Out of adversity arises creativity. Alec Issigonis’ brilliant Mini was conceived in the depths of the oil import embargo brought on by the Suez Canal Crisis of 1956. Kind of like our energy crises gave birth to the Chevette and the Cavalier. Emphasis on the “kind of”. Well, if gas had jumped to say $5 bucks back in 1974, maybe we’d have been driving Minis here too. The Mini was simply the smallest way to transport four adults, in the standards of its time. Needless to say, those standards have changed. But the Mini was also a ball to drive, and that’s a timeless quality. And its uncompromising and adorable nature make it timelessly appealing. Why else would the owner of this Mini actually transport his wife and child in it, given how tall he is?
Yes, the only way to begin to appreciate the Mini’s microscopic dimensions is to have a frame of reference. like this car’s owner.
Or another car, like my Xb, which is a very small car for today’s standards. Actually, now that I think about it, the Xb is really the true successor to the Mini: it’s the smallest car that can carry four XXXL-sized Americans in comfort, the standard of our time. The requirement are the same; only the standards changed.
Get a little closer, like inside, or actually drive one, and the reality that the Mini prototype was completely designed and built by Issigonis, two engineers, two students and a couple of draftsman becomes obvious. The un-adulterated clarity of a single bright vision comes through loud and clear, especially when that SU carburetor sitting practically in your lap starts sucking air. That big round center speedometer is there for a reason; it doubles as the carb’s air cleaner housing. There’s definitely the whiff of carriage house-baked about the Mini.
Don’t get me wrong; I love the Mini, you love the Mini, we all love the Mini. And how could we not, with all the associations it conjures up? Mini skirts, for starters (yes, they were named after the car). And Paddy Hopkirk’s Rally Monte Carlo winning Cooper S bedecked with half a dozen Lucas Flamethrowers. Now that’s a name almost as iconic as the Mini’s. How I used to obsess on them in my youth: Flamethrowers and mini skirts.
Issigionis’ marching orders were to seat four in a package ten feet by four feet, leaving 80% of the space for the occupants. And given that BMC was not in a position to develop a new engine, the old A-block four needed to be turned sideways, with the gearbox incorporated into the sump and sharing the engine’s oil. Well, someone has to be the guinea pig.
Thankfully, the hydrolastic suspension didn’t make it into the early Minis, and just as well. It was eventually dumped after a few years anyway, in favor of the rubber cone springing units used at the start. They were a key part of what gave the Mini its go-kart handling (and harsh ride). Conceived as an Issetta-fighting ultra-economy car, the Austin and Morris twins found their fame and glory as a sports car masquerading as a four-passenger economy car: the Mini Cooper S.
More significantly, the Mini broke out of the shit-box segment by becoming a hot fashion item. In swinging mod London during the mid-late sixties, driving a Mini in a mini was way groovy. Even more so if it was a Radford Mini de Ville, with a Rolls Royce-grade interior and Flamethrowers built right into its maxi-cute grille.
BMC’s own upscale Mini-variants, the Wolsely Hornet and Riley Elf never escaped their self-conscious efforts to be up-class, and thus were rejected by the mod set. With their grafted on trunk and thirties grill, they’re comical, ridiculous actually. I’ve spotted an Elf in Eugene, and I’m determined to flush it out of its shoe-box hiding place.
The Mini presented huge challenges for its maker, and ultimately contributed to the demise of BMC and subsequently British Leyland. There is the endless debate as to whether the Mini was sold at a loss. BMC claims they made at least thirty pounds (on each, or on all 5.4 million units made?), and made good profits on all the options, such as seat belts and Flamethrowers, as well as the higher-end versions. But that’s only part of the problem.
The Mini started a transverse-FWD-hydrolastic revolution at BMC, with a whole line of ever-larger cars with the same configuration: compact Austin/MG 1100 (aka: America); mid-size Maxi; and the Euro full-size 1800. It was a bold attempt to reshape BMC’s lineup from the musty old RWD saloons of the fifties. No other major manufacturer except Citroen had such an advanced lineup. And like Citroen, BMC paid the price of being a technology pioneer.
The Hydrolastic suspension wasn’t as complicated as Citroen’s nightmare, but had its (expensive) bugs. And just like with the Mini, BMC couldn’t afford modern engines, so the whole line suffered from the noisy old long-stroke shakers. And their complexity was an endless drain on ephemeral profits.
