It’s hard to believe but it’s been 20 years of the new MINI. While we’ll have our own look-back later this year, Autocar has a great retrospective work a look full of quote and insights from those woh were there. Here’s an excerpt:
The roots of the new Mini project go quite some way back. Twenty-seven years back, in fact, when a small, conservative car maker from Germany bought the Rover Group from British Aerospace (BAe). The automotive world was aghast.
Rumour was that BMW really wanted to buy Land Rover (it was supplying a diesel engine for the upcoming Range Rover 2). BAe insisted that they take the lot. BMW was bent on expansion into new markets, including about-to-bloom SUVs and city cars, but it wasn’t sure the BMW badge was the way it could do so. Buying the Rover Group and its historic brands must have seemed like a remarkable opportunity.
And then it got even more interesting.
Bizarrely, it turned out that then BMW boss Bernd Pischetsrieder was the great-nephew of Sir Alec Issigonis, the brains behind the original Mini, who died in 1988. Pischetsrieder is even said to have visited Issigonis in Birmingham as a child.
A reinvention of the Mini was probably the hottest topic that came out of the takeover. It would actually take a bit over seven years for the first new Mini to roll out of the factory, but both Rover and BMW stylists were straight out of the blocks in 1994 working on competing visions of a new-generation Mini.
Roughly, Rover’s thinkers wanted to preserve the sophisticated suspension of the original, as well as its extraordinary interior packaging. BMW had other ideas, crystallised in a kind of reinvention of the Mini Cooper S rally cars: a Mini that was about driving dynamics.
Head over to Autocar for the entire feature. It’s well worth a read for any MINI enthusiast.