mini Mark V
In 1984, the Mini received standard 12-inch wheels to replace the 10-inch pieces that dated back to the model’s introduction. The larger size necessitated the addition of plastic fender flares to cover the additional rubber. There were now 8.4-inch disc brakes up front, too.
Mini Mark VI
For the Mark IV, the Mini finally made a transition throughout the lineup to using fuel injection rather than a carburetor.
This generation also marked the first factory-offered convertible Minis. Third-party firms previously created droptops, though.
Mini Mark VII
In 1994, BMW acquired Rover Group, the automaker that controlled Mini at the time. It eventually sold off the rights to most of the company’s marques, including Land Rover, but kept Mini in its back pocket.
In 2000, BMW introduced its modern take on the Mini. The base version in Europe had a 1.4-liter four-cylinder. The Cooper received a 1.6-liter mill, and the Cooper S with a hood scoop had a supercharged version of this powerplant.
A convertible version joined the three-door hatchback in 2004.
In 2006, a second generation of BMW’s Mini arrived. It looked similar to the German brand’s first effort but was larger. The headlights were no longer integrated into the hood and incorporated into the fenders, instead.
1.4- and 1.6-liter engines continued to be available, but the larger mills used a new architecture that BMW created with Peugeot-Citroën. The Cooper S now used a turbocharger, rather than the previous supercharger.
Unveiled in 2013 and with sales starting in 2014, the third generation of the Mini grew even larger. Under the skin, the model became even more of a BMW. The German brand embraced front-wheel drive, and the UKL platform under the latest Mini models is now also underneath vehicles like the X1 and X2. This also allowed both brands to share engines, too.
On a mechanical level, the modern Mini has little in common with the 1959 original, but the spirit of being a small, economical vehicle is still a vital part of the model’s existence.
In the future, Mini will refresh its three- and five-door models. A new fully electric version is on the way, and an ultra-sporty John Cooper Works GP is on the horizon, too.
For the next generation, Mini allegedly plans to axe its three-door hatchback, marking the first time ever the variant wouldn’t be in the lineup.