The Monte Carlo Rally: the birth of the Mini sports car legend.
Dominating the Monte Carlo Rally from 1964 to 1967, Mini set the foundation for its legendary reputation as an extremely fast and above all nimble sports car. Now, commemorating the 100th birth-day of Sir Alec Issigonis, the creator of Mini, in the year 2006 and as a reminder of the outstanding victories brought home by the Mini brand some 40 years ago, MINI Concept Geneva is appearing on the scene as an up-to-date interpretation of that small British racer in its great days.
In the process the core idea of the Mini Traveller, Mini Countryman and Mini Clubman Estate is being carried forward progressively into a new model variant.
MINI Concept Geneva thus combines sporting engine power and an equally sporting ambience within the interior through its flex-ible and clever use of space. So apart from the Team Manager and Service Engineer, all the equipment for the toughest racing re-quire-ments fits perfectly inside the car.
Role model from the 1960s.
Unusual, nimble, clever from the very first day Mini was the ideal companion for the genuine trendsetter. Then, in the early 1960s, the particular class and style of Mini was further enhanced by sporting outdoor activities, special models allowing the enthusi-ast to enjoy wonderful trips to the countryside or a glorious day on the beach: the Mini Traveller, the Mini Countryman and, somewhat later, the Mini Clubman Estate, all with a longer wheelbase, a slightly higher roofline and practical rear doors were exactly the right companions at the time for this special feeling of life. They combined the unique chic of Mini with extra space, the Mini Trav-eller thus guaranteeing stylish transportation at all times and all places.
With 2006 marking the one-hundredth birthday of Sir Alec Issi-gonis,
the inventor of Mini, MINI is presenting a special Concept Car at the Geneva Motor Show re-interpreting the core idea of a vehicle for the travelling enthusiast in appropriate style for the early 21st century.
Many features are familiar, but in reality everything is new.
The unique overall look of the car, its design at the front and from the side, as well as numerous design features now acknowledged as genuine
icons are all typical of MINI. But the innovative features boasted by the car are equally characteristic of the MINI world for example the wide-opening doors with intelligent parallelogram kinematics as well as the specially developed Silver metallic paintwork and the exquisite materials used inside the car. MINI Con-cept Geneva bears tribute to its forerunner also through its ele-gant design, the symmetrically split double door at the rear, and the split side windows for the passengers in the second row.
In all, MINI Concept Geneva excels by combining all its functions with clearly defined benefits for the user and by refining its design features to the last detail. At the same time the name alone is a commitment: MINI has its roots in an urban world, which is why every issue of the MINI International Magazine is dedicated to an exciting city. MINI Concept Geneva, therefore, is an homage to the host city and venue of the International Motor Show.
Always different, always stylish. New surfaces and materials for MINI Concept Geneva.
Satellite Silver as the car’s multi-layer exterior paintwork inter-acting in silver and grey, white and red leather with different sur-faces and a different touch, innovative glass-fibre fabric for the inner linings on the doors and a metallic carbon look within the footwells all this clearly shows what sporting and individual style means to MINI at the beginning of the 21st century: an exceptional ambience and clever use of space presented authentically in the guise of MINI Concept Geneva.
This also means ample space for up to four occupants travelling in generous and luxurious style to their sporting activities and in their leisure time. New ideas for making optimum use of the space available range from the Cargobox in the luggage compartment all the way to the driver’s and front passenger’s seats “hovering” in sus-pended arrangement.
Typical in Design, but New in Every Inch. MINI Concept Geneva Exterior.
Just one look is sufficient: Like the “regular” model, the Concept Ver-sion of the MINI is “as small as possible and as big as necessary”. Particularly this was the special challenge facing the MINI Design Team, with MINI Concept Geneva being a truly unique car all the way from its characteristic hexagon grille to the very functional split-door rear end.
