What you don’t know about mini cooper…1959–1967

What you don’t know about mini cooper…1959–1967

The production version of the Mini was demonstrated to the press in April 1959, and by August several thousand cars had been produced ready for the first sales.

The name Mini did not appear by itself immediately—the first models being marketed under two of BMC's brand names, Austin and Morris. The name Austin Seven (sometimes written as SE7EN in early publicity material) recalled the popular small Austin 7 of the 1920s and 1930s. The other name used until 1967 in the United Kingdom (and in Commonwealth countries such as Australia), Morris Mini-Minor, seems to have been a play on words. The Morris Minor was a well known and successful car, with the word minor being Latin for "lesser"; so an abbreviation of the Latin word for "least"—minimus—was used for the new even smaller car. It was originally going to be called the Austin Newmarket.

1963 Austin Mini 850 Mark I

One of the very first examples from 1959 is now on display at the National Motor Museum in Hampshire. The very first example, with the now iconic registration place "621 AOK", is on display at the Heritage Motor Centre in Warwickshire.

Until 1962, the cars appeared as the Austin 850 and Morris 850 in North America and France, and in Denmark as the Austin Partner (until 1964) and Morris Mascot (until 1981). The name Mini was first used domestically by BMC for Austin's version in 1961, when the Austin Seven was rebranded as the Austin Mini, somewhat to the surprise of the Sharps Commercials car company (later known as Bond Cars Ltd) who had been using the name Minicar for their three-wheeled vehicles since 1949. However, legal action was somehow averted, and BMC used the name Mini thereafter.

In 1964, the suspension of the cars was replaced by another Moulton design, the hydrolastic system. The new suspension gave a softer ride but it also increased weight and production cost and, in the minds of many enthusiasts, spoiled the handling characteristics for which the Mini was so famous. In 1971, the original rubber suspension reappeared and was retained for the remaining life of the Mini.
Austin Mini Van, The Automobile Association livery

From October 1965 the option of an Automotive Products (AP) designed four-speed automatic transmission became available. Cars fitted with this became the Mini-Matic
The first Morris Mini-Minor sold in Texas being delivered to a family in Arlington, Texas in 1959 
Slow at the outset, Mark I sales strengthened across most of the model lines in the 1960s, and production totalled 1,190,000. Sold at almost below cost, the basic Mini made very little money for its owners. However, it still did make a small profit. Ford once took a Mini away and completely dismantled it, possibly to see if they could offer an alternative. It was their opinion though, that they could not sell it at BMC's price. Ford determined that the BMC must have been losing around 30 pounds per car, and so decided to produce a larger car - the Cortina, launched in 1962 - as its competitor in the budget market.

BMC insisted that the way company overheads were shared out, the Mini always made money. Larger profits came from the popular De Luxe models and from optional extras such as seat belts, door mirrors, a heater and a radio, which would be considered necessities on modern cars, as well as the various "Cooper" and "Cooper S" models, to be discussed later.

The Mini etched its place into popular culture in the 1960s with well-publicised purchases by film and music stars

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