Originally, the FWD cars were to be made and sold equally by Austin and Morris. But their fragility increasingly made them untenable in export markets, and even in Old Blighty, some of the loyalists became wary. So starting in 1970, Austin and Morris began a product split, with Morris reviving coarse and crude RWD sedans, beginning (and ending) with the execrable Marina. British Leyland really was doomed right from the get-go. And no wonder Japanese cars have their highest European market share in England.
A comparison of Europe’s three most iconic post-war small cars is revealing: the profoundly solid and well-sprung Teutonic VW Beetle; the quirky but brilliantly practical and efficient French Citroen 2CV; and the British Mini. All three were highly advanced, at least in their early years. But the VW and 2CV were more adaptable, durable and roomy; they were the vehicles of choice for generations of European students heading off to the Sahara or India. Nobody in their right mind would have done that in a Mini; it would have high-centered (or just disappeared) in Turkey’s first big pothole, if the Prince of Darkness hadn’t already ended the trip.
The Mini’s transverse-engine layout transcended the mortifications of its quick-rust body, and became immortal. But the Mini’s real legacy lives on its three spiritual successors today, with more on the way: the Smart, the MINI, and the Fiat 500. All fashionable, trendy and tiny city mobiles, the cars of the future. And as such the Mini is rightfully the most influential compared to the VW and 2CV, if not of the whole post-war era. Who would have thought that a noisy, cramped, hard-riding, unreliable shoe box on ten-inch wheels would pull that off? Fashion trumps practicality, once again.
Cant believe you found one in the US There are still a lot of these about in NZ fun to drive but stay out of the rain minis dont do puddles the distributor is right behind the grille un shielded one of many design flaws
The VW Bug was a rear engine car with an air-cooled boxer 4 engine.
Does anybody make anything like that today?
The 2CV was a front engine (longitudinal) front drive car with an air cooled boxer 2 engine.
Does anybody make anything like that today?
The Mini was a front transversely mounted engine front drive car with a water cooled inline 4.
It is the pattern for most B, C and D segment cars sold in the world today.
Your Honor, I rest my case.
The Mini had the gearbox in the sump sharing the engine’s oil.
Does anybody make anything like that today? Yes, motorcycles.
The true FWD trendsetter honor belongs to the SIMCA 1100 (which made a recent CC appearance). Liquid cooled transverse four with gearbox besides and inline with the engine.
The Autobiachi Primula beat the Simca to it by three years, and also had the now-universal Macpherson strut front suspension unlike the Simca’s torsion bars and double wishbones.
The Primula was Fiat testing the water with the transvers and separtae end-on gearbox layout, but when they made the 128 they introduced the other now near-universal thing of the rubber composite cam belt instead of a chain.
Sorry to reopen an old thread
Does anybody make anything like that today?
Interesting points on safety but it really is all relative the mini design dates from the late 1950s, it weighs 600+kg it was made to the norms of the day when most cars were pretty pushed to get to 50 MPH.
So if you were to ram your late model 3-tonne Ute (designed in CAD to withstand the forces of X or Y) into it at 90 MPH on the autobahn I am sure itwould disintigrate but then most things hit by a 3-tonne Ute at 90 MPH might in anycase.
Compared to the Mini, your Scion looks like an Econoline E-350. Which means my E46 sedan (all 178 inches of it) would seem like a Mercedes 600 Grosser.
I actually see a few of these around LA now and then (of course, you will see a few of just about anything around LA now and then), and right here in Pasadena, there was a British car repair shop/used original Mini dealer until sometime last year. Not sure what happened to them; I always wanted to stop by in my wife’s MINI and drive one of the Minis. But alas, the recession apparently caught up with the business.
He actually puts his child in that?! With the seat jammed up against the (most likely non-safey) glass on one side so that any impact from one side will smash his kid’s head open like a watermelon, and tilted so that a hit from the other will probably pull the car seat out of its mounts and fling it into the shattering glass of the driver’s side rear window?
But hey, its ‘adorable’. I’m sure it’ll be even more adorable with his child’s skull splattered across the rear seat like confetti in a side impact that would be a mild concussion in the Scion.
It utterly defies explanation that a parent could be so reckless as to do the equivalent (or worse) of strapping his car seat to the back of a motorcycle. But hey, it’s quirky, right? More than enough justification to significantly risk his child’s life!