MINI Concept Geneva naturally boasts numerous highlights which have made MINI design a genuine hallmark in the course of many years and de-cades: These include the straight shoulder and roof lines with the should-er line rising up gently to the rear to give the car the exciting wedge shape of a genuine MINI further accentuated espe-cially on this model by the extra leng-th of the car.
The wheels positioned far to the outside, the very wide (more than 160 cm) driver and front passenger doors relative to the overall length of the car, and the characteristic joints around the side direction indicators all bear out the enhanced, upgraded design language so characteristic of MINI Concept Geneva.
The diagonal joint between the side direction indicator and the side door is a genuine icon which has developed consistently over the years, originating from the welding seam on the classic MINI. The glazed window line extend-ing all round the car and the omission of a B-pillar creates the impression of a “free-standing” roof again characterising the Concept Car just like the door handles so typical of MINI.
Firm, sporting, masculine.
Many features of MINI Concept Geneva are familiar but in actual fact every-thing is different: In its overall look and appearance, the car is firm, sleek and smooth, with features such as the wheel arches, the shoulder line and the powerdome standing out as particularly striking details. At very first sight, MINI Concept Geneva makes a clear state-ment the car has stance, looks muscular and elegant all in one. This impressive appearance is further accentuated by the headlights inte-grated directly in the engine compartment lid and by the hexagonal grille sculptured in one single piece to give the Concept Version a particularly alert, performance-oriented, like-able
and charming appearance.
Engine compartment lid hinged at the front.
This sporting look is further enhanced by the engine compartment lid hinged at the front, the wheel arches and radiator grille forming one homogeneous component without any seams or dividing lines in between. And like on a classic sports car, the engine compartment lid swivels to the front and upwards when opening, with only the headlights remaining in their original position.
A further benefit of this particular configuration is optimum access to the engine compartment at all times.
Sophisticated design and top-quality materials also give MINI Concept Geneva its particular qualities beneath the engine com-partment lid: The wheel arches and all visible parts on the engine are finished consistently in Satellite Silver, the exterior colour of the car, the engine thus standing out almost as if it were being pre-sented in a dis-play cabinet.
Sporting drivetrain, sporting features.
To ensure that the car accompanying the rally is always there when needed, MINI Concept Geneva comes with a MINI Cooper S power unit clearly characterised by the additional air intake scoop on the engine compartment lid and the dual tailpipes. Right in the middle above the air intake scoop, the engine compartment lid proudly bears a graphic reminiscent of the classic symbol of the Monte Carlo Rally.
Further ingredients ensuring that go-kart feeling so typical of MINI are
the long wheelbase, the wide track and short overhangs both front and rear.
The grid in the radiator grille is finished in black acting, just like the integrated chrome-plated additional headlights, as an indis-pensable attribute of a genuinely sporting car. The logo on the ra-diator grille of MINI Concept Geneva reminds the beholder in the year 2006 that the creator of Mini, Sir Alec Issigonis, was born exactly 100 years ago.
All doors with parallelogram kinematics.
Extra space inside naturally calls for good access from outside. Ensuring easy access and loading was one of the fundamental philo-sophies in developing MINI Concept Geneva. So through the driver and front passenger doors as well as the two rear doors, MINI is intro-ducing a design configuration simply ideal for much easier and more convenient entry to and exit from the car, as well as better loading and unloading even under confined conditions: All four doors run on “intelligent” hinges and pivots in kinematic parallelogram arrange-ment, the doors swi-velling in one single motion with minimum movement to the side and maximum movement to the front. This significantly reduces the space required all around the car when opening the doors while nevertheless offering the user generous access to the interior.
Coupe-like appearance for convenient access. Long side doors, split side windows at the rear.
Through their parallelogram kinematics, the long coupe doors turn
the occa-sional disadvantage of a smaller opening angle into a signifi-cant advantage ensured by the concept of the car especially be-cause the
side doors on this design concept are more than 160 centimetres or 63.0” wide. And a further important point is that the side doors, like on every MINI, come with frameless windows.
