The Italian Job
a car rally in aid of childrens' charities
A Brief History of the Mini
The Italian Job Mini car rally celebrates the best little car in the world – so we thought you might like to know a little more about its history.
The classic Mini is considered the ultimate iconic car of the 1960's and has been voted the world's second most influential car after the Model T Ford. It's also been voted Car of the Century, Number One Classic Car of All Time, and European Car of the Century.
The Mini's space-saving front-wheel-drive layout, allowing 80 per cent of the car's floorpan to be used for passengers and luggage, has influenced a generation of car makers.
How the Mini came about
The Suez Crisis of 1956 led to a shortage of fuel and the reintroduction of petrol rationing in the UK. Sales of large cars slumped while demand for the German Bubble car boomed.
In the summer of 1957, Leonard Lord, the chairman of the British Motor Corporation commissioned Alec Issigonis to develop a very small car. Just 7 months later Issigonis had a prototype ready, invited Mr Lord to try it out and got the go ahead for a very quick launch.
To simplify construction and keep costs down, the Mini was designed as a monocoque shell (using the exterior to take structural load rather than the internal frame) with welded seams visible on the outside of the car and between the body and the floor pan.
The hinges for the doors and boot lid were also mounted externally.
The first cars went on sale in August 1959, although initially they were marketed under two of BMC's brand names, Austin and Morris – the Austin Seven and the Morris Mini-Minor. In 1961 the Austin was re-branded the Austin Mini in the UK - and from then on the name Mini was synonymous with the iconic little car.
The Mini was an instant success and once Paul McCartney, Twiggy and Peter Sellers were spotted behind the wheel it became the car of the Swinging Sixties.
The Mini's potential as a rally car was soon spotted by John Cooper of Cooper racing cars. The car already had great road holding and John realised that the addition of a better performance engine could turn it into a world-beater. And so the Mini Cooper was born and won the 1964, 1965 and 1967 Monte Carol rallies, amongst others.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s the British market enjoyed numerous "special editions" of the Mini, which shifted the car from a mass-market item into a fashionable icon. The Mini Italian Job was launched in 1992. All 4 colors were fitted with twin spot lamps and minilite-style wheels. It was this image perhaps that helped Mini become such an asset when BMW and Rover joined forces in 1994.
The last classic Mini, a red Cooper Sport, was built on 4th 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.
The Mini may have been down but it was definitely not out. The Mini and Cooper names live on under BMW ownership and in 2001 the New MINI was launched. The new car retains the original's classic transverse 4-cylinder, front-wheel-drive configuration and iconic "bulldog" stance.
Whether you have a classic or a modern mini it's worth considering taking part in this year's 21st anniversary Italian Job Mini Car Rally starting from Imola in Italy on October 29th and finishing in the UK on Saturday November 6th.