Here is final coverage from Norm and Jess Nelson at Mini United.
For those that missed it (or like to read..) here is the official wrap-up from BMW’s writers:
What a birthday!: record turn-out at the MINI United Festival – and the party goes on.
In May some 25,000 MINI fans from all over the world celebrated the 50th birthday of the brand at the legendary Formula 1 race track in Silverstone. With its unique blend of music, lifestyle and motorsport action, the third MINI United Festival attracted visitors from more than forty countries. And together with this international MINI Community, numerous celebrities also congratulated this classic small car on its great day.
The Silverstone Festival is however by far not the end of this great anniversary party, since Mini’s presentation at the Frankfurt Motor Show is again dedicated to this great birthday of the brand. So the party will continue with world debuts revealed on the MINI stand, numerous further highlights from the brand’s model range and an exciting look back into the fascinating history of the MINI and its predecessor, the classic Mini.
1959–2009: milestones in a unique story of success.
The anniversary of the brand offers a great opportunity to look back at a story of success truly unique in the car industry the world over. Only very few car concepts have survived for such a long period or have achieved this kind of popularity, and none of them was ever interpreted in such a great number of variants as the classic Mini built for the first time in 1959. Then, with the brand being re-launched in 2001, the MINI started immediately to add further exciting chapters to this fascinating history.
It was exactly fifty years ago, on 26 August 1959, that British Motor Corporation (BMC) proudly presented two variants of a truly innovative small car: the Morris Mini-Minor and the Austin Seven. This double premiere was attributable at the time to BMC’s broad range of brands, with the two models being almost identical: both featuring extremely compact dimensions, the Morris Mini-Minor and the Austin Seven offered space for four occupants and their luggage, they were inexpensive not only to buy, but also to keep, and they offered both comfortable and agile driving qualities.
All this resulted from a revolutionary concept developed at the time by Alec Issigonis, the Deputy Technical Director of the Austin Plant in Longbridge.
The concept developed by Alec Issigonis: ideal conditions for maximum use of space and that legendary go-kart feeling.
To implement his vision of an affordable, straightforward and uncomplicated small car for the entire family and for a wide range of the population, Issigonis, a brilliant engineer, took new approaches in terms of both body design as well as the drivetrain and suspension concept. Never before had the combination of front-wheel drive and the engine fitted at the front been used as consistently to provide superior driving qualities and extra space as on the Mini. Beneath the short bonnet there was sufficient space for an 848-cc 34-hp four-cylinder, but only because Issigonis fitted the engine crosswise into the car and positioned the gearbox beneath the drive unit. This revolutionary innovation fully reflected the principle of form follows function crucial to the design of MINI to this very day.
The short overhangs front and rear as well as the wheels positioned far to the outside likewise benefited not only the space available, but also the car’s roadholding. The result was that 80 per cent of the space offered by the MINI only 3.05 metres or 120″ in length was available to the passengers and their luggage.
Issigonis also focused on innovations in creating the steering system. Since the usual universal joints tended to deflect when turning the steering hard to one side or the other, the father of the MINI decided to use homokinetic joints in the car. This allowed an adequate steering angle without any deflection and at the same time significantly reduced the influence of engine power on the steering, setting the basis for the go-kart MINI feeling legendary to this very day.
From a sporting talent to a serial winner:
MINI dominates the Monte Carlo Rally.
Just one-and-a-half years after the start of MINI sales, a new version entered the market destined to shape the legend of the classic Mini more than any other car: the MINI Cooper. Sports and racing car constructor John Cooper, a good friend of Alec Issigonis, had recognised the sporting potential of this new small car right from the start while the first prototypes were still under construction. So with the support of the Company’s management he developed a small series of 1,000 Mini Coopers featuring a modified power unit increased in size to 1.0 litres and developing maximum output of 55 hp.
This marked the beginning of an unusually sporting career on both the road and the race track. For the potential offered by the engine and the concept of the car still had a long way to go in the MINI Cooper. Issigonis and Cooper increased engine capacity to 1,071 cc, with maximum output of 70 hp, making the MINI Cooper S an outstanding performer not only on the road.
The class win scored by Finnish racing driver Rauno Aaltonen in the 1963 Monte Carlo Rally was indeed the beginning of an unprecedented series of success in motorsport leading on to three overall victories in Monte Carlo in 1964, 1965, and 1967.
Small car, versatile qualities: the different versions of the classic Mini.
Parallel to the sporting success of the car, the various versions of the classic Mini soon acquired a growing community of fans. Through its practical qualities, agile driving characteristics and charming flair, the MINI became a car for all classes within society soon inspiring artists in their work, playing a leading role in cinema films, and enriching the car fleets of well-known celebrities.
It also became obvious very soon that the concept of the MINI was simply ideal for diversification in a number of other model variants, with the Mini Van and Mini Estate entering production in the very first year of the classic Mini. A year later they were followed by the Morris Mini-Traveller and Austin Seven Countryman estate models, and further versions joined the range in the years to come – extending from the MINI Pick-Up in 1961 through the particularly sophisticated Wolseley Hornet and Riley Elf adding two further BMC brands to the range in the same year all the way to the MINI Moke, a four-seater completely open on all sides introduced in 1964.
In 1967 the classic Mini received a more powerful engine increased in size to 998 cubic centimetres and with maximum output of 38 hp. Two years later the MINI Clubman joined the range as a slightly larger version with a modified front end. And some important details also changed in 1969, the front side windows featured by the classic Mini from the start being replaced on all models by wind-down windows, the door hinges at the outside being moved to the inside, and an individual MINI logo being presented on the engine compartment lid.
