Over the last few months we’ve been getting deluged with rumors of new MINI variants. Some of the core rumors turned true when MINI USA VP Jim McDowel confirmed (while answering a question of mine at the recent R56 press launch) that MINI will see an important new product launch every year for the next 4-5 years. We also know (as we reported in January) that MINI is actively looking at production outside of Oxford.

We’ve known for awhile that the MINI Clubman is due late this year and the R56 based convertible (internally dubbed the R57) will be coming exactly one year later. But after that, our crystal ball has been a bit foggy. For a few years now we’ve seen rumors of MINI speedsters, MINI soft-roaders and even MINI trucks. But trying to cut through these rumors to see what is really coming has been rather difficult for just about every automotive publication on the planet.

Recently we’ve gotten several rumors from some fairly reliable sources. The problem is we haven’t been able to confirm some of them in an iron-clad way. So while we’ve got all this seemingly juicy information, we’re not convinced it’s iron-clad 100% correct. Sure it may be. And chances are at least some of it is spot on. But it’s that little bit of simply that has made us hold off on writing about it. Better wait and get it right the first time – even if it takes awhile – has been our thought in the past. But sometimes these rumors are simply to interesting to keep from our readers.

So with that, we’d like to present you some various rumors we’ve gotten from a couple typically reliable sources. Remember – file everything below in the “rumor” category. However we’re confident that these are fairly well grounded rumors that may indeed see the light of day in the years ahead.

The next two MINI models in the production queue will be well known to readers as the R55 and R57. The R55 Clubman will be released later this year in Europe and in the US in early 2008. The R57 Convertible will follow that exact same timeline one year later.

One of the next models our sources recently mentioned is the often talked about R58. While many rumors point to this car being some type of AWD soft-roader, we’ve never been quite sure which way MINI will go with this important next model variant. The one thing for certain, a reliable source is adamant that MINI will use the R58 designation to refer to a two seat MINI speedster with a folding metal roof. And we’ve also confirmed (through separate sources) that a hard-top, two-seat speedster is an idea that has been kicked around seriously by bosses in Munich. Is it probable that MINI would build such a vehicle? In the US the market for tin-top small speedster is almost nonexistent. However in Europe where this variant is red-hot thanks to cars like Ford Focus Coupé-Cabriolet and the Peugeot 207CC, a MINI tin-top coupe/convertible would surely be a hit.

Next up is the R59. Sources suggest that MINI plans to make the R59 MINI’s first true utility vehicle. Currently on the drawing boards is some kind of (make sure you’re sitting down) pick-up like vehicle. But we’re not so sure this is quite correct. Sure the classic Mini was made in Pick-up format but these days the market is dramatically different and we can’t think of a segment that would be more incorrect for MINI to spend money on. But consider this to be truly just a rumors at this point.

Interestingly our sources are saying MINI isn’t going to stop there with variants. We’ve heard two rumors on the R60 project. One much more plausible than the other.

First (and the one we expect is more probable) is that the R60 is indeed the “Colorado” project we reported on a few weeks ago (and not tagged the R58 as initially thought). We covered the Colorado project extensively on MF last January so we won’t hash the entire story. But here’s a quick quote from what we’ve already written:

>Our sources are telling us that BMW is currently looking at making the Colorado an all-wheel drive vehicle that sits higher and can be used for light off-roading without sacrificing much of the typical MINI performance.

>However with MINIs continuing to sell well globally, there is a lack of space to take on this proposed new model at the Oxford plant in the UK. And with BMW’s German facilities at full capacity, our sources tell us that there are two choices currently on the table: BMW’s extremely versatile plant in Spartanburg South Carolina or Magna Steyr, the Austrian company that BMW outsources X3 production to.

You can read the entire story here. For our money, this seems like the most sure thing of the lot.

The second R60 rumor, while certainly more of a long-shot, piques our interest a more. The rumor goes that MINI will finally be adding the ultimate performance variant we’ve all been waiting with the R60. MINI will employ BMW tuner Alpina to develop an AWD high-power, wide-arched version of the R56. Don’t worry, our jaw was on the floor as well. But we honestly don’t see this happening with MINI trying to build-out it’s models with broadly based concepts. Again, file this one squarely in the rumor category.

So there you have it. We’ll be updating this information as we get more so stay tuned. And remember, even if this information is accurate, there’s still a chance things could change in the years ahead.