With the 2008 R55 MINI Clubman having made it’s public debut last month at the Frankfurt Motorshow, we thought it was appropriate to re-run a story that was first published on the site a few years back detailing the original “new” MINI’s debut in the US.
Hard to believe but the new MINI made it’s US debut
six seven years ago this past week in New York. To give you the full favor of the time period here’s an excerpt from the article Autoweek ran about the introduction:
Frank Stephenson says he’s the luckiest guy in the world because he’s got the best job in the world. As he pulls the cover off his work for the past five years, who could argue?
Stephenson, an American who grew up in Europe, was given the responsibility of redesigning the Mini — the British automotive icon some view on par with VW’s Beetle. Walking around the car inside a film studio in New York’s Greenwich Village at its U.S. debut, Stephenson says this is a project he believes he was born to complete.
“I celebrated my 40th birthday the same day of the Mini’s 40th anniversary. So I guess it was fate,” Stephenson says. “Plus, this was the only car I’ve ever stolen — it belonged to my mother.”
Some people may cringe at being asked to change the face
of a legend, a legend that has brought smiles and affordable miles to millions. Not Stephenson. “The genetics and character of the old car had to be carried over. We’d be shooting ourselves in the foot if we didn’t keep that look,” Stephenson says. Adds Wolfgang Vollath, director of brand management for the Mini, “The Mini will put a smile on everyone’s face. The Mini is not something that’s here today and gone tomorrow.”
…Unlike, say, the PT Cruiser, the new Mini is not a retro-design car drawing influence from cars of yore, but rather an update of the original, a direct successor.
“It has the genes and many of the key characteristics of its predecessor, but is larger, more powerful, more muscular and more exciting than its predecessor ever was,” Stephenson says. In fact, Stephenson’s work is the first complete redesign of the car in its 40 years. The redesign has been faithful to the car’s origin. Its shape crouches low to the ground and when you see the headlights and grille, a smile comes almost immediately. You know it’s a Mini.
[ The 41-year-old Mini gets a facelift ] Autoweek
The really cool thing about reading this today is knowing how amazing the car is to drive and how incredibly successful the MINI has been in the marketplace.
As many of you know Mr. Stephenson has moved on from MINI and is now designing cars at Ferrari, Maserati and Fiat. You can read more from Mr. Stephenson here and check out one of his sketches of the prototype new MINI (from 1998!) here (via BMWworld).
[ The MINI Concepts of the 1990’s ] MotoringFile