The Mini Cooper Story
The Mini and Mini Cooper are virtual legends in the motor industry. Although often associated with the ‘glory days’ of British car manufacture in the 1960s, the Mini Cooper marque continues today under BMW ownership.
History of an Icon
Few things are known as a globally renowned British icon more than the much-loved ‘Mini’. It has a place in the affection of millions, and when one speaks of “British Motoring” it sits proudly alongside Aston Martin, Jaguar, Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Lotus, MG, and Land/Range Rover. Yet it differs from the others in two important respects – firstly its target market, and secondly its absolute association with the great British world-wide cultural phenomenon of the “Swinging 60s”. Unlike the other famous marques above, Mini and Mini Cooper were never conceived as a car for the rich and prestigious. It was always a trendy people’s car with emphasis on practicality as well as performance. It set the style of an age and many manufacturers since have tried to replicate its lasting appeal.
The origins of the Cooper
In the late 1950s, Britain was starting to emerge from the austerity and ‘greyness’ of the immediate post-war years. Things were improving economically and there was increased optimism in the air, however, there was also a serious shock when a major fuel shortage arose following the Suez War in 1956. Out of those two factors came the demand for a small, stylish, reasonably powerful but above all economic family and younger person car. Alec Issigonis (later Sir Alec Issigonis) and his team came up with the revolutionary design for a super-compact transverse engine front-wheel drive vehicle, and the “Mini” was born. Produced from 1959 to 2000, the Mini quickly became hugely popular and a legend, winning the title of the second most influential car of the 20th century after the Ford Model T.
Multiple versions and the Mini Cooper
During its lifetime, the Mini was produced in multiple versions including the Mini Cooper. The Cooper here comes from John Cooper, a friend of Issigonis and a specialist in the design of racing cars. They collaborated on a more powerful version of the Mini which was designed for rallying and racing. Boasting a larger engine and other technical customisations, the Mini Cooper and Cooper-S were phenomenally successful in racing events in the mid-1960s and very popular with buyers. However, by the 1980s and 1990s the British car industry was in major decline with the result that almost all classic British marques today are owned by companies outside of the UK, even if the cars continue to be built there. By 2000, BMW had purchased the rights to the Mini name. BMW has since produced a number of different models carrying the Cooper suffix marque, and these have proven to be popular at least in part due to their lineage.
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