Having enjoyed researching and writing about our three eighties eco-concept marvels, what thoughts now come to mind about the current state of the small car market? After all, the future as predicted by the ECO 2000, for example, has long since passed.
The car as we know it is, without doubt, experiencing something of a fin de siècle. Personally, I have felt a growing sense that car design and development has plateaued, become complacent and intellectually flabby, with form increasingly disconnected from function. I have also realised that this is reflected in my writings for DTW, which recently has been focused very much on the past rather than today or the future.
One of the very few positives to emerge from BMW’s six-year tenure as owner of Rover Group was the successful reinvention of MINI(1). Barely six months after BMW finally disposed of its troubled English Patient, the R50 three-door hatchback was launched. It was a clever reworking of the style and proportions of the original into a larger and (somewhat) more practical package. It was by no means perfect and there were quibbles about the quality of its interior fittings and more substantive criticisms regarding the performance and refinement of its engine(2).
Despite its shortcomings, the new MINI was perfectly in tune with the contemporary Cool Britannia zeitgeist, with its cheeky looks and endless personalisation options. This was perfectly articulated by the dealership environment. Rather than the clean, efficient but rather sterile surroundings of a typical BMW showroom, MINI dealerships were all black walls and colourful neon strip lighting, more akin to the nightclubs supposedly frequented by its typical target customers(3).
Widely derided as a travesty of Issigonis’ original, but was the 1969 Clubman intended to be something more?
The Mini was wasn’t really styled as such – its body style simply a clothing for the technical package set out by its creators, with only the barest concession to style. Surprisingly, it worked, the car’s appearance proving relatively timeless, endearing and well proportioned. The problem was, it didn’t really lend itself to facelifting. By 1967, the Mini had yet to become legendary, to say nothing of iconic. It was just another product which had been on the marketplace for some time and would soon require more than the rather perfunctory nip and tuck it had just received.
“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 Continue reading “Strike a Pose”
A Minor Matter. First-hand experience of Issi’s magnum opus.
For reasons which were for the most part, monetary in nature, I have found myself being the final owner of a number of cars which have entered my care. This is not a particularly comfortable realisation, and might lead the casual observer to a misapprehension that I have not been the most careful of keepers, a matter I would take issue with. In truth a good many of these vehicles were far from their first flush of youth by the time they entered my sphere of influence and try as I might, I fought an often losing battle to Continue reading “Such A Small Love”
Concluding DTW’s exploration of the 1959 Mini and its enigmatic creator.
Leaving to one side matters of the ADO15 programme’s viability, or the product planning skills of BMC’s chief executive, there is also the matter of the subsequent account given by Issigonis when he informed Sir Leonard in no uncertain terms that “he was mad” to build the car on the basis of the prototype he had demonstrated. However, given that Alec, (like most people) was somewhat in awe of BMC’s kingpin, it’s difficult to take him entirely at his word. Furthermore, Issigonis’ secrecy, single-mindedness and formidable ego would likely ensure nobody else got their hands on his baby. He is also believed to have doggedly refused to Continue reading “Dawn of the Iconoclast (Part two)”
The Mini is one of the most ingenious, most innovative cars ever, but is also one of the most maddeningly inconsistent. In this two-part essay, DTW considers both icon and author.
The problem with icons is that often their venerated position can act as a shield against scrutiny, an insuperable barrier to unsentimental analysis or critique. How after all does one approach one of the most significant motorcars of all time objectively, without skirting the boundaries of iconoclasm?
Daniel O’Callaghan concludes his running report on his partner’s 2014 MINI with an assessment of its dynamics, its ergonomics and his conclusions.
The driving experience and refinement is where the third-generation new MINI really distinguishes itself positively from its fun but flawed predecessors. It has a nice turn of speed, 0-62mph in 7.8 seconds, which is 0.1 seconds quicker than the manual, and a claimed (but untested!) top speed of 130mph.
The torque-converter automatic gearbox is very smooth, kicks down readily and has a manual override if wanted, which we’ve never used. This gearbox has now been superseded by a dual-clutch unit. The three-cylinder 1.5 litre turbocharged engine pulls strongly and has a nice, gruff engine note. Continue reading “Our MINI Adventure (Part Two)”
In my recent review of MINI over twenty years of BMW ownership, I declared an interest in the shape of a MINI Cooper three-door Hatch, jointly owned with my partner, Murray, who is its main driver. I promised a long-term report on the car, and here it is.
