David S. Wallens Editorial Director
Aug. 11, 2017 11:09 a.m.

Despite the Mini’s motorsports chops and unwavering fandom, the little car was actually born of necessity. Thanks to the 1956–’57 Suez Crisis, the British Motor Corporation simply needed a fuel-efficient car-and they needed it stat. Alec Issigonis, who had already crafted the successful Morris Minor, was given the task.

His creation was the revolutionary Mini. A transversely mounted engine and front-wheel drive maximized space, giving the car a roomy interior yet a small footprint-just about 10 feet total in length but with space for four occupants. Small 10-inch wheels were placed at each corner, and initial cars made due with just 848cc of fuel-supplying displacement.

The Mini debuted in 1959, initially sold as both the Austin 7 and Morris Mini. Soon variants were built for BMC’s other brands, including Riley and Wolseley. In addition to that original two-door salon, wagons, pickups and the Jeep-like Moke followed. Production would last through 2000 and expand to other countries.

Issigonis didn’t intend for the Mini to be high-performance car, though. That was John Cooper’s doing. He saw the Mini chassis as a great foundation for a salon racer. Adding more power, more grip and more brakes created the Mini Cooper, a true world beater first unveiled late in 1961. An even hotter Cooper S followed in 1963.

Within a decade, though, the Cooper run had ended with a little more than 125,000 units produced. That sounds like a lot until you realize that more than 5.3 million Minis were built. End result? Here’s our first caution: Expect to find lots of non-Coopers billed as Coopers. While you can add the performance, the pedigree and matching values are another matter. “Original Mini Cooper and Cooper S” by John Parnell will help determine a real Cooper from a fake, down to chassis and engine numbers.

Second word of warning: Minis were not officially imported to the U.S. after the 1967 model year. Even today, they must be at least 25 years old to legally reside. As a result, you’ll see lots of ads mentioning updated specs-but, in reality, for example, a 1970 Mini “updated to 1995 specs” is likely a 1995 car wearing the earlier VIN plate. How to tell the real birthdate? Check out classicmotorsports.com/miniid for some help.

And, finally, Minis like to rust. Where? Pretty much everywhere.

Does this make the Mini a loser? A legion of rabid enthusiasts would strongly disagree.

Read the rest of the story

HapDL New Reader
Aug. 11, 2017 4:43 p.m.

First new car I owned was a 69 Mini, not a Cooper, but still a hell of a lot of fun. Thing was an autocross killer, nobody else had one and it won every event I entered with it. Biggest problem I had with it was keeping CV joints in it. You see, since there were zero front wheel drive cars in the rural area where I lived all my mates got huge joy out of seeing the front tires smoke. So I did it. Lots. And wore out and broke lots of CV joints. It's also surprising the things you can do in a mini when you're a young, testosterone fueled lad and know a lot of, shall we say, willing, women. Fun times!

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