It started first with demand. There was huge demand in Europe for an automobile that wouldn’t just use gas, for an automobile that would sip gas. The time was the mid-1950s and there was a severe shortage of fuel due to the crisis in the Gulf of Suez. The realization that this sort of political instability could affect gasoline availability, perhaps for a real long time, settled in quickly. It wasn’t long before the automobile industry realized this was a situation they needed to address right away.
Accordingly, Lord Nuffield of the British Motor Corporation (BMC) jumped in early. He directed his chief design engineer, Sir Alec Issigonis, to create a small automobile to compete with the numerous other ultra-efficient microcars that were already on the market.
The first Mini made its debut in late 1959 and was the first mass-produced automobile to have a transversally-placed engine. By doing this, the mini could be made smaller and could have more room assigned to the car interior. In addition, it was the first 4 passenger carrying automobile that could actually handle like a true sports car. Sales were healthy almost immediately and ramped up from there.
Since its humble beginnings in 1959, the Mini has become the most popular British car ever made with some 5.3 million units sold. In 1995, AutoCar Magazine named the Mini their favorite car of the century. In 1960 the Mini made it’s way into the US market and sales continued until 1967. During that time only some 10,000 Minis were sold. Unfortunately, BMC pulled out the American market in 1968 because of the new federal Safety and Emissions Regulations required by the federal government. BMC elected to not pursue them do to costs and other reasons.
Fast forward to the year 2000 when BMW purchased the brand and announced a successor the original Mini which is now called the MINI (all capital letters). The new MINIs are part Mini and mostly BMW. The current MINI is 21 inches longer and 12 inches wider than the original and weighs 2300 lbs, a full 700 lbs more than the original Mini. Today the BMW built MINI is very popular car with global sales in 2012 at 73,123 vehicles, a full 15% increase over 2011 sales figures. The future of the BMW built MINIS is quite bright. Do you live in the Baltimore area? See the MINI of Baltimore inventory for yourself and have fun impressing the salespeople with your knowledge of the history of the breed!