WE AND THE CAR
AFTER FORTY LIFE ONLY BEGINS!
In September, the last copies of the “Mini” will roll off the assembly line - a car no less legendary than the famous “bug”, which may have played
even more significant role
in the history of the automotive industry.
So, a veteran of Morris-Austin-Rover-Mini, released over 41 years in the amount of about 5.5 million, leaves the factory floor to give way … to the new Mini, for which BMW built a plant in Birmingham having spent over 700 million expensive British pounds. Let's remember how this "eternal" car began.
The impetus was the so-called Suez crisis of 1956, when the British standard of living fell sharply, gasoline became a deficit and the need for a cheap and super-efficient mass car arose. The president of British Motor Company, Sir Leonard Lord, caught the demand of the moment and instructed designer Alec Issigonis to develop a new model. The condition was almost impossible: a microcar for four people - only three meters long, and even with a trunk! The problem could not be solved in the usual layout schemes of that time. And here Issigonis lit up: to put the engine in front and across the machine, make the drive to the front wheels, combining the crankcase of the motor and gearbox. For those years - an unprecedented decision, which today has become generally accepted!
The entire development took six months, and in 1957 the drawings were ready. And in July of the following, 1958, Leonard Lord made a five-minute test trip, which so convinced him of the correctness of the concept that a command was given to start production no later than 12 months later! And in May 1959, unprecedented little cars ran briskly from Longbridge and Colei conveyors. I must say that not only the layout of the “Mini” was revolutionary: the suspension on rubber cushions, ultra-compact 10-inch wheels, rack and pinion steering gear - all this best met the "condition of the problem." It is curious that it was Issigonis long before Pieha who began sketching sketches on napkins at dinner.
No less interesting is the story of the appearance of the Mini Cooper version. Its author was a friend of Issigonis, a tuning lover John Cooper, who made the project almost on bare enthusiasm and received from the British Motor only a promise to pay in the future two pounds from each car sold. This version, "charged" with a 55 liter engine. with. against standard 32 (and subsequently power was increased to 76 hp), successfully participated in numerous rallies, including the famous Monte Carlo, and regularly brought victories.
Years passed, firms merged and went bankrupt. The name that stood in front of the Mini also changed: Morris, Austin, and finally Rover, which in turn replaced the English owners with BMWs from Bavaria. But here's the curious thing: getting rid of the unprofitable Rover, giving the most popular Land Rover to the Americans, BMW left the Mini behind! Still: this truly iconic car was bought by such celebrities as John Lennon, Ringo Star, Paul McCartney, Bridget Bardot, Clint Eastwood, Paul Newman, Jean-Paul Belmondo … Enzo Ferrari kept three babies in his garage; her famous racers Bruce McLaren, Nicky Lauda did not shy away. We are not talking about the royal family of Great Britain and many, many more celebrities.
But … Forty years is a venerable age for any, even the most ingenious design, so BMW decided to update the veteran. And in October at the Birmingham Motor Show, the public will see the new “Mini” - one of its prototypes on our cover. Such a premiere is an extremely responsible matter. It was supposed to introduce the newcomer back in Geneva, but … the flaws that opened up at the BMW testing ground in Ismaning made it possible to postpone the debut - perhaps very successfully: now it will be held in the "historical homeland" of Mini. Recently, nostalgic moods have been very strong: on this wave New Beatles (except for a form that has nothing to do with the ancestor), Chrysler RT Cruiser, which outwardly imitates the style of the 40s, have already won extraordinary popularity. The new Mini is also not a close relative of the old.
To begin with, this is no longer a microcar, but a full-size model of the Polo or Audi A2 class with a length of about 3.8 m. To match the size and power of the power unit: from 90 liters. with. 1.4-liter engine to a 150-horsepower 1.6-liter turbocharged engine for the most charged version of Cooper S! The latter will be produced, apparently, in Brazil, but even this will not help lower the price bar for a new car below $ 15, 000. Nevertheless, BMW marketers in the first year expect to sell about 100 thousand cars. Whether their hopes will be fulfilled, we will soon find out.
One of the first … 1959.
At the 1965 RAC rally: "Mini Cooper S".