MINI’s new cosmopolitan athlete takes up the elements of a two-door coupe also in many other respects, at the same time offering par-tic-ular practical va-lue through easy access and loading.
Further highlights are the two split side windows at the rear merging directly when closed with the side windows at the front and the front section moving electrically beneath the rear section when opened. This principle of split windows at the rear incidentally comes straight from the classic Mini Traveller and has been re-interpreted on the MINI Concept Geneva.
Longer wheelbase for extra space inside.
MINI Con-cept Geneva quite simply offers more space for the team accompanying the rally with all their equipment, fully prepared for any eventuality. The long wheelbase, for example, guarantees particularly ample space on the rear seats of the car. An important con-tribution to the excellent driving characteristics so typical of MINI, on the other hand, is the particular position of the wheels “right at each corner” of the car.
Deliberately maintaining this important feature so typical of the brand,
MINI Concept Geneva like all other MINIs boasts an extra-short and
compact body overhang at the rear. And last but certainly not least, the two wide-opening rear doors hinged at the side make loading and unloading very easy and convenient.
The Cargobox the “butler” within the luggage compartment.
Behind these doors MINI Concept Geneva takes up items loaded into the car on two different levels. This is made possible by the Cargo-box, a very helpful “butler” for handling both small bags and big cases. Just one feature is that the floor can be pulled out to the rear, enabling the team to simply put down their toolbox on the floor panel and slide it smoothly into the car.
A further fea-ture is that the floor of the Cargobox may be swivelled up, serving as a parti-tion between the passenger compartment and the luggage area.
The entire Cargobox can then be moved easily and smoothly to the rear and up into the opening in the rear doors, for ex-ample to accommodate exchange parts and other materials.
Fully retractable, frameless windows in both rear doors serve, finally, to provide extra fresh air and again allow convenient access to the luggage compartment without requiring the driver to open the doors.
The Sports Utility Box: Take along anything you want.
Whether it is tools or spare parts you always need the right equip-ment in your car to be a real member of the team. And that’s easy with MINI Concept Geneva: Just fit the Sports Utility Box into the opened rear side window and you’re ready to go, fully prepar-ed for the challenges on the next leg of your trip.
The Sports Utility Box is an additional, multi-functional, storage com-partment made of specially moulded plastic. In its length and height, it fits perfectly into the rear side window, where it is fast-ened in position. To do this, all you do is open the vertically split window (the front section moves back electrically) and hang the Utility Box with its lower section into the window opening. Flaps on either side of the Sports Utility Box allow the user to load and unload the Box both from outside and from the passenger com-partment, with the additional and very practical option to pass through all kinds of odds and ends. The lower section of the Box extends all the way back on the car to the C-pillar.
MINI Concept Geneva provides for simultaneous use of several Sports Utility Boxes used flexibly and individually depending on the user’s requirements. The Boxes may be fitted either on one side of the car or as is the case here on both sides to provide extra storage space.
Roof structure with integrated spare wheel.
MINI Concept Geneva uses the roof structure to consistently gain extra storage space inside the car. A recess in the rear section of the roof serves to house the spare wheel. This special structure ensures optimum streamlining of the spare wheel in the car’s direction of travel, with the grab bar above the rear doors shaped as a spoiler for aerodynamic reasons.
Pulling the grab handle, the user can pull this part of the roof to the rear and fold it down, gaining convenient access to the wheel on two bracket handles fastened to the bolting points for the rim in-serts.
Free-standing round search headlights are positioned directly above the A-pillars on the roof left and right.
Multi-functional wheel rims in twin-colour look.
