Mini super

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"Wizardry on wheels", they called it when the Mini made its debut on 26 August 1959. The first buyers of the Austin Se7en and Morris Mini-Minor, to give the car its correct original monikers, may not have wholly agreed. Their cars, because the rear section of the floor had been inadvertently assembled back to front, got their occupants' feet extremely wet when it rained.

"Wizardry on wheels", they called it when the Mini made its debut on 26 August 1959. The first buyers of the Austin Se7en and Morris Mini-Minor, to give the car its correct original monikers, may not have wholly agreed. Their cars, because the rear section of the floor had been inadvertently assembled back to front, got their occupants' feet extremely wet when it rained.

But, once these little problems had been fixed, the abiding strengths of Sir Alec Issigonis's design shone through. Front-wheel drive for safe handling; the engine mounted sideways to save space; a wheel at each corner to maximise passenger accommodation; sliding windows, hollow door pockets, no dashboard to do the same. Above all, it was fun, as generations of learners and rally drivers alike could attest.

Cheeky, pert, fashionable, classless - but the Mini was a commercial flop. It sold in huge numbers - but for most of its career it was priced too low and never made its owners a profit. Just like Concorde and the hovercraft, those other icons from the golden age of British industrial design, the Sixties, technical prowess was not enough. If it had been, Longbridge today would be looking at a brighter future. We say goodbye to the Mini with mixed emotions.

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