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1964 monte carlo rally Hopkirk/Lidden mini cooper s. world copyright: LAT photographic

50th Anniversary of the Mini

50th Anniversary of the Mini

The Mini is an automotive icon with a distinguished history and continuous 50-year production. When released in ’59, both the Volkswagen Beetle and Fiat 500 had beat it to market, but the Mini didn’t feature their compromising rear-engine layout. Instead, designer Alec Issigonis innovated a front engine/front-wheel drive layout that became a precedent for almost every other compact car to follow.

Although Issigonis never designed the Mini for competition, many specialist competition firms like Downton, Cooper and Speedwell paved the way. Eventually BMC chose Cooper for their official performance variants. Furthermore, the BMC Competition department prepared Morris body shells for their rally cars. One of these, 33EJB, was driven by Patrick Hopkirk and Henry Liddon to win the ’64 Monte Carlo Rally. The feat was repeated in 1965 by Timo Mäkinen.

Many companies redeveloped the Mini including Radford who prepared very few cars. They sold a luxury version called the ‘de Ville‘ which had opulent features even if they were at odds with the tiny design. George Harrison’s own Mini was outfitted by Radford before the Magical Mystery Tour as was Enzo Ferrari’s personal Mini.

When BMW took over the franchise in 2001, the entirely new car was a success. The first of these to be used on the track was the outrageous Qvick Mini S3 which used an M3 engine. BMW released their own Challenge version in 2004 which was completely updated for 2008. Hopefully someone will make an S2000 version suitable for the next Monte now run by the Intercontinental Rally Challenge.