Awhile back we had a chance to sit in on a presentation by Clubman designer (and head of MINI exterior design) Marcus Syring. Mr. Syring shared with us a brief history of the R55 and crucially some photos and renderings of the design process that brought about the modern Clubman.

The original concept of a reborn Traveller (eventually to be known as the Clubman) started way back in the late 1990’s. In fact the first time the sketches surfaced was at the Paris Motor Show along with a speedster and small truck concept. But it was the extended MINI “EXT” (as it was known internally) that seemed to hold the most promise for eventual production.

The idea was simple. A stretched MINI with more versatility and more access. Originally there were three concepts for the car based on the R50 chassis and design. Seen above (exclusively for the first time in public) we can start to understand the iterative process that eventually produced the R55. The first concept on the left is essentially what we see today on the road (except for the R50 styling cues). On the right we see a much more radical fast-back approach that used the a standard design hatch and would have sacrificed storage room for a sleeker silhouette. It’s almost voluptuous compared to the eventually R55. Finally in the middle of the photos above and below we see an approach that combined the curved of the 3rd concept with the boxiness of the MINI coupe.

The photos above show that MINI was also playing with the idea of dual rear doors on the Clubman. Clearly also seen here is a sliding window on the left side. We’re guessing that was a causality of cost cutting and/or production and rigidity issues. Also in the clay mock-up below is an L-shaped door that would have allowed for greater access into the rear of the cabin. Another interesting idea likely shelved due to cost and engineering issues.

You can get a full look at the different iterations in the photos gallery below.

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In our mind there’s little question that MINI made the right decisions in terms of overall design. A lot has been made by MINI that the R55 was conceived in the studio and received little input by focus group (despite having a handful) and the like. And it’s this iterative design process that is so interesting and so clearly seen in the sketches and renderings above. It’s fascinating to see an inside peak into what MINI was planning for this car.