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Rover´s Mini celebrates 40th anniversary

Mini's Life Begins at Forty

March 4, 1999 - The legendary Mini celebrates forty years in production this year. Developed in response to demand for a small car in the 1950s, the Mini has been in continuous production at Longbridge since 1959 – a motor industry record.

The Mini

To celebrate this outstanding achievement, a number of events are taking place throughout the year. The bumper celebration for the fortieth ‘birthday’ of this motoring legend will be held at the Silverstone motor racing circuit on August 21. Silverstone hosted the tremendously successful 30th and 35th anniversary events and offers the ideal location for hosting the many thousands of Mini owners expected from all around the world.

  • Mini Genesis

The story of the Mini goes back to 1956. In the wake of the Suez crisis, petrol rationing had been introduced, and this gave a short-lived fillip to the so-called "bubble" cars. BMC's chairman, Sir Leonard Lord wanted a new small car to go into production as soon as possible to meet this new demand. It had to be a proper car with four seats and it had to use an existing BMC engine. And it should be smaller than the then current small cars made by BMC. Otherwise, Lord gave his designer, the legendary Sir Alec Issigonis, a free hand.

  • A Masterpiece of Packaging

Issigonis turned his mind to the problem of designing the smallest possible car that would still accommodate four adults and luggage. In packaging this into a car no more than 10 feet (3 m) long Issigonis’ masterstroke was his idea of employing a transverse engine, driving the front wheels via a gearbox and a final drive built into the sump of the engine.

  • Rapid Development

The small car project was known as ADO (for ‘Austin Design Office’)15. The car was designed in six months during 1957. Development progressed rapidly and in July 1958, Issigonis invited Leonard Lord to take a test drive round the factory. After five minutes, Lord was satisfied. He told Issigonis that he wanted the car in production within twelve months - and so it happened; the first production cars leaving the assembly lines at Longbridge and Cowley in May 1959.

  • Advanced Design

Apart from the revolutionary engine and transmission layout, the Mini was in many respects very advanced with features such as: all independent suspension, Moulton-developed rubber cone suspension 10 inch wheels to save space and rack-and-pinion steering considered unusual at that time. While the body, with its functional styling with external welding seams incorporated for ease of manufacture, was of unitary construction, the power unit and suspension were mounted on sub-frames.

  • An Icon for a Generation

Mini sales grew slowly at first but in 1962, annual production for the first time reached more than 200,000 cars, and stayed consistently above this figure until 1977. With the adoption of the Mini by the rich and famous as the ideal town car in the 1960’s it became the icon of a generation and, helped by a string of sporting successes in rallying, its place in motoring history was assured.

  • Today’s Sales Success

Today, after many improvements including an exhaust catalyst an even a driver’s air bag, Mini is still in demand around the world with over 16,000 cars sold in 1998 - the biggest markets being Japan, Germany and the UK.

  • ... and what comes after

The New Mini

The new Mini


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