Saturday, December 15, 2007

Your Basic Economy Car

To insure economy, British Motor Corporation specified that the car would use its small 848cc four-cylinder A-series engine. To save even more space, Issigonis turned the engine sideways, and placed the transmission directly underneath it, effectively in the engine’s sump. With the transmission connected directly to the front wheels there was no drive shaft, and no center hump inside the car.

The result was a car that could easily hold four people and their luggage comfortably, but still fit into a space only only ten feet long, five feet wide and four-and-one-half feet high. Making it even more attractive, BMC priced the car at well under $1000. With its small size and economical engine, it could cover 50 miles on a gallon of gas. As a bonus, the small wheels, tight suspension, compact size, and direct steering produced a car with surprisingly good handling, a feature that wasn’t even on the original wishlist.

Marketed by both Austin and Morris, the two main brands of the British Motor Corporation, the car was first known as the Mini-Minor with the Morris badge and the Se7en, using the number seven instead of a V, when carrying the Austin badge. However, with its diminutive size, it was soon referred to simply as the “Mini.”

Within a short time, the Mini became one of the icons of swinging England, along with the Beatles, Twiggy, and Carnaby Street’s mini-skirts. Soon every with-it celebrity owned one, and the cars played starring roles in the first version of The Italian Job and Return of the Pink Panther.

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