The wheels of MINI Concept Geneva also boast a wide range of interesting features: Being multi-functional, they give the driver the opportunity to personalise the design and expression of his car without having to change the entire set of wheels in a long and laborious process. The Concept Car presented at the 2006 Gen-eva Motor Show comes with wheels in a discreet grey colour rem-iniscent of high-quality, sophisticated castings. The wheels in-corporate ten white spoke elements taking up the design lan-guage of the current MINI Cooper S rims. The final touch is pro-vided by the cover on the wheel hub complete with the MINI logo and a red accentuation colour rounding off the design of the wheels on MINI Concept Geneva.
Purist looks with a unique “chameleon” effect: surface trim in the MINI Concept Geneva.
MINI Concept Geneva takes a new approach not only in its technical and functional highlights, but also through the design of its trim sur-faces special-ly created by the MINI Design Team: In all, the exclusive combination of white and silver surfaces emanates a touch of modern elegance, with red contrasts adding the thrill of an active and sport-ing lifestyle. So nothing appears overdone or let alone obtrusive, since the emphasis remains on those spe-cific qualities so typical of MINI.
This intentionally minimalist understatement and neutral style is en-hanced, first, by the exceptional quality and innovative character of the materials used and, second, by the exterior colour changing with the perspective of the beholder and reflecting the surrounding area around the car. As a result, MINI Concept Geneva is almost like a chameleon, acting as both an ele-ment and the highlight of the colour-ful world typically surrounding every MINI.
Satellite Silver paintwork colour.
The paintwork of the MINI Concept Study offers an entirely new ren-dition of aesthetic looks, an exciting duality of non-metallic and me-tal-lic paint: Sate-llite Silver comes with a brilliant silver look in the light, while all points not di-rectly illuminated from the perspective of the beholder come out in a refined and sophisticated greyish tone. MINI achieves this special effect by way of the Silver Metallic paintwork applied in two layers, the colours of each layer varying slightly from one another.
Racing Red and White the accentuation colours.
Using appropriate contrasting colours, MINI Concept Geneva un-der-lines its individual, sporting performance and thus takes up an additional design feature again typical of MINI: The wide range of equipment options allowing each customer to personalise his or her car.
At the same time the two accentuation colours Racing Red and White are a clear and honest tribute to the colour scheme of the MINI Cooper Works Rally Cars back in the 1960s: With only a few exceptions, Tartan Red was the body colour on all rally versions of the Mini.
On MINI Concept Geneva the covers on the Sports Utility Boxes on either side form an attractive contrast in Racing Red. A further feature is the stylised Monte logo also presented on the engine compartment lid as an attractive eye-catcher.
The diagonal joint between the side direction indicator and the side door is an icon which has grown over the years, originating from the welding seam on the classic Mini. This particular design element is made of polished aluminium with red inserts. The roof insert upfront of the spare wheel recess as well as the central co-vers on the multi-functional rims are also finished in Racing Red.
As consistent as the Mini Rally Cars were in their use of aggres-sive red paint, the roof always came in white. And indeed, this special touch was also boasted on the particularly sporting Mini Cooper and Mini Cooper S production models and remains a design feature typical of MINI to this very day together with the white mirror caps. Precisely this is why the entire roof on MINI Concept Geneva, together with the spare wheel recess and mirror caps, is finished in white.
Black neoprene contourline.
Normally surfers and sailors wear neoprene suits to protect themselves from cold temperatuares. MINI Concept Geneva, in turn, uses neoprene to maintain the special touch and feeling of its surfaces also on the exterior.
Through its special qualities and properties, neoprene offers several exciting effects all in one: The first point is that the sophisticated, silken-matt surface contrasts beautifully with the high-gloss Satellite Silver of the car’s body, with similar, distinctive contrasts between the hard surface of the doors and wheel arches, on the one hand, and the soft structure of the neoprene contour, on the other: The neoprene returns after being pressed in or touched to its original shape, at the same time offering a unique feeling never experienced before in the world of motoring. So choosing this material clearly dedicated to active outdoor sports, the designers creating MINI Concept Geneva are again able to accentuate the car’s sporting appeal.
Aluminium adding a touch of lightness and sophisticated style.