Paul, you need to find that guy and do something, -anything-, to talk some sense into this nutcase. We’re not talking about a severe impact being 50% more likely to have serious injury – we’re talking a near-certainty of death or severe injury even in minor fender-benders. If someone strapped his child to the roof of his car, he’d be thrown in jail. Well, what this as*hole is doing is damn near worse. He needs a serious slap in the face, -NOW-.
Yes-Better call CPS right now and have him charged with “Failure to Own an Escalade”.
Seriously, life is fraught with peril-What size car would you deem acceptable-
And if he bought said auto and the same model came out the next year with additonal 9 airbags, would you force him to trade since his current one is now “obsolete”? How about a ’70s Town Car? Oh nooo, no stability control, no airbags, no ABS. It’s not saaaafe! 😮
How about a Volvo DL? Oh no , same problem, no modern safety features.
BTW it’s certain that the window IS safety glass, being from 1971, hell cars from ten years had it.
It’s not saaaafe! 😮
What about people who have kid seats on bicycles? Are they monsters too?
I’d seriously hate to have you as a neighbor. It’s not saaafe 😮 unless I think it is.
I’ll bet you have CPS and DHS
programmed into your phone and have a picture of Janet Neopolitano on top of
Yes-Better call CPS right now and have him charged with “Failure to Own an Escalade”.
First: I didn’t say that what he’s doing should be illegal. I said that it’s dangerous and selfish.
Second: I didn’t say that you should drive the largest car possible. Don’t put words in my mouth and use them to condemn me.
There is obviously (except to you, apparently) a continuum of safety. There’s a tradeoff. This guy is on very nearly the furthest possible edge of that tradeoff. I personally wouldn’t put my son in a ’70s Town Car, either – I don’t think it’s worth the tradeoff safety in exchange for driving a slow, lumbering, piece of crap that can’t handle worth a damn. But the same applies to a fun car of the same vintage; if something were to happen, and I couldn’t rule out my decision of car as a determining factor, I could never forgive myself. Others will have different tipping points. This guy’s tipping point is, as I said previously, reckless.
A car with 9 airbags the next year will incrementally increase safety in general; for a child in the center rear seat, possibly not at all. It’s a judgment call.
The guy in question is using extraordinarily bad judgment and driving an extraordinarily unsafe vehicle – possibly the worst choice this side of an Isetta.
A Volvo DL isn’t a fantastic idea, but it’s orders of magnitude better than a Mini. It would seem that you’d be able to comprehend that, but your internal requirement for a knee-jerk “anti-liberal” response appears to have compromised your understanding of physics.
If you have a kid on a seat on a bicycle – well, I sure as hell wouldn’t do it in city traffic. But they’re not directly doing battle with traffic, city or country, and they don’t go nearly as fast out in the sticks. It’s a different situation – again, you should be able to realize that. Your argument is like attacking someone who advocates smoke detectors as being opposed to owning an oven.
As for the final, possibly-used-in-all-your-posts paragraph – well, your true colors shine through: Anything you don’t agree with is BAD BAD LIBERAL. Perhaps you should stop making yourself look like an ass by responding to a straw man rather than what was actually written.
My points are, to rephrase in a way that will hopefully hit home:
1) The mini is an extraordinarily dangerous choice of vehicle in which to put anyone – but in this case, it’s particularly bad given that the child seat physically cannot be installed correctly. It is not a liberal myth that child seats can be more dangerous if incorrectly-installed than if not used at all.
2) A side impact that would be a relatively minor issue in almost any other car with a center rear child seat – whether it’s a Volvo DL, an early ’80s Ford Escort, or a Freightliner semi – would almost certainly cause severe injury or death for a child jammed up against the window of that Mini.
3) Driving your child in a car that dangerous because you think it’s cool is horribly selfish if nothing else. A pregnant woman who thinks smoking looks cool probably puts her child in less additional danger – and is rightly regarded as being selfish and foolhardy.
4) There are a great many things less dangerous than this which are regarded as being at odds with good parenting – letting your kid ride a bike without a helmet (though perhaps you think bike helmets are only for commie pinko liberals too), or driving drunk with your kid in the car every few months, or leaving a loaded revolver lying around the house. Those things are probably statistically less dangerous than what this guy is doing, but my objection to his doing so is suddenly the mark of a paranoid busybody. If you’re going to condemn me for paranoia, at least be consistent and say you don’t have a problem with those things either.
