New MINI designer (now Ferrari/Maserati head designer) Frank Stephenson has an interview in this weeks Autoweek. Among the things he touched on was the process for the design conception of the new MINI:

AutoWeek: The transition from the world of Mini and BMW to Ferrari and northern Italy. It’s a fairly drastic difference.

Frank Stephenson: From the outside, it may seem like an awesome jump, but in this world of design, moving from BMW Mini to Ferrari-Maserati isn’t so hard. The one thing I’ve always wanted to do was be involved with an emotional product because I think to work on a normal, boring product is like prison. Working on the new Mini was my first real chance to let myself go.

AW: The period of development of the new Mini was an interesting time. We were all still unwilling to trust Germans running famous British companies.

FS: I got so many negative responses. I wasn’t worried about it. I could see the end product already in 1997. No matter what anyone said on the outside, inside we were all confident. The Mini stayed basically the same car from 1959 until 2000. We actually created an evolutionary process for the Mini, since it had never had one. We tried to imagine what it would have looked like as a new version for 1969, in 1979, 1989 and finally 1999. And that ’99 sketch that I did was my starting point. My brief was to make that model a reality. To pay attention to the past, but make it decidedly modern. The word retro is very negative in design-speak. It’s a sin.(AutoWeek)

This is a fascinating glimpse into the creation of the new MINI. I’d love to see a longer more MINI focused interview with Mr. Stephenson at some point. Anyone know where I could reach him 🙂