The Mini Turns 50

Beloved of many, that famous icon of Britishness, the Mini, celebrates its fiftieth birthday this month.  This is the story of one of the most influential cars in history, from conception to its final British demise in 2000:

Ironically, this little motor owes its existence to a fuel crisis. In 1956 the Suez Crisis brought about a fuel shortage in the UK. The British, although they had been accustomed to rationing everything during the Second World War, found that because of the conflict over in Suez that fuel was once again scarce - and expensive. Sales of car plummeted, but the market for the cheap and small German Bubble car boomed. The then head of the BMC reportedly stated in a fit of uniquely British apoplexy ‘God damn these bloody awful Bubble Cars. We must drive them off the road by designing a proper miniature car’.


From the Upcoming ueue, submitted by taliesyn30.

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Doesn't say anything about the mini's engine, the mini was one of the first front wheel drive cars with a laterally positioned engine. Of course, the engine was an existing unit usually placed longitudanally or however you spell that so of course it had a fan on the front, which now faced the side of the engine compartment. Of course there wasn't any room in the front of the engine compartment for the radiator, and the fan was already facing the side of the compartment so why not just put the radiator at the side of the engine and punch holes in the wheel well so air can come in. They couldn't do away with the big grill though even though there was no longer a radiator in front of it. Big grills are british. So the grill now just let rain in to soak the distributor cap which was now facing frontward. Solution? A rubber mat over the distributor cap. This design persisted in Austins and MGs for the rest of the decade. Of course the large amount of air cooling provided by the big grill with no radiator in front of it caused one side of the engine to always be hotter than the other, so minis tend to eat head gaskets, but all great cars have their problems. The gearbox and the engine sharing fluid was a first too.
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I still want one. I want an original, even though I like the modern look of the Mini, as well. They're just not safe against an 18-wheeler at highway speeds...
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