The Mini is a two-door compact city car that was produced by the British Motor Corporation (BMC) and its successors from 1959 until 2000. The original Mini is considered an icon of 1960s British popular culture. Its space-saving transverse engine and front-wheel drive layout – allowing 80% of the area of the car's floorpan to be used for passengers and luggage – influenced a generation of car makers.

In 1999, the Mini was voted the second-most influential car of the 20th century, behind the Ford Model T, and ahead of the Citroën DS and Volkswagen Beetle. The front-wheel-drive, transverse-engine layout of the Mini was copied for other "supermini" designs including the Honda N360 (1967), Nissan Cherry (1970), and Fiat 127 (1971). The layout was also adapted for larger subcompact designs.

The Mini came about because of a fuel shortage caused by the 1956 Suez Crisis.[23] Petrol was once again rationed in the UK, sales of large cars slumped, and the market for German bubble cars boomed, even in countries such as the United Kingdom, where imported cars were still a rarity. The Fiat 500, launched in 1957, was also hugely successful, especially in its native Italy.

Leonard Lord, the somewhat autocratic head of BMC, reportedly detested these cars so much that he vowed to rid the streets of them and design a 'proper miniature car'.[24] He laid down some basic design requirements – the car should be contained within a box that measured 10×4×4 feet (3.0×1.2×1.2 m); and the passenger accommodation should occupy 6 feet (1.8 m) of the 10-foot (3.0 m) length; and the engine, for reasons of cost, should be an existing unit.

Alec Issigonis, who had been working for Alvis, had been recruited back to BMC in 1955 with a brief from Lord to design a range of technically advanced family cars in the same innovative spirit as his earlier Morris Minor to complement BMC's existing conventional models. Issigonis had set out design projects for three cars – large and small family cars and a very small economy car. His initial work was on the largest car, designated XC9001, with the smallest car, XC9003, having the lowest priority despite it being Issigonis' greatest personal interest. With Lord's dictum to produce a bubble car competitor and his revised design requirements being laid down in October 1956, work on XC9001 stopped and XC9003 became the priority. The team that designed the Mini was remarkably small; in addition to Issigonis, Jack Daniels (who had worked with him on the Morris Minor), Chris Kingham (who had been with him at Alvis), two engineering students, and four draughtsmen worked on the project. Together, by July 1957, they had designed and built the original XC9003 prototype, which was affectionately named the "Orange Box" because of its colour. Leonard Lord approved the car for production on 19 July and XC9003 became project ADO15.

The ADO15 used a conventional BMC A-Series four-cylinder, water-cooled engine, but departed from tradition by mounting it transversely, with the engine-oil lubricated, four-speed transmission in the sump, and by employing front-wheel drive. Almost all small front-wheel drive cars developed since have used a similar configuration, except with the transmission usually separately enclosed rather than using the engine oil. The radiator was mounted at the left side of the car so that the engine-mounted fan could be retained, but with reversed pitch so that it blew air into the natural low pressure area under the front wing.

This location saved vehicle length, but had the disadvantage of feeding the radiator with air that had been heated by passing over the engine. It also exposed the entire ignition system to the direct entry of rainwater through the grille. Early prototypes used the existing 948-cc A-Series unit, but this provided the ADO15 with performance far greater than its price and purpose required – a top speed over 90 mph.

The engine was reduced to a new 848-cc capacity with a shorter stroke. This reduced power from 37 to 33 bhp and caused a significant drop in torque, so provided more realistic performance, especially when the ADO15 body was widened by 2 inches (5.08 cm) over the XC9003 prototype, which blunted the car's top speed while improving its stability and roadholding. Even so, the ADO15 had a top speed of 75 mph, which was better than many other economy cars of the time.

The suspension system, designed by Issigonis's friend Dr. Alex Moulton at Moulton Developments Limited, used compact rubber cones instead of conventional springs. This space-saving design also featured rising progressive-rate springing of the cones, and provided some natural damping, in addition to the normal dampers. Built into the subframes, the rubber cone system gave a raw and bumpy ride accentuated by the woven-webbing seats, but the rigidity of the rubber cones, together with the wheels' positioning at the corners of the car, gave the Mini go kart-like handling.


The Mini became an icon of 1960s British popular culture, and featured in the 1969 caper film The Italian Job.
Initially, an interconnected fluid system was planned, similar to the one that Alec Issigonis and Alex Moulton were working on in the mid-1950s at Alvis. They had assessed the mechanically interconnected Citroën 2CV suspension at that time (according to an interview by Moulton with Car Magazine in the late 1990s), which inspired the design of the hydrolastic suspension system for the Mini and Morris/Austin 1100, to try to keep the benefits of the 2CV system (ride comfort, body levelling, keeping the roadwheel under good control and the tyres in contact with the road), but with added roll stiffness that the 2CV lacked. The short development time of the car meant this was not ready in time for the Mini's launch. The system intended for the Mini was further developed and the hydrolastic system was first used on the Morris 1100, launched in 1962; the Mini gained the system later in 1964. As launched, the Mini had simpler suspension made from conical springs of solid rubber. These were compact, saving on intrusion into the cabin space, and required no maintenance. The conical shape gave the springs a progressive action, becoming stiffer at greater degrees of compression. This gave the ADO15 a smooth ride over small bumps, but minimised roll and pitch on more uneven surfaces. It also allowed the springs to cope with the huge variance in load between an unladen car (about 600 kg or 1300 lb) and a fully laden one (just over 1000 kg or 2240 lb, or a 70% increase).

