Want an early look at MINI development? This prototype shell found on eBay gives us an interesting window into that time period where Rover still had some control over engineering and BMW was guiding the ship from afar.
There are some especially interesting details. The headlights, for example, have a very similar bezel shape, but the actual headlights lights under the domes are much more upright and conventional than what went to production. The side scuttle is surprisingly not an “island” like we saw in the actual production R50/53s, but is actually much more akin to what is found on the R56. The hood scoop is, well, interesting and clearly hacked together to be noting more than functional. Also the fuel filler is quite different than what we’re used to on the first generation MINI.
Yet for all the weird little details, it’s remarkable how much of the sheet metal really didn’t change. It also puts into sharper perspective how much of a departure the latest generation MINI, the F56, really is. When you understand just how much Rover was really present in the R50/53 and how much carried over into the R56, the BMW-ness of the F56 takes on new perspective. Some lament that influence, but that’s a debate for another day. What this little heap of scrap car shows us is just how british the R50/53 really were in the end.