Getting the Mini message across – 1970’s style.
“You can have anything you want in life if you dress for it.” Edith Head
The Mini received its third and most significant technical and bodyshell-related change in the Autumn of 1969. The Mark III Mini – and it was now simply that (with no marque-related branding whatsoever), lost the hydrolastic suspension fitted to it as a running revision in 1964, not to mention its more upmarket variants, in an effort to reduce costs (the Clubman was a separate model), but gained internal door hinges and winding windows, much to the disgust of the car’s now sidelined spiritus rector.
It would also be its last. All subsequent changes to the Mini (1980 A+ revisions notwithstanding), would be of the purely cosmetic variety. Such as in 1977, BL’s annus horriblis, and the year in which the Mini gained a matt black grille, larger rear lamp units, which included reversing lights, and cheerful striped fabric upholstery – on the Mini 1000 model at least. Stripes too were applied below the side windows. 850 versions however remained somewhat more austere, although the subsequent 1979 Mini City 850 would get a set of stripes all of its own.
The period print ads shown above and below illustrate the manner in which the Mini was promoted during this period. On one hand, a rather generic studio shot of the car accompanied by quite dense copy outlining the changes, while underlining the Mini’s perennial virtues. On the other (as seen in the headline image) a simple, striking image, targeted precisely at the readership (both taken from period Vogue magazines), whose readership – as ladies (and gentlemen) about town – were in the main, target Mini customers.
The Mini remained a strong seller in the UK at this time – when it was available at least – and in 1977 this was far from certain owing to BL’s catastrophic labour relations and descent into financial meltdown. It was even said to have been just about profitable by then, but in this, as much else, accounts vary. Certainly, it was one of the few BL products which sold consistently throughout the 1970s, being well placed to weather the volatile economic and political conditions that characterised the decade, and despite its often marginal profitability, really deserved a bit more development money thrown its way. Those 1980 revisions came awfully late in the day.
“The best loved car in Britain today” is how BL’s ad-agency copywriters described the Mini, and whether this was actually the case, it was a great line, since not only was it impossible to refute, it was entirely plausible. Minis were everywhere and despite their whining drivetrains, leaking engines, mildewed weld seams and frangible floorpans, they had become such an durable part of the fabric of UK streetscapes that it was almost unthinkable to envisage a land without them.
But BL’s rivals had better, and far more stylish cars to offer by then, and certainly by the late ’70s, the more fashion-conscious customer (and no doubt, Vogue reader) probably had their eye on something called a superMini – possibly something Italian or French – something BL couldn’t really seem to bring themselves to build – in a timely fashion at least.