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The Mini Cooper is the hardtop MINI, and one of the most recognized in the Mini line up of cars. It’s considered the basic, and the most affordable, model. This is the model that started all the craze; the most British car of all time. One so iconic that they didn’t change it for 41 years (1959-2000). It is the best-selling icon of British motoring that changed car design forever. The cooper was built with one question in mind “How do we fit the most stuff in the smallest space Possible?”
In 1952 Morris and Austin had merged to create The British Motor Company (BMC). The job was given to Morris head engineer Alec Issigonis. At first, he struggled to strike a balance between a small exterior and a roomy interior until they had a major breakthrough that would influence economy cars for decades. They turned the engine sideways and made it power the front wheels. This little tweak changed everything. The transverse engine not only saved space in the engine compartment which made the cabin bigger but, front wheel drive eliminated the drive shaft to the back wheels allowing for a flat floor which meant more rear legroom. While other manufacturers built their cars on an assembly line Morris built the cooper on a “JIG”, loading every part piece by piece, the process was meticulous and slow but it ensured quality. This would become the brands defining factor. The Mini debuted as the Morris Mini-Minor and Austin seven in 1959 and people were head over heels for the car. It made it perfect for city driving and driving it was fun. The Mini was signed for sports racing, BMC prepared cars to be entered in the Monte Carlo rally in 1961, but it couldn’t do very well due to its limited 34hp engine. No one saw the potential better than English racing legend John Cooper for this cool little front wheel drive car. John Cooper tuned the engine of the mini to make 70hp and upgraded the brakes. The result was the “MINI COOPER S”. John Cooper along with the Mini team went back to racing in 1964 and won for 2 consecutive years.
After a stint of different ownerships British Leyland (1968-1986), Rover Group (1986-2000) and the same model of car being produced for more than 40 years, it was time for a change; A change for the better which would prove to be a game changer for Mini. It was time for German Excellence to test its metal on the British Legend. BMW finally took over Mini in the year 2000. After BMW acquired Rover group in 1994, development of a new car started right away. Rover was then sold to ford in 2000 and then in late 2000, BMW rolled out the new MINI COOPER. The old king was dead but his son has taken the throne, it was unmistakably the MINI without having lost its soul. BMW had put its German fineness into this legendary design and the car had become even peppier than before with a load of options available. Mini already had worldwide dealerships so BMW service centers need not worry about the upkeep of the newly acquired brand. Cheeky, quirky, animated – call it whatever, but there’s a certain personality MINI has cultivated since it was re-launched under BMW ownership. BMW reformation of the MINI entered the US market in 2002 however. 60% of the sales of MINI coming from the USA are from the standard hardtop MINI COOPER.
One of the significant achievements of the newly born Mini Cooper in the USA was in the Upper Manhattan Auto Show in 2003. “Mercedes white” the first woman who participated in the Harlem week’s spectacular cavalcade of wheels with her Mini Cooper S in 2003, it was only a few months since MINI was launched in the US, but against all odds it won the Most ECO car award and the Manhattan auto show has never been the same again. It showed BMW had played the right cords with the British legend and it was winning hearts all over the world.
Mini had always been a people’s car. The cooper being the most acknowledged amongst its models. It was the birth of a racer, a giant killer, a cultural phenomenon, the spirit of the streets; it reinvented the wheel; it was a car built for everyone. It inspired historic innovation such as the transverse engine. It baffled the public, the very essence of the youthful 1960’s culture. Motoring in a Mini inspired fun and freedom. The never-ending charm it possessed made it go on for 40 years around-the-clock without flinching. Still, after a reformation, BMW made sure it did not lose its essence and brought it up to date with the millennials. MINI is still branding itself as one of the most popular car brands ever with Cooper being its ACE card.
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