5) Your assumptions about having me as a neighbor, CPS, DHS, etc etc, are absurd and based only on your own fantasies about people who disagree with you. None of the things you say make any sense at all in the context of what I wrote. I do not believe that an avoidance of all risk is required – on the contrary, risk is justified – even required – for any child to grow up happy and remain so. But that risk should match the reward. In this case, there is a small reward for the father and none whatsoever for the child. Better to go skydiving, or learn to surf, or play football, or do gokart racing. At least then there’s a reason to do so.
6) Nowhere did I say that someone should call CPS. The certain trauma of something like that would almost certainly outweigh any benefits – but, of course, since you’ve already decided I’m a wacko, there’s no reason for you to consider anything further.
You can’t reasonably argue that an incorrectly-installed child seat in a minuscule car which was designed in the 1950s, and which is being driven in modern traffic, is not vastly less safe than any of the sarcastic alternatives you offered. Your response makes unreasonable assumptions, attacks me for things I didn’t say, mischaracterizes or ignores my arguments, and, in case those things aren’t enough, dismisses me (incorrectly) as obviously being a Huffington Post style liberal – and, presumably, therefore, incorrect about any given argument I make.
Perhaps it’s not the government’s business to make this moron’s decisions for him. That’s a policy decision for another debate (one could argue that abortion is in a way the most extreme form of this tradeoff).
But either way, it’s inconsistent to make crimes of other dangers but not this. But: I don’t think that it’s right – on a personal level – to whistle and look away, just because you think the government shouldn’t be involved. In fact, bearing personal moral responsibility where it’s inappropriate for the state to do so is a fundamental tenet of conservatism. Perhaps you have forgotten that.
If you want to talk seriously about the issue, feel free. Otherwise, return to the unreasoned and unquestioned comfort of your prejudice. Just don’t expect to be taken seriously by anyone, liberal or conservative, who prefers to make decisions based on thought and debate rather than a pre-built flow chart of us-vs-them party politics.
When I was elementary school aged my dad had a hot rodded ’46 Ford pickup with an Olds V8 and sidepipes. My two brothers and I rode in the back all the time. Back then “being careful” meant “don’t exceed 70 MPH with people in the back”.
My family was not exceptionally crazy BTW, this was just normal. No-one I knew was killed because they chose to ride in the back of a truck.
The way people are so afraid of everything today you’d think it was a miracle we survived childhood!
PeriSoft; Do you keep two comments in your files so you can endlessly cut and paste them into the comments here? One is: “all old cars are crap; why waste time talking about them”. The other is the one above; drivers of old cars should be arrested for letting children ride in them.
I’m not going to waste much time rebutting them, but just your last line alone “near certainty of death or severe injury in minor fender-bender” shows how off-base you are. If it were true, every country’s population would have been severely curtailed from 1900 to 1995??,
Dude, folks ride with their kids on their bicycles in traffic, today more than ever, at least here. My mother rode me around on her bike in 1959. And I rode my kids around on a bike in Los Angeles in 1980, down Century Boulevard! And my kids’ favorite memories are riding in my 1966 Ford Death-O-Matic Pickup.
Compared to riding on a bike or in a Burley trailer behind a bike, riding in a Mini, surrounded by steel, is what it is. As is every other choice we make.
You’re entitled to you opinions, but repeating them endlessly here is becoming very tedious, boring and obnoxious. Please take this as an invitation to not comment any more, unless it’s something other than your two broken-record spiels.
Your point on ‘old cars are crap’ is well-taken, and something I have been considering.
As for safety, I have repeatedly – and above reiterated – that there’s a trade-off involved in danger vs. redeeming experiences. It’s a point that’s generally lost or ignored amidst incorrect assumptions about my politics (along with the bizarre assumption that I think the government should get involved; I’ve never said anything close – apparently it’s inconceivable to people that I can think someone shouldn’t do something without also thinking it should be illegal. I don’t think people should watch M. Night Shyamalan movies, either, but I don’t think it ought to be a criminal offense).
Hell, I rode around with my uncle, jammed into the corner of the cab of a front end loader. Probably not very safe, but I remember it, and I loved it. But I don’t think a kid young enough to be in a child seat will fondly remember country drives in the Mini, or remember being proud of his dad for having such a cool car. That’s why it’s different. Again, an incorrect assumption.
Given your feelings, and the fact that this is your site, I’ll either refrain from commenting un-bidden on safety, or on the quality of ’70s domestics – or, if you prefer, I’ll get lost entirely.