Glossy and matt aluminium accentuates the exterior look of MINI Concept Geneva, conveying a very special message in the process. This applies particularly to all sections and components of the body taking over design features from the classic Mini Traveller. As an example, the C-pillars in strik-ing aluminium look at the rear bear testimony to the car’s great heritage. The frame around the radiator grille, the light surrounds at the front as well as the exhaust tailpipes are also finished in aluminium, emanating a touch of high performance combined with sheer luxury.
MINI all the day and for every purpose. “Floating Elements” characterizing the car’s interior design.
Querying the conventional and offering unconventional answers proceed-ing from a high level of technology and emotion, MINI Con-cept Geneva reflects precisely these expectations. And this also applies to the interior de-sign of the MINI Concept Car, offering an entirely new feeling of space with clever solutions for new ideas you can experience together with MINI time and again.
The car’s concept of colours and materials consistently continues the exterior message within the interior, focusing on sporting function, practical use of space and genuine value. Clearly, this makes MINI the small and fresh luxury experience for the whole day giving each and every day that special something.
Despite numerous innovations in terms of functions, materials and design features, many highlights of the “regular” MINI’s interior de-sign are also to be found in the Concept Car, from the evolutionary enhancement of the large central instrument through the paddle switches so typical of MINI all the way to the far larger door panels on the driver’s and front passenger’s doors in their characteristic, ellip-tic shape: The joy of detail remains clearly in focus, with new features borne out time and again.
“Hovering” seats for the driver and front passenger. Free-standing suspension and integrated belt system.
Opening the driver’s and front passenger’s doors, the enthusiast en-joying MINI Concept Geneva will immediately experience a truly generous and open impression: The seats for both the driver and front passenger appear to hover in space, being mounted directly on the front centre console by means of special load-bearing exten-sions. This not only offers additional foot-room for the passengers at the rear, but also provides particular benefits in terms of open space along the floor of the car.
This impression is further enhanced by the slender construction of the seats basically reduced to two buckets similar to an open shell. To make access to the car as easy and convenient as possible also for the passengers at the rear, the front seats come with an unprece-dented, truly unique Easy-Entry System, the seats moving forward with the help of an electric motor and at the same time rotating in-wards.
Turning away (but not folding down) the backrest on the driver’s and front passen-ger’s seats, this provides much more room and freedom in entering the rear. Then, once the passengers have taken their seats at the back, the front seats automatically return to their original position.
As a further feature the driver’s and front passenger’s seats come with a fully integrated seat belt system, consistently keeping the belts exactly where they are needed and avoiding any obstruction when entering the rear.
Room for comfort and convenient loading also at the rear.
The long wheelbase of the car gives two passengers at the rear ade-quate space in every respect or, alternatively, provides more than ample loading room for lots of equipment. The rear-seat backrests fold down individually to form a flat surface flush with the floor of the luggage compartment. This facilitates the process of load–ing the car from all sides, either through the rear doors or the driver/front pas-senger doors, with the further advantage of being able to con-ven-iently move around and place bags and luggage in position.
The extra-large and flat loading area also provides ample space for large and bulky objects, the centre armrest between the two seats being fully integrated in the flat surface and offering additional storage space.
Opening up extra-wide, the two rear doors provide convenient access to al-most the complete cross-section of the interior, with the loading sill kept par-tic-ularly low, again in the interest of extra convenience. And even with the two rear-seat backrests in vertical arrangement, the passengers enjoy loading capacity most acceptable for a car of this size.
The cupholders: keeping your drinks in easy reach and at a pleasant temperature.