We had owned a 2005 Skoda Fabia for nine years and 55k miles from new, which had served us very well as a runabout and carry-all. We wanted to replace it with something more fun and engaging to drive. It had to be an automatic, as Murray learned to drive in the USA and his UK licence still carries that restriction.
More MINI-based shinanigans. With added Gallagher brother-based goodness.
As a writer, it’s an endless struggle finding new ways of saying what is broadly speaking, the same thing. We are forever seeking an angle, or equally, a framing device, either as a way into a story, or a means of bookending it. This is all the more challenging for the relatively short-form (and I emphasise the term relatively) articles which tend to feature upon these esteemed pages.
Certainly, this author frequently struggles with form, almost as much as he does with content – or context for that matter. I say this by way of explanation for the somewhat conceptual approach taken in today’s reissue. Writing a drive piece on the R50 MINI (the first generation of the BMW re-casting) proved a bit taxing, hence the shoehorning of Britpop stalwarts, Oasis as something of a running gag throughout.
Concluding our retrospective on the difficult birth and growing pains of BMW’s precocious but troubled child.
In Part One we covered the evolution of MINI from its birth in 2000 to 2013. Today we continue the story, examine the company’s current state and imagine its future in the years ahead.
Late 2013 saw the launch of the F56 generation Hatch. Unlike its predecessors, this one was all BMW’s own work, hence the BMW, rather than Rover, model code. It is based on the BMW UKL1 platform, a larger derivative of which, the UKL2, now underpins MINI’s Clubman and Countryman as well as all BMW’s own smaller front and four-wheel drive models. The F56 MINI grew significantly in an effort to Continue reading “BMW’s MINI Misadventure (Part Two)”
A retrospective on the difficult birth and growing pains of BMW’s precocious but troubled child.
This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the launch of the first BMW-era MINI, so it’s an appropriate time to look back over the company’s highs and lows, and to imagine how it might evolve in years to come.
A MINI MPV was mooted before. It wasn’t a flier then – it’s even less so now.
Blind faith can be a marvellous thing – at least for those within its cozy orbit. However, for those who exist outside of its environs, not only can it become somewhat irritating, but allowed to propagate unchallenged, can lead to all manner of unforeseen consequences. At the South West London offices of Haymarket Publishing’s storied automotive weekly, for instance, belief in unicorns seems not merely confined to their veteran editor-at-large, but in addition, there appears to be a mounting view that these fantastic beasts hail almost exclusively from Munich-Milbertshofen. Continue reading “FAAR Away, So Close”
A timeless flight may be drawing to a close as Rocketman, via China’s Great Wall, finally comes home. Well, maybe…
The word icon is often bandied about and for the most part misplaced, but in the case of the original team-Issigonis BMC Mini, it is probaly a justifiable one. Of course, like most people or objects who have this soubriquet thrust upon them, the Mini’s iconography came about over time and in no small part from a combination of factors: motor racing successes, becoming symbolic of an entire epoch and a certain comedy motion picture filmed amid the streets of Turin. Continue reading “Summer Re-issue : Rocket’s Tale”
Brand-MINI is facing its biggest adventure yet. This one however, may not end well…
It has been a fairly interesting week for BMW’s Oxfordshire outpost. MINI has been one of many UK-based carmakers predicting doom-laden scenarios should the British government’s hapless negotiating team fail to obtain a workable deal to exit the European Union early next year.
This weekend sees our editor in-chief in celebratory mood…
I’m pleased to inform our regular readers that no hats were lost in the creation of this article. However, what millinery there was to hand has been at least metaphorically cast skywards in honour of my erstwhile fellow-DTW antagonist’s departure earlier this week across the Irish Sea. He means well, but our Mr. Doyle I find, is best appreciated from the distance of several hundred nautical miles.
Twin approaches to a modernised ur-Mini, but while one is shamelessly drenched in nostalgia, the other speaks of a possible future.
Nostalgia is big business. Take the music industry where bands reform to play their best-loved material, while record companies re-master and repackage classic albums. So if the running order gets messed with, original tracks deleted and a bunch of questionable out-takes (which didn’t make the original cut for good reason) are added, who cares? Completists, (mostly middle-aged men if we’re honest) will Continue reading “Remake, Remodel, Remaster, Recharge?”
The contrast between the Caprice and Mini coupe caught my eye.