I’d like to keep reading it either way, if that’s OK. I find the subject fascinating, and your insight has always been a pleasure to read – particularly taken in the context of my google-booksing contemporary viewpoints of the same cars.
I can remember being squashed four-abreast into the back of an early 1980s Mini as a young child back in the early 1990s. Oddly enough, I survived.
I see quite a few people announcing that they weren’t killed as evidence that there’s no statistically significant difference in overall danger level.
Of course, the ones who -were- killed tend not to show up on forums to say so.
And as far as the ‘we survived’ argument – again, it’s beside the point. There’s a reason that average lifespan has increased – fewer people are dyng while young, in car crashes or from falling off of stuff or of getting cut in half by farm equipment, or whatever else.
My grandmother was nearly killed by a roller-style dryer that shredded her arm up to the elbow and left her with a serious infection. Her survival and my subsequent existence have no bearing on whether appliance safety regs were a good idea, or whether it makes sense to use one of those dryers now. The grandsons who don’t exist, whose grandmothers died rather than living, are not here to post about it.
A large number of you are describing growing up without wearing seatbelts, and that you and eveyone you know ‘survived’ – a sarcastic epither presumably implying that the danger of doing so is blown out of proportion. Well – how many of you leave your kids unbelted? How many of you drive unbelted? And if you wear your belts, why? What would you think of the Mini driver if he plopped his child in the back seat unbelted, as many of you were? Would you mock someone who balked at that as being paranoid and overprotective, and say he might as well never leave the house?
Is it reasonable to believe that taking advantage of seat belts is an obvious choice, but it’s a mark of Janet Napolitano-lovin’ liberal insanity to advocate taking advantage of equally-significant vehicle design quality improvements?
How much bubble wrap do you use to wrap your kids in before they leave the house and do they wear helmets while walking?
BTW I ride the snot out of 30 year old motorcycles. Someday a critical part might fail because of age or neglect and then I’m done for.
But if we live life in fear of such things then life isn’t worth living.
From my earlier posts, GS650:
“As for safety, I have repeatedly – and above reiterated – that there’s a trade-off involved in danger vs. redeeming experiences.”
“risk is justified – even required – for any child to grow up happy and remain so.…. Better to go skydiving, or learn to surf, or play football, or do gokart racing.”
OK, I give up – I’m not sure why Paul is complaining about my posts being a broken record when it’s fairly clear that nobody is actually reading them, instead preferring to automatically respond, “BUBBLE WRAP PARANOID STAY ON THE COUCH LIBERAL BLKRHHGHARGHL!!!” whenever they see ‘safety’.
Fine – I’m a paranoid safety maniac who will never let his child do anything whatsoever, and I value security and avoidance of risk above all, not withstanding that I am and always will be an entrepreneur, hope to get my son in a go kart as soon as possible, and am committed to supporting him in whatever passion he chooses, dangerous or not, as long as he’s able to make a fully informed decision for himself.
Ignore all that, and decide for yourselves what I’ve said, whether I said it or not. Whatever.
Hence the origin of that great American aphorism “I caught my teat in a wringer”. Possibly only understood by those over 50.
I saw 3 Minis today driving about including one very angry one none of them had kids splattered on the windows noone even looked up set so I reckon there just safe as far as cars go.
I hear what you say regarding the safety of a Mini. It is also worth mentioning that Minis at least in Australia, came with all round 3 point seatbelts, Child restraint anchor points, Disc brakes and automatic brake proportioning well before most of their contemporaries, so they are probably not as lethal compared to what was the norm at the time as you might thing. Compared to today’s cars they are death traps – one has to say.
Ever heard of active safety? The Mini is absolutely brilliant at not having accidents, thanks to its excellent handling.. I’d rather avoid having a collision in the first place than be in something unstable and strong.
Lots of British families drove around in Minis in the 60’s and 70’s and survived. Chill the F out. Admittedly, it’s an unsafe car compared to a modern subcompact like a Fiesta or even a Korean crapbox, but then again so are most cars that are 40+ years old.
The Mini was also pretty good on the track. Didn’t it win the Monte Carlo Rally a few times? In 1966 at Australia’s Bathurst race, the first 9 place were taken by drivers in a Mini Cooper S.
