Saturday, May 9, 2009

Happy Birthday Mini

Also last week we wished a Happy Birthday to the Mini. I am of course referring to the car and not the mini skirt, that would come slightly later. It is however the mini car that celebrated it's 50th Birthday last week.

Designed by Sir Alec Issigonis for the British Motor Corporation, it made it's debut to the Great British public in 1959. Everything about it was revolutionary, from the transverse engine and front wheel drive, to the mini-malistic (I just thought of that one)interior and the bare cockpit sporting a single huge centrally mounted speedometer. The mini was fast, economical, small, nippy, easy to park and superb to drive.

In 1959 I was just eight years old but I do vaguely recall being aware of it's birth because I was interested in cars and was an avid reader of everything to do with motors and motor sport. I drove many cars and won many races at that time in my imagination. But it would be a few years later that I became more aware of the mini and of all that made it the iconic motor car of the swinging 60's.

The mini had an appeal that reached out to everyone from housewives to the Beatles. Pop stars, fashion models, footballers, movie stars, celebrities and even politicians all had to have one. Except of course me. Although I obtained my driving licence in 1968 I would not own one within this decade. I did however have a good friend who with the help of a rather "well off" daddy had a mini-cooper. That was an awesome piece of mechanical wizardry. It could fly like a bullet and stick to the road like glue. Because the original minis were so close to the ground it was like hurtling across the ground on a turbo charged tea tray.

The performance of the mini was so outstanding that it soon became the star of the race track, blowing away the opposition at Brands Hatch and Silverstone and dominating the rally scene for many years.

During these 50 years of it's existence, I have owned (as well as I can remember) four of these cars. the first would have been at some time in the late 70's when I purchased a 1964 model from Silverdale car auctions for £20. I also had a white mini countryman (a sort of estate model) in which it was impossible to engage first gear. I could quite easily pull away in second gear but I had to be mindful not to stop on a hill.

The last mini I bought was a sort of mustard colour and had an automatic gearbox which was a bit of a rarity. I bought this one for my wife, unfortunately she did not like it and soon asked me to get rid of it. It may have been something to do with the large yellow sun flowers adorning the bodywork that she did not like. She said she was concious of people staring at her as she drove past.

Happy Birthday Mini !!!

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