The Caprice is a car I’ve wanted to photograph for a long while. It’s thrillingly basic. The loadbay might be long and wide yet it’s also quite shallow. I don’t know what’s under the high floor: fuel tank and transmission I suppose. Continue reading “The Long and the Short”
Last month’s news of head of MINI design Anders Warming’s precipitate and unexplained departure from BMW as was a shock to the industry comparable to Chris Bangle’s exit in 2009.
That may be as nothing compared with the news of his new appointment as Borgward AG’s Board of Management member responsible for Design, to begin on 1 January 2017. He is belatedly reversing the trend begun by Wilhelm Heinrich Gieschen, Karl Monz, and numerous others who took the one-way journey south from Bremen in the early 1960’s to create the new BMW in Borgward’s image. Except of course, neue Borgward is headquartered in Stuttgart, and answers to Beijing. Continue reading “What Anders Did Next”
Mini may be about to do the seemingly unthinkable by readying a three volume saloon. Heresy or sound commercial thinking we ask?
Over a decade and a half since brand MINI was reinvented under BMW and you’d have thought by now the bulk of enthusiasts and commentators would have got over the fact that the Issigonis’ miracle hasn’t and quite obviously never will stage a rebirth. The bloated looking current MINI range is hardly easy on the eye, but they clearly appeal to an increasingly broad swathe of the market.
But despite impressive sales and a strong image, MINI has never been as profitable, nor sold in the numbers its Munich masters would like. To reverse this state of affairs, MINI-management wants to Continue reading “Chasing (Three) Volumes”
Would you blow £35,000 on a luxury version of a Ford Ka? Back in the Sixties someone did the equivalent and others followed.
There’s a partial myth about British class barriers finally breaking down in the 1960s. Yes, this was a time when working class kids like David Bailey could make it without having to go to elocution classes and when satire suddenly made the establishment seem less intimidating. But beneath the veneer, and outside the world of ‘creativity’, for most it was business as usual. Continue reading “Theme : Special – Maximising the Mini”
It’s Sunday and in keeping with our unofficial Mini theme, DTW suggests four good reasons BMW was correct not to proceed with Rover’s 1995 Spiritual concept.
It would have cost a fortune to develop:
The investment in a bespoke floorpan and drivetrain, modifying hydragas, body & interior tooling and of course refitting the factory to build it would have been huge. New concepts also mean teething problems, so warranty costs were likely to have been high. Even as a sales success, Spiritual would struggle to recoup its development costs, meaning Rover would most likely have lost £millions on it.
You’re probably never heard of it, and nor had I until comparatively recently. Minki was a Rover K-Series engined Mini re-engineered with interconnected hydragas suspension, much like that of Dr Alex Moulton’s own modified Mini – and a hatchback. Built to suggest a possible developmental direction for the ageing original, time ran out for the concept, given Mini’s possible sales volumes versus the costs involved. Continue reading “Fossil Traces: From Minki to MINI”
There has always been a faint whiff of the tribute act about Oasis, a nagging sense that it was all somewhat better the first time around. Similarly, despite the overwhelmingly positive reviews and its promising technical specification, I greeted BMW’s R50 MINI with a sizeable measure of ambivalence. However, owing to frequent use of a 2006-edition MINI Cooper on regular trips to Ireland, it’s a car I have come to know well, so has more intimate acquaintance with BMW-Rover’s retro recasting led me to Continue reading “Champagne Supernova”
I should probably have offered these thoughts whilst we were discussing ‘retro’, but a recent article on another site made me reflect on the plight of Mini, or should that be MINI?
I’ll dive straight in and state immediately that I abhor what BMW has done to the design of the Mini. If ever there was a lesson as to what can go wrong with second-hand design, this has to be it. When I see one of the latest generation 3 door hatches (to mention the 5 door would be more gratuitous, but unfair because there never was a 5 door version of Issigonis’s original) something stirs within me, and it’s not nice. Continue reading “Theme: Secondhand – MINI”
Mini raised every enthusiast’s hopes to the stratosphere with their 2011 Rocketman Concept, only to have them burn up on re-entry.
At the 2011 Geneva Motor show, MINI debuted the Rocketman concept and from Palexpo to Phibsboro, Mini aficionados wept with relief, because here at last was a proper Mini-sized MINI, rather than the lumbering behemoths that were actually available for purchase. Continue reading “Theme : Concepts – Ride A Rocket”