In my youth I considered buying one of these , but was put off by the maintenance problems. It was very hard to get a spanner+your hand around a lot of places , and some of the engineering solutions were as cheap as others were expensive. The suspension arms pivoted on needle roller bearings, but the clamp fixing the exhaust pipe to the manifold was particularly crude.
One of the advantages of a Mini is it ability to manouver out of accidents unlike some old cars minis handle and they have a strong bodyshell when the crunch gets there
Yup it’s not safe, but me and everyone else over 40 survived childhood with no carseats or seatbelts just fine. I drive my children in a 63 Beetle but do so carefully, maybe everyone else would drive more carefully if their nose was 4″ away from the windshield.
Kudos to the Mini owner, please drive carefully and remember the safest car is the one that doesn’t get in a crash.
I think there were some studies done about the ‘4″ from their nose’ hypothesis; IIRC the result was that people acclimate pretty quickly and generally drive the same way whether they’re on a scooter or in an Escalade.
Interestingly, though, a recent study showed that having narrower and tree-lined roads decreased both speeds and accident rates, even when speed limits remained the same (I might’ve read that on TTAC). So it seems that people acclimate to internal cues on danger (the car) but not to external ones (the road).
I remember riding around as a child on the rear window “shelf” of a ’68 Chevy, or in the unpadded, metal-floored rear cargo area of a Torino wagon, or sitting unbelted in the nearly-all-steel cab of my dad’s ’60 Chevy truck, and I survived all of those experiences with no ill effects.
It’s important to remember: 1) In life, there are no guarantees–I can drive to work safely ensconced in my modern car and then be killed in a freak accident or suffer a heart attack when I get out of the car; and 2) any collision in the Mini that would smash a kid’s head open like a watermelon would probably kill the other passengers too; not much to be done about that–except possibly sit home on the sofa and never venture out into the dangerous world.
That’s just what I always thought about when I drove an old VW bus — if everyone felt strapped to the front of their vehicle the roads would be a lot more civilized.
Come to think of it, maybe it was John Muir (author of the Idiot Manual) who first said that…
I saw a British TV commentator who said instead of Airbags there should be a giant spike coming out of the steering wheel. That would get people to slow down and drive carefully,
It doesn’t really matter, when your number comes up fate has a way around all the precautions and planning you can muster. Look at the recent earthquake in Japan, thousands died despite all the preparations imaginable.
I notice that the more safety features, larger bodies and especially 4WD vehicles are inherently driven faster in the snow. All that gives the driver is a feeling of superiority and invincibility. However trees don’t care and other drivers pay the price for the brash arrogance,
Now back to the Mini. I am well over 6 ft but would love one of these cars. It would have to be hot rodded and modified, particularly the seat position.
Im 6ft and have had 4 tall people in a Mini 1 had crutches due to broken foot crutches were the lengthof the interior but we fitted. That white Mini is crying out for a weber &freeflows
Better yet, Honda VTEC swap with a B16 and 5-speed gearbox.
MInis are semi common on the Portland area, Although a lot of them are late Coopers form the 1990s that were grey imported. My funny Mini story was commuting to work in Hillsboro one morning on my BMW motorcycle and realizing that my bike looked bigger than the Mini in front of me, to the point where the Mini driver was frightened an took refuge in a gas station.
I’d still buy an original Mini long before one of the greatly enlarged and sadly diminished BMW Mini pretenders, although my ambition is to go all Jalopnik and build a Riley Elf shooting brake.
BMW could have faithfully scaled up the Mini to xB size (kind of like what Ford did with the GT40). It would look much better (and be more practical) than the new MINI.
There was a beautiful Mini (my favorite combo, blue with the Jack on the roof) parked next to my Cherokee on my last trip to Farm n Fleet, what a contrast!.. It’s hard not to like a car you can toss in the back of your “driver” as a spare!
(That was also the day it finally dawned on me that I really need to start carrying a camera everywhere I go..)
A friend of mine inherited an Austin America from his grandparents years back that was a blast once it was running though not as attractive as the Mini. If I remember right the America had a 5 speed automatic trans to boot.
Birddog, you must not be too far away if you have a Farm & Fleet! Our local one sponsors a car show there in the summer, it gets a pretty good turnout.
I almost bought a Mini’s big(ger) brother in 1980 – An Austin America. The eager seller and I were down to the horse tradin’ part of the sale when I insisted on one more test drive. I fired her up and got about a block when the tranny grenaded (it was the 5 speed auto box that shared engine oil) . The car went dead as a post and I had to walk back to the guy’s house and give him the sad news that, well, I would think about it. Anyway, I came to find out those auto trannys had a near 100% failure rate (the standard shift was tough and reliable). The car sat in his driveway for a couple of years after that and I guess he just scrapped it.
