Theme : Concepts – Ride A Rocket

Mini raised every enthusiast’s hopes to the heavens with their 2011 Rocketman Concept, only to have them burn up on re-entry. Thanks for that…

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At the 2011 Geneva Motor show, MINI debuted the Rocketman concept and from Paris to Peterborough, Mini enthusiasts wept with relief, because here at last was a proper Mini-sized MINI, rather than the lumbering behemoths that were actually available for purchase.

Dimensionally similar to the original Mini at just over eleven feet in length, its carbon fibre construction, novel door arrangement and 2+1 seating layout intrigued, as did the interior, which was was pared back to bare essentials. Rockeman’s overall form was pert and well proportioned, even if some of the show car gimmickry lurched into pastiche – as did the Elton John tribute-act name.

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The concept was a huge critical success and it gave Mini’s design team under Anders Warming a degree of kudos they had hitherto lacked, given the critical drubbing levelled at the core range from some quarters. All of which evaporated when parent, BMW announced in 2012 – (having shown a specially prepared edition for the London Olympics) – that Rocketman would not get his shot at orbit. It would cost too much to productionise, they reasoned, claiming it would require a bespoke platform and crash structure to make it viable. Cue bitter disappointment from the massed ranks of global Mini enthusiasts.

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Two years on and a page appears to have turned. According to a report in that bastion of credible motoring journalism, Auto Express, MINI design director Anders Warming appears to have suggested that a version of the Rocketman could see production after all. He has reportedly told them; “For sure, a MINI should always be a small car, so [a new city car] would be appropriate for the brand… At the moment, we don’t have the right tech solutions, but we are working on it.” Auto Express went on to suggest that it is possible that BMW will expand their relationship with Toyota, who could provide a shared platform from the IQ model to underpin the new model, which could be made from aluminium to save weight – if not cost. Certainly, this could provide a fast track to developing such a car, but why the sudden change of heart, if indeed there is any truth in the story at all?

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Simply this, BMW may need a response to the forthcoming Smart For Two, developed by arch-rival Mercedes-Benz, and sure to be a far stronger contender than its loss-making predecessor. It would also be in MINI’s interest to offer a smaller, highly fuel efficient model to help reduce BMW’s corporate C02 figures – and of course, small and hyper-efficient is at the core of MINI’s DNA, so it is also a question of credibility. So will it happen or is it just a piece of wild speculation cobbled together from a few unrelated quotes from Mr. Warming? Difficult to say, although the fact that most of the major automotive news outlets haven’t touched the story suggests it could be a little piece of wishful thinking from our friends at Auto Express. Which would be a pity, because I think we’d all like to see a proper mini-sized MINI once more – just as long as they give it a half-decent name…

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founding Editor. [Dis]content Provider.

2 thoughts on “Theme : Concepts – Ride A Rocket”

  1. It will be interesting to see if BMW do go for an iQ/ Smart ForTwo type car. My sense is that neither of these models has made any money for their respective manufacturers, and BMW does not normally go down the uncommercial venture route. That said, it might be nice if they did. They had the chance many moons ago when Rover produced a couple of really nice, rear engined concepts (called Spiritual – designed by Richard Woolley, from memory, who has now popped up at JLR and had a hand in the current full-fat RR, so I read in the once World’s Greatest Car Magazine) that were, probably, rightly ignored at the time as they would have been too radical to sell for a profit. They were very nice designs, though, giving a sense of both smallness and lightness – I think Richard (under his Bert nom de plume) “galleried” a picture of them in the same said once Great magazine.

  2. Change is overdue at Mini, that’s for sure. The all-new model is generally considered an aesthetic disappointment (which is somewhat fitting, as it acts as a final tribute to Gert Hildebrand’s reign at Mini design), and with Anders Warming now in charge of pencil weaving duties, I have every hope that we will finally see some genuine stylistic progression at “Li’l BMW’s”. The Villa d’Este concept car was an indication of what Warming has in mind for the brand’s future, an indication I found appealing, even though I’m suspecting most commentators on this site will not agree.

    Anyway: in Anders I trust. At least until we get to see the second generation Countryman, that is.

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