Update 24 Jan 06: Auto Art Models has now pulled the picture mentioned in this story. Make of it what you will.

Update 20 Jan 06: A reliable source has told us that the picture found yesterday doesn’t appear to feature a few of the style details that the final car will have. So while this may be a good look at the 2007 Cooper, it isn’t the final finished production version.

Sometimes you can find the most interesting things in the strangest places. Reader Benjamin Sidon tipped us off to what appears to be a clear look at the next generation MINI’s face. But it comes with a caveat. The picture is meant to be a thumbnail of a diecast car. That said it looks as if it may have actually been taken of a pre-production prototype and not a 1/18th scale model. You can see the entire page here:

So how can we tell it’s definitely the R56? All the tell-tale signs are there. The new headlights with the integrated turn signals, the larger more upright grille, the recessed wipers, and the slightly redesigned side mirrors for starters. Then there’s a reshaped and enlarged front intake meant to bring air to the new turbo’s intercooler that we’ve been hearing about as well.

The next question… how could this have shown up on a diecast model website? As the diecast market has grown, so to has the cooperation with auto manufacturers. In fact auto companies routinely let the large diecast modelers see designs before they hit the streets so that they can release supporting products at the time of the launch. This has become a lucrative practice for both the diecast and auto manufacturers. So as you can see it’s completely plausible that this is indeed at least an early version of the R56.

You can reacquaint yourself with all these changes by taking a look at our Next Generation Revealed Story from last March below:

[ Next Generation MINI Revealed ] MotoringFile

BTW it looks like we may have our second confirmed color for 2007.