Mini: One of the best-loved cars of all time

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Now 50 years old, the Mini- in its various forms, has been one of the most successful and loved cars of all time.

Launched in 1959 , it was soon dubbed the "classless car". Almost anyone, from film stars to factory workers, could be driving one.



With its terrific manoeuvrability and its easy-to-park qualities, the Mini was an instant success and spawned equally-popular spin-offs such as the Monte Carlo Rally-winning Mini Cooper which featured in the cult film The Italian Job.



More recently the Mini has been relaunched by German car giant BMW which has significantly increased the power of the iconic vehicle without decreasing the car's popularity.



The Mini was designed by Sir Alec Issigonis and had an 848cc engine and top speed of 72mph.



Initially known as the Austin 850 or the Morris 850, the Mini was first unveiled in April 1959, with the name Mini first being officially used in 1961.



It proved an instant hit with the public but despite excellent sales, it did not produce that much money for its manufacturers the British Motor Corporation (BMC).



In later years, it was thought that BMC sold the car too cheaply and there were even suggestions that the company did not actually know exactly how much it cost to produce the car.



The Mini hardly needed any more publicity, but it got it in 1964 when Paddy Hopkirk won the Monte Carlo Rally in a Mini Cooper S that Issigonis and designer John Cooper had created.



The same model also triumphed at Monte Carlo in 1965 and 1967.



Variants of the car included the Mini Traveller, the Mini Countryman and the Mini Moke which featured in the TV series The Prisoner.



Just as TV and film directors liked to show a picture of a red London bus in their productions in the 1960s, they also wanted to display the Mini.



A Mini appeared in the Pink Panther movie A Shot in the Dark and a psychedelic version of the Mini was shown in the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour.



Peter Sellers, George Harrison, John Lennon and Steve McQueen were among a host of celebrities who drove Minis.



Manufactured at Cowley in Oxford, at Longbridge in the West Midlands and later at sites abroad, the Mini was not just popular in the UK but all over the world.



Before the rise of what became known as the superminis, the Mini had the small car market pretty much to itself for many years. The Austin Mini Metro, which became known simply as the Metro, was meant to replace the Mini when it was introduced in 1980 but the two sold side by side.



Production of the original Mini ceased in 2000 but BMW decided to launch a new bigger, more-powerful version of the Mini.



The new basic Mini, the Mini One has a 1.4 litre engine while the new Mini Cooper is a 1.6 litre model.



The new Mini has proved as big a hit with the public as its predecessor, with BMW able to celebrate the production of its one millionth Mini in April 2007.

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