On August 26, 1959, the British Motor Corporation released the first Mark I Mini, a humble and yet technologically innovative city car. Who could have guessed that the car would still be in production 55 years later, and one of the biggest four-wheeled cultural phenomenons ever?
Probably not Sir Alec Issigonis, the chief engineer at Morris Motors, whose goal was to make a tiny, affordable family vehicle that didn't need much gas to run. After all, gas was in short supply after the Suez Crisis of the 1950s and people in postwar Europe weren't exactly flush with cash.
The 10-foot long Mini cost just $800 at launch and had wheels at every corner, maximizing its interior space and allowing it to seat four adults. The stylish little hatchback was an immediate hit with just about everyone in England, from teenagers to well-to-do Londoners who just needed a good city car.
It was also one of the first major mass-production front-wheel drive cars, and something that helped to popularize that setup. (I always felt like the Volkswagen Golf got too much of the credit deserved by the Mini in this department — after all, they beat the Germans to it by 15 years.)
We enthusiasts love the Mini because it was a literal giant-slayer, winning the Monte Carlo Rally four times after racing magnate John Cooper convinced Issigonis to put an actual engine into the car. The result was the Mini Cooper, a name the car still uses today.
These days the classic Mini is no longer in production, having been finally phased out in 2000 and proving that a truly great design is timeless (until crash and emissions standards say otherwise, of course.)
Today Mini is owned by BMW, and while they have plenty of critics over the Germans' sometimes incomprehensible expansion of their lineup, there's no question that they saved the brand from extinction. There's also no question that the modern BMW-made Minis are still a ton of fun to drive, but then again, I'm biased — I own one.
So in honor of the Mini Cooper's 55th birthday, I invite you to show us all your favorite Mini variants and models over the years, both old and new. Here's to another 55 years, Mini. Or more if you're up for it.