Two things which would certainly not be accepted by a “classic Mini team” are luke-warm Coke as a “refreshment” and luke-warm tea on the winter roads in the mountains around Monte Carlo which is pre-cisely why MINI Concept Geneva offers the right solution also for ideal “on-board service”: The chrome surrounds on the side air vents fold down to form cupholders at exactly the right point in the car: First, this keeps drinks within very con-venient reach at all times. Se-cond, this keeps your Coke cool on a hot day with fresh air from the air conditioning flowing straight to the cupholders. And on cold winter days the warm air coming out of the nozzles serves not only to de-mist the side windows, but also to keep your tea at a pleasantly warm temperature.
Rotating Center Speedo complete with digital display and classic sports instruments.
The large central instrument on the dashboard of the MINI has a special status among the design icons of those fresh little cars from Britain indeed, it is an absolute cult object. Full of self-confidence and right in the middle of things, therefore, the ro-tating Center Speedo in MINI Concept Geneva presents displays on both sides. The digital side incorporates the Cruise Mate com-plete with the info display for the navigation system and a tuner easily conceivable in future as the central control instrument for numerous functions inside the car.
Turned 180° around its vertical axis, the Center Speedo presents the classic displays on its other side virtually indispensable in a sporting car of this calibre: the coolant and engine oil tempe-ra-ture gauges as well as engine oil pressure. To turn the Center Speedo, all you do is activate a control unit on the transmission tunnel. The fire extinguisher is fitted right in front, lying down in the footwell.
Over and above the usual features of a multi-function steering wheel, the steering wheel used in MINI Concept Geneva adds an additional function: A third spoke in the steering wheel in the six o’clock position serves to take up a stopwatch or a Tripmaster with an analogue display clipped into position.
Only the best inside. Leather, chrome, aluminium the principal materials.
Inside the car, white leather enhances the flair of modern style and the ample space available, creating a sophisticated ambience at the same time. Indeed, the colour white quite generally accentuates the clear lines of MINI Concept Geneva, with red serving as a particular highlight colour, like on the exterior.
Top-quality leather is used on different surfaces: Grained cowhide ac-centuates the headrests as well as the inner lining on the side and rear doors. Through its clear surface structure, this special leather conveys a feeling of lasting, sporting quality and contrasts convincingly with the soft leather featured on the seat backrests and the steering wheel. And last but not least, the roof lining comes in extra-soft alcantara providing a feeling of smooth silk.
Particularly soft and “velvety” leather featured on the dashboard almost hov-ering in position and on the armrests on the side doors is highly attract-ive in terms of both its looks and surface touch.
Red inserts in the seat bottoms and backrests, red armrests, red in-serts in the floor and red rings on the cupholders provide a powerful highlight clearly contrasting with the interior colour white. Above the passengers’ heads, in turn, silver trim features form a regular pattern on the perforated, red alcantara of the roof lining.
The soft and natural surfaces in pure white are supplemented by cool-looking, metallic surface trim. One example is the aluminium-coated glass-fibre structure on the oval lining within the doors, carbon-fibre mats in the same look accentuating the footwells.
Numerous further features within the interior are made of solid alu-minium, such as the load-bearing arms holding the driver’s and front passenger’s seats in position.
Driving tomorrow: the key serving as a multi-functional man/MINI interface.
The “island” element on the centre console between the front seats forms what you might call the backbone of MINI Concept Geneva, holding the driver’s and front passenger’s seats in posi-tion and providing an exceptional highlight through its elements in white porcelain look.
This is also where all the car’s “nerves” come together, MINI Con-cept Geneva possibly featuring a start/stop key unit as an inte-grated clock fitting smoothly and comfortably into the driver’s hand as a multifunctional interface between the user and the car. Then all you would have to do is place this key on to a receiving unit in the front part of the centre console, using the combination provided in this way as a push button.
This little “genius” might then serve to mastermind numerous fun-ctions within the car ranging from the engine start/stop fun-ction through various car settings (seats, air conditioning, audio system) all the way to the function for operating the MP3 player. So obviously, the MINI Design Team has great ideas.
Mini in the 1960s. The Expression of a New, Mobile and Active Lifestyle.