The range was then streamlined from 1980 to 1983 with the Clubman, the Estate and the Van being taken out of production. The only model left, therefore, was the classic Mini with its 1.0-litre engine and output of now 40 hp. Customers nevertheless remained faithful to the car over all these years, with the five-millionth classic Mini coming off the line at the Longbridge Plant in 1986. In 1990 the Mini Cooper returned to the range, being warmly welcomed by countless fans all over the world and now boasting a 1.3-litre power unit.
A new variant of the classic Mini appeared for the last time in 1991. A dedicated dealer in Germany, like some tuners before him, had cut off the roof, turning the car into an extremely attractive Convertible. But this time the result was so good in terms of quality that Rover Group now responsible for the classic Mini decided to buy the design of the car and build it themselves. Production of this special model between 1993 and 1996 amounted to approximately 1,000 units.
Production of the classic Mini ended in the year 2000, with more than 5.3 million units of the world’s most successful small car having come off the production lines in various versions.
But even after 41 years, the car had not yet reached the end of the road, with a new chapter in the history of this famous British brand starting after a break of not quite one year in 2001.
A new start in 2001 – with the MINI Cooper right from the beginning.
When BMW took over Rover Group in early 1994 new perspectives opened up for the MINI brand. In 1997 BMW presented a concept of the MINI Cooper at the Frankfurt Motor show offering an outlook at a possible new version of this unique car from Britain. Then, in 2001, the new, future-oriented rendition of the original appeared at the dealership in the guise of the MINI Cooper and MINI One.
Creating these models, the MINI designers answered the question as to what the ideal small car would look like if the concepts developed by Alec Issigonis in the 1950s were combined with the technical potentials and customer wishes of the 21st century.
Through its design alone, the new MINI provided an authentic rendition of the classic Mini in its character, introducing design language boasting a unique combination of lines, joints, circles and ellipses. While significantly longer, the proportions of the car including the short overhangs front and rear remained the same, giving the MINI that unique agile handling borne out from the start by the looks of the car.
A further point was that details typical of the brand and quite unmistakable already on the classic Mini were now re-interpreted in modern style: From the modern rendition of the hexagon radiator grille and the round headlights now integrated in the bonnet, through the bonnet joints on the MINI extending upwards at the same angle as the seam on the side panels of the classic Mini, and all the way to the rear light clusters in upright position, special design features gave the car a unique touch.
With front-wheel drive, four-cylinder power units fitted crosswise at the front, exceptionally good handling, short body overhangs and space for four, the new models immediately took up elementary features of the classic Mini. And last but certainly not least, the development engineers also made sure to offer the latest standards of comfort and safety in every respect.
From the original to the original: the second generation of MINI.
The great success of the MINI obviously set the foundation for consistently continuing the concept and developing additional potentials. Further improved in an evolutionary design process and fundamentally upgraded in technical terms, the second generation of the MINI entered the market in November 2006. Following the motto “from the original to the original”, the looks of the MINI already lauded the world over were further refined through many details giving even greater emphasis to the sporting virtues of this compact and agile performer.
Almost exactly to the day one year after the introduction of the new model generation, the MINI model range was extended in autumn 2007 by an innovative vehicle concept: With its wheelbase up by 8 centimetres or 3.15″, the MINI Clubman offers brand-new opportunities to enjoy the driving pleasure so typical of the brand. The latest newcomer to the range, on the other hand, is the second-generation MINI Convertible. Offering even more sporting design, active and passive safety optimised to a higher standard than ever, a wider range of functions and the latest generation of engines, the world’s only premium Convertible in the MINI segment once again raises the benchmark for driving pleasure of the highest standard.
The current range of engines is more versatile than ever before. The MINI is now available with no less than four petrol and two diesel engines, the MINI Clubman comes with three petrol engines and one diesel, and the MINI Convertible is currently available with two petrol engines.
For the first time there are also three truly unique models under the John Cooper Works brand, the top-of-the-range MINI John Cooper Works, the MINI John Cooper Works Clubman, and the MINI John Cooper Works Convertible, through their 155 kW/211 hp four-cylinder power unit derived from motorsport, offering a particularly intense rendition of the Mini’s high-performance character.
The John Cooper Works brand integrated within MINI and also offering accessories for the drivetrain, suspension, aerodynamics and design has in the meantime become the epitome of extreme driving pleasure based on extensive know-how in motorsport and a close connection with MINI now going back for decades.
Made in England: MINI production based on tradition and
high quality standards.
The unique story of success of the MINI brand is closely connected to the production of the cars in Great Britain. On 4 April 1959 the first Austin Seven came off the production line in the Austin Longbridge Plant near Birmingham. Five weeks later, on 8 May, the first Morris Mini-Minor was built at the Oxford Plant.
The decision to build the modern MINI in Oxford was taken in spring 2000, leading to the construction of one of the most modern car production plants in the world equipped with the latest technologies and focusing specifically on the MINI. At the same time all production processes naturally follow the strict quality standards of the BMW Group.
Within just six years more than a million MINIs were built in Oxford, that is in exactly the same time that the classic Mini also took to pass the one-million mark. And just a few weeks after the official celebrations on the 50th anniversary of the brand at the Silverstone race track, MINI Plant Oxford was able to celebrate yet another anniversary, with production of the MINI after starting out in 2001 amounting to no less than 1.5 million units. Together with the sales figures of the former model, the brand now accounts, therefore, for 6.8 million cars built in Britain and sold the world over.