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These two photos of our classic Mini weathervane were taken only a couple of minutes apart! It’s great to finally have a weathervane and house sign design based on the classic mini, hopefully in the future we can look to add the Clubman, Traveller and even Wolsley Hornet/Riley Elf designs to our collection too. There can be few cars that are held in such high affection by so many people as the mini, in part due to its truly unique design and personality, along with the sheer volumes produced.
The brainchild of Alec Issigonis, who had previously designed the Morris Minor before briefly leaving BMC to work on a shelved Alvis saloon project (how history and indeed cars for years to come could have been different), the mini was a design which would revolutionise cars for many years to come. Designed during the Suez oil crisis, the world needed a compact efficient car, Rootes group came up with the Hillman Imp and BMC the mini. With its transverse mounted engine and front wheel drive layout (almost unheard of at the time but now pretty well industry standard) Issigonis managed to make a very compact car with a very reasonable sense of space inside (though not by modern standards).
So the question then is how did a car born out of necessity during the Suez crisis gain such a following? In my opinion this is in part due to its utterly unmistakeable and British identity, it is hard now with hindsight to imagine the mini as a new cutting edge design, to in effect imagine a world without them but when you think of the cars that came before it, it truly was a revolutionary car, which changed the direction of the automotive industry forever. Then there is the way the car handled, with the compact design pushing the wheels right out in to each corner and with such minimal weight the mini out-handled all of its contemporary competitors and a great deal more. The A Series engine, though lacking in power was always willing and easily tuneable, leading to the iconic John Cooper works cars. The final factor is as mentioned earlier in the post, the number of them produced, it is estimated that there were around 5.3 million classic shape minis made between 1959 and 2000, so everyone has some memories and nostalgia linked to the mini. Like jeans they were affordable (too affordable, reportedly so much so they were accidentally making a loss for some time!) and fashionable, so people of all classes and backgrounds had them.
Sadly by the year 2000 the classic mini had had its run, keeping up with the safety and comfort of more modern machines (when though there had been changed and the engine had been updated even to include fuel injection), at the age of 41, was no longer possible and British Leyland called an end to production. It even outlived its intended successor, the sadly much less loved Metro by two years.