It would have been fun,but…
The first time I saw a Mini I started laughing like a mad man. It’s so small! It’s a flipping deathtrap! Then I remembered a Car and Driver article on a company which specialized in swapping in Honda GS-R engines into Minis, to which the Homer Simpson drool face kicked in… 195HP Mini aaaaaaa….
You worry too much, bud. I’d be more worried that he’s giving the kid Smucker’s jam laced with “purple drank” (bottle of generic Nyquil on dash) Chemical dependency at an early age is not a good thing.
And it could be even worse: the guy could be driving a Reliant Robin!
I seem to recall a guy who put two engines in a mini, and died shortly thereafter. I think he was in the business (of driving, not dying) too, not just some schmo with one more engines than minis.
I have to say that lacing jam with nyquil never occurred to me. You worry too much…
That said, I’ve been feeling like having a pb&j tonight. The decision is now made. 🙂
John Cooper he of CooperS fame crashed a twin engine Mini at high speed
Had a lot of Austin Americans in the parking lots during high school. They were way cool. Mine was a dog, at least the plates said so DOG 786. It was a 64 Peugeot 404. 4 on the column 4 door 4 cylinder and 3 lug nuts.
I laughed back in the era of “Baby On-board” signs appearing in rear and/or rear side windows of various vehicles when I saw the “Baby in Trunk’ version.
Akin to that is the bumper snicker proclaiming “My kid can whip your wimpy honor roll brat.”
Interestingly, the signs creating mirth and merriment within me usually appeared on lower-cost vehicles of the type driven by society’s dregs.
Society’s dregs invariably drive large shiny German cars here in Britain.
honestly perisoft dear youl get yourself worked up into a terrible kerfuffel wont you dear,now its only an old mini isnt it dear now go and have a glass of sherry and a nice little lie down..there thats better dear isnt it,lol,lol
I can understand the love people have for these- I’ve driven one- but you should bear in mind these were only ever designed as cheap, economical throwaway transport. For much of its lifespan the mini was right at the bottom of U.K new car price lists, vying for cheapest new car against the likes of Fiat 126, Citroen 2cv and Lada 1200.
As such, owning one as a classic car is going to be a labour of love. They rust for a hobby, absolutely everywhere.
When they were current, after 5 years you’d be replacing the rear subframe and at the very least the fender A panels. After 8 years, the complete fenders, the sills and sections of the floor. And if the subframe needed doing again, this time you’d have to weld new subframe mounts onto the body too, so the new subframe would have something to bolt to.
Engine wise, the A series is a real jewel. Almost boringly reliable (unless the dizzy gets wet) For its size there is decent low down torque and it will deliver a genuine 40+ mpg. Plus it will continue to run even when it’s absolutely knackered. By that time it will be using as much oil as petrol, but it will run right up until the point when it suddenly doesn’t.
For city/town use or twisting country roads it’s unbeatable, they really do corner like they’re on rails. On motorways not so much..the older versions on 10″ wheels will do 70mph but that’s the absolute limit and it will be absolutely screaming. 60 is a more realistic cruising speed and probably all your eardrums will stand, quiet and refined they ain’t.
Of course there are a myriad of tuning options available. In the U.k we’ve been tinkering with minis pretty much since day one and serious power can be coaxed out of them with bigger capacity rebores, turbocharging and supercharging, 5 speed boxes, rear mounted v8s (yes really)the only limit is your wallet.
All cars of that era rusted badly, they were spot-welded together out of multiple panels and poorly rust proofed; 2CVs went banana shaped, Beetle heaters didn’t work because the sills and pillars rusted out.
However the mini was a much more sophisticated design than most of the simplistic cart sprung fodder available, with seperate subframes front and rear. The more simply designed cars could easily be fixed by welding patches, it fact it was rare to find a car over 5 years old that hadn’t been welded. On the mini the subframe mountings disintegrated which was a much more complex job, beyond most home mechanics, so they quickly became uneconomic to repair. Minis making their crablike way down the street was a common phenomenom.
I don’t know if it’s apocryphal but I read somewhere that the original engine installation was the other way round, with the distributor well protected behind the engine. However during winter testing the carburetor froze, hence the change.