In September 1960 two new versions of the Mini made their debut in the market: the Austin Seven Countryman and the Morris Mini Tra-veller.
The term “Traveller” used in conjunction with the Mini clearly indi-cates that this model was targeted at a group of customers en-joy-ing an active lifestyle quite new and unprecedented at the time.
Apart from the typical elements and highlights of Mini design as well as the two doors at the rear, these special versions of the Mini remain in our me-mory to this day through their wooden sideboards extending all the way back at the outside from the B-pillar. Starting in 1961, the Morris Mini Traveller was also available without this woodwork in foreign markets outside of Great Britain, with this “no-wood” option being introduced in the Mini Traveller’s home market in 1962. In 1969 the Mini Clubman Estate replaced the Traveller and Countryman, total production of the Mini Estate under all model designations amounting to more than 400,000 units between 1960 and 1982.
In technical terms the Mini Estate was based on the two-seater Mini Van launched in January 1960. Compared with the Mini Saloon, that is the original Mini, exterior length was up from 3,050 to 3,300 mm (120.1” to 129.9”), with the car’s wheelbase extended by 110 mm or 4.33” to 2,140 mm or 84.3”, while the roofline was 10 mm or almost 0.4” higher.
With its reinforced suspension and higher loading capacity, the Mini Traveller met all the demands made of an elegant transporter at the time, with go-kart-like driving characteristics ensuring the highest conceivable standard of agility in the market. Starting in 1961, finally, a Mini Pick-Up was also offered on the same technical basis.
One Hundred Years of Sir Alec Issigonis.
Forty-seven years after the world debut of the first Mini, this small but sporting athlete from Britain has become a huge success in nearly 80 countries the world over. And the creator of the car was indeed just as cosmopolitan as MINI is today: Alexander Arnold Constantine Issigonis was born on 18 November 1906 as the son of a Greek father and a German mother in a region which now be-longs to Turkey. At the age of 16 Alex Issigonis moved to Britain, where he completed his schooling and studied engineering before becoming one of the most successful automotive engineers and designers ever to come out of Britain.
Not only the many technical innovations introduced in the first Mini clearly showed that the ingenious inventor of this car saw the subject of transport from a very different perspective no, it was particularly Issigonis’ irresistible attitude in life that made the whole development so unique: “Mathematics is the enemy of every creative individual”, is how Alec Issigonis once summed up his creed.
Not surprisingly, therefore, Mini was a highly emotional car right from the start, chic and urban, but also perfect for winding roads and serpentine routes. Only a few months elapsed from the initial sketches to the first road-going prototypes, the Mini making its world debut in 1959. And at the same time Issigonis’ ingenious construction anticipated the principle of front-wheel drive with the engine fitted in transverse arrangement at the front destined to become the standard concept for compact cars as of the ’70s of the 20th century.
The first million Minis was sold by 1965 and this little high-performance car had already won the Monte Carlo Rally as well as the Thousand-Lake Rally in Finland. In consideration of this out-standing success, Alec Issigonis was knighted by the Queen of England in 1969. Sir Alec, as he was now called, then retired step-by-step from his everyday work, dying in 1988 at the age of almost 82 with production of the Mini by that time amounting to more than four million units.
Mini and the Monte Carlo Rally.
It was the great sensation of the 1963/64 rally winter: A small red David with a white roof left all the ultra-powerful Goliaths behind, clinching its first overall win in the Monte Carlo Rally. Virtually over-night, this little “dwarf” had become a legend.
Wherever the Mini either in standard trim, in the form of the Mini Cooper, or as a specially tuned performance car entered a rally or any other motorsport event at the time, it was good for a great sur-prise. Indeed, these were the years in which the Mini caused one sensation after the other in the world of rally racing, showing its tail lights to many a would-be winner on tracks and circuits everywhere. So it is quite appropriate to say that the ’60s were the decade of the Mini, far beyond official races and contests.