Ten-inch (254 mm) wheels were specified, so new tyres had to be developed, the initial contract going to Dunlop. Issigonis went to Dunlop stating that he wanted even smaller, 8 in (203 mm) wheels (even though he had already settled on 10-inch). An agreement was made on the 10-inch size, after Dunlop rejected the eight-inch proposition.

Many features were designed into the ADO15's interior to maximise its passenger and luggage space on top of the major savings allowed by the transverse engine and 10-inch wheels. Sliding windows allowed single-skin doors to be fitted, improving elbow room and reducing costs. A bracing bar was fitted across the door frame to brace the single skin and this was later adapted into a large storage bin on each door. Issigonis later said that he had sized the bins to carry the ingredients of his favourite drink, a dry martini[25] in the correct proportions (one bottle of vermouth and 2 of Gordon's Gin). Similar bins were provided outboard of the rear seats, also serving a dual function of bracing the single-skin body panel. Small items could also be stowed under the rear seats, and early Minis were sold with optional wicker baskets specially shaped to slot under the seats. The fixed rear parcel shelf contributed to the rigidity of the body shell, although it did preclude fitting the ADO15 with a hatchback. The boot lid was hinged at the bottom so that the car could be driven with it open to increase luggage space. On early cars, the number plate was hinged at the top so that it could swing down to remain visible when the boot lid was open. This feature was later discontinued after it was discovered that exhaust gases could leak into the cockpit when the boot was open.

The Mini was designed as a monocoque shell with welded seams visible on the outside of the car running down the A and C pillars, and between the body and the floor pan. Those that ran from the base of the A-pillar to the wheel well were described as 'everted' (lit., 'turned outward') to provide more room for the front seat occupants[citation needed]. To further simplify construction, the hinges for the doors and boot lid were mounted externally. This also saved a small amount of cabin space. It also made the ADO15 very easy to assemble from complete knock-down kits in overseas markets with only basic industry. Cars could be assembled with minimal use of jigs as the external seams made the panels largely 'self-aligning'. They also allowed panels to be stacked flat on top of one other for easy shipping. As originally built, all the structural body panels were welded to the top of the single floor pressing, but this caused major problems with water entering the cabin and was quickly changed in the first months of production.

Early prototypes were fully unitary in construction, but the cars broke apart under the high loads from the large lever ratios used with the rubber cone suspension. The design was changed to use steel subframes to carry the drivetrain and suspension for the front and rear. This also simplified production, as both subframes could be built up independently and then mated to the already-completed bodyshell. It also opened up the possibility of easily producing variants on the ADO15 as a body of any shape or design could be used provided it could accommodate the subframes.

In 1959, BMC and Alec Issigonis won the Dewar Trophy, for the design and production of the Mini.

The Mini shape had become so well known that by the 1990s, Rover Group – the heirs to BMC – were able to register its design as a trademark in its own right.

Morris Mini Traveller and Austin Mini Countryman (1960–69)

Morris Mini Traveller Mk1 with internal fuel tank

Austin Mini Countryman Mk2 with filler cap now moved to the lower right hand side of the car
These models were two-door estate cars with double "barn"-style rear doors. Both were built on a slightly longer chassis of 84 inches (2.1 m) compared to 80.25 inches (2.038 m) for the saloon.

The early Morris Mini Traveller and Austin Mini Countryman cars had an internal fuel tank located on the left hand side of the rear load area. This is identifiable by the fuel filler cap being on the left hand side of the car just below the rear window. In October 1961 the fuel tank was relocated to the underneath of the car and the filler cap was moved to low down on the right hand side of the car – the same configuration that was already in use on the Mini Van.

From the start of production both models had a decorative, non-structural, ash wood trim on the rear body, in the style of a pre-war shooting-brake. This gave the car a similar appearance to the larger Morris Minor Traveller and gave rise to these cars simply being called a woodie. It is a popular misconception that the difference between the Traveller and the Countryman is the wood trim, or that only wood-fitted models in the Austin and Morris ranges were respectively called Countryman and Traveller, with the plain versions simply being Estates, but neither of these is the case. An all steel version of both the Traveller and the Countryman without the wood trim was launched for export markets in April 1961 and for the home market in October 1962 at a lower cost than the versions with the wood trim. Estate versions of the Mini were then produced in both Austin Countryman and Morris Traveller variants, both available with or without the wooden framing.

In October 1967 the Mk2 version was launched with the same changes as the saloon.

Approximately 108,000 Austin Mini Countrymans and 99,000 Morris Mini Travellers were built.[39] Variations of this model were also built in South Africa, by Innocenti in Italy and by Industria de Montagem de Automoveis in Portugal.

The Mini Traveller and Countryman Register was created in 2009 to help locate and preserve the remaining Mini Traveller and Countryman cars.

Mini Van (1960–83)

1963 Austin Mini Van
The Mini Van was a commercial panel van (in US English, a sedan delivery) rated at ¼-ton load capacity. Built on the longer Traveller chassis but without side windows, it proved popular in the 1960s UK as a cheaper alternative to the car: it was classed as a commercial vehicle and as such carried no sales tax. A set of simple stamped steel slots served in place of a more costly chrome grille. The Mini Van was renamed as the Mini 95 in 1978, the number representing the gross vehicle weight of 0.95 tons. 521,494 were built.

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