Just a bit more than six months after the Mini had made its debut in 1959, six Mini works cars entered the 1960 Monte Carlo Rally, with six more of these new young athletes being driven by private drivers. In 1962 Rauno Aaltonen, later to become world-famous as the “Fly-ing Finn”, entered Monte Carlo for the first time at the wheel of a Mini Cooper, subsequently being forced to retire after a spectacular acci-dent. Two other names in the lists of participants were also destined to hit the headlines in connection with the Mini in the years to come: Timo Makinen and Patrick “Paddy” Hopkirk. In 1963 various Minis already came close to the top places in the Rally, but a year was still to pass before the real breakthrough.
In 1964 Paddy Hopkirk and his two Scandinavian colleagues joined forces for the first time in the same team. Putting up a great perform-ance on several stages of the race, Paddy Hopkirk battled it out suc-cess-fully against his far more powerful competitors, moving right up to the top of the field and finally securing first place in the fiercely contested “Night of Long Knives”. Mini thus entered the history books, just like its three most famous drivers thrilling the spectators with their daredevil style of racing: Paddy Hopkirk, Timo Makinen, and Rauno Aaltonen.
A year later, in 1965, Finnish driver Timo Makinen and his co-pilot Paul Easter continued the Mini Cooper’s story of success once again, winning the Monte Carlo Rally in supreme style: Makinen was the only driver in the entire field to complete thousands of kilometres without one penalty point despite very
difficult and challenging snow conditions in the French Alps. In all, only 35 out of 237 cars reached the finish line three of them were Minis. For the first time Makinen drove a Mini Cooper with the new 1275-cc engine later to become a genuine synonym for this particular model.
In 1966 the Mini Armada went for the hat trick. The four Cooper teams were the great favourites right from the start and attracted utmost in-terest from the public and the competition alike. So it was no surprise that they lived up to their role right from the start: Makinen, Aaltonen and Hopkirk quickly left the field behind, ultimately finishing the Rally first, second, and third. But then came one of the most contested and dubious decisions in the long history of the Monte Carlo Rally: In an eight-hour technical inspection, the Race Commissioners found that the four additional headlights fitted on the Mini Cooper’s radiator grille were not fully commensurate with French homologation rules and disqualified the first three cars.
Notwithstanding this bitter decision, the Mini Cooper returned to the Monte Carlo Rally in 1967, the three musketeers Aaltonen, Hopkirk and Makinen being backed up by Simo Lampinen and Tony Fall. This time the “Flying Finn” Rauno Aaltonen won the race and all other Mini Coopers also saw the chequered flag, Hopkirk finishing sixth, Fall coming tenth, Lampinen reaching the finish line as No 15, and Makinen finishing in 41st place.
The armada of works Minis set out for Monaco for the last time in 1968. This time Aaltonen finished third in his Mini Cooper S, Fall coming fourth and Hopkirk fifth.
While this marked the end of an era, the legend remains to this day. Indeed, rally enthusiasts the world over know to this very day what “33 EJB” stands for this was the numberplate on Paddy Hopkirk’s Mini Cooper S, the winner of the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally.
Mini DNA in the MINI Challenge.
Forty years on, nothing has changed. What once helped the Mini Cooper win the race to Monaco is still one of the most significant ba-sic elements of the MINI Cooper: With its compact exterior di-men-sions it whips around corners incredibly quickly, resting firmly on its wide track and long wheelbase.
Clearly, driving behaviour of this kind simply begs for racing activities which is why the John Cooper Challenge, the MINI Brand Trophy, thrills an increasing number of amateur racing drivers particularly in Britain, the MINI’s home country. Several other countries have also followed this example and have established their own MINI chal-len-ges in the meantime. So just like they did 40 years ago, many young, up-and-coming drivers and talents are now gaining their initial ex-perience and winning their first trophies at the wheel of a MINI.
Some notes on this press release. As usual this is a German release translated by BMW into English. So read it with that in mind.