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Morris Mini, Austin Mini, Mini Cooper: three times the maximum minimum

Hardy Mutschler
Morris Mini Minor, Austin Mini 1000 Mk II, Mini Cooper 1.3i
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D er the first attempt to give the Mini a modern facelift simply had to fail. When the more dignified Clubman appeared in 1969 with a businesslike, slightly longer front section, magic and flair were gone.

Mini as a total work of art - harmony of form and function

The round child's face with the googly-eye spotlights is what makes the mini so attractive, not just for women. For him, design and technology are inextricably linked. Its creator Alec Issigonis took care of both except for the stylistic fine-tuning. Scribbled the concept and the original form with a thick pen on envelopes or paper napkins lying around.

It is the total work of art, the harmony of form and function, that distinguishes this unusual, even extremely conceived small car. Only in this way does it remain the classless and timeless automobile that achieved cult status a short time after its debut in 1959 and expressed a new, carefree attitude to life that was later called 'swinging'. London was the metropolis of this lively movement around music, fashion and mobility, whose symbols were to become the Beatles, the miniskirt, Carnaby Street, the photo model Twiggy and the Mini.

Initially, the smartest small car in the world was threatened To get to the flop, the buyer class first had to understand the brilliant concept of the extremist. That it is much larger on the inside than on the outside, that you can tackle corners with it at an unusually high speed, that it is faster and more economical than an Austin A 30 or a Morris Minor - the reigning heroes of the British people's automobile at the time.

Mini in tailcoat - the Mini Clubman

Ten years later, as a Clubman, the Mini was given a square dozen face, which could also have come from a Ford Cortina or Toyota Corolla. The Clubman was even sponsored by British Leyland. After all, it should replace the classic mini in the medium term. That is why “the Mini in the tailcoat”, as British Leyland advertising soon called it whitewashed, had more luxurious equipment, more modern instruments and more solid operating levers. The station wagon versions Traveler and Countryman soon mutated into the Clubman Estate with a narrow alibi wood decor on the flanks.

Two years later after production of the Austin /Morris Cooper S was discontinued in favor of the 1275 GT, the Clubman even secured itselfthe monopoly on the at least 70 hp BMC A Plus engine, which impressively demonstrated what is in the old gray cast iron bumper machine. At the beginning of the eighties the clubman finally disappeared quietly from the mini-stage, today he plays the role of the lovable, somewhat quirky uncle in the scene.

The original had triumphed and was still exactly twenty years ahead with countless special models. They were called Mayfair, Park Lane, Designer Chelsea or Hot Red. However, the big mini revival didn't start until 1990 with the John Cooper edition, green with a white roof and white decorative stripes on the hood - the one with John Cooper's signature.

It was a brilliant comeback of the iconic small car, which was suddenly not only sought after by mini fans. At first the 12-inch model was equipped with a carburettor engine, then the Mini Cooper transformed into a high-tech mini with airbag, immobilizer, regulated catalytic converter, central injection and lush 13-inch wheels under BMW management, however, the fans do not approve. With the introduction of the 12-inch wheels in 1984, only the traditional old 10-inch types were considered the only real ones, but the 12-inch models are now also accepted.

Mini evolution - from minimalism to noble dwarf

The three minis, who meet in an almost British industrial culture gloom on the outskirts of Munich, document a journey through time of automotive evolution. The original version from 1959 shows in the form of a standard Morris Mini Minor how stark the Issigonis concept of extreme minimalism looks. No wonder that the clientele had to get used to so much frugality. The color is called cherry red, but it must have been sour cherries that were the inspiration. The spot color cream replaces the hub rings and the chrome on the grille. The fuel cap and license plate light remain in the same color as the vehicle.

The inside of the former 500 British pound car is lined with rubber mats on the floor, and primitive cables serve as door openers. The ashtray has no lid and is not started by turning the ignition key, but by pressing the start button in the footwell. It looks like a high beam switch elsewhere. The aged four-cylinder engine from the Austin A 30 growls to life. Let's be happy that it's not a two-cylinder or even a two-stroke, the original Mini has a sensible, water-cooled four-cylinder despite all the quirky purism. Not with 20, but with 34 hp - that was plenty at the end of the fifties.

Front-wheel drive and transverse engine, today's universally applicable global car concept, came before the Mini by DKW, Trabant and Lloyd. But only Issigonis turned it into the philosophy of superior driving safety and space economy. Not least thanks to the homokinetic Rzeppa joints produced by the supplier GKN-Birfield, the mini-steering is so terrific go-kart-direct and almost completely free from even in tight bendsDrive influences.

Issigonis finds simple and ingenious solutions

Instead of a simple, towed rigid axle on leaf springs, the Mini waits at the back Independent suspension on trailing arms. The suspension is ingeniously simple with conical rubber elements, and the front and rear hydraulic telescopic shock absorbers take care of the damping. The front and rear axles are mounted on solid subframes, which gives the body a high level of rigidity.

For the Mini, Issigonis opted for an extremely small car concept that can never be balanced. The Mini knows very well compromises and downsides. That is what makes him so honest and full of character, he is not an artificial, harmony-addicted marketing creature. He admits that even the largest door pockets don't make up for a small trunk. He openly says that small rubber-hung wheels don't bounce very comfortably. He makes no secret of the fact that even the most sophisticated steering geometry does not allow a relaxed seating position in the extremely short front end. It's like in a minibus.

In order to achieve a particularly compact front drive block that combines the engine, gearbox and differential in one housing, Issigonis quickly chose a common oil circuit. The high shear forces between the gears stress the engine oil to such an extent that it has to be changed every 5,000 kilometers. The chassis should also be greased regularly. Despite all its progressiveness, the Mini still has archaic features, its electrics initially seek their shining salvation in plus mass, but already have an electric fuel pump.

Anyone who has learned to shift gears in a mini can handle any car

The circuit is also not particularly precise. With the Morris 850 and the Austin 1000 Countryman in particular, you poke the gears far ahead with an extra-long gear stick, similar to a minibus. The first gear was not synchronized until September 1968. Fast gear changes are not an outstanding talent of the Mini, especially when downshifting. But he trains the driver. With a little practice, this exercise slips out of the wrist, the driving fun factor in this agility bundle is even increased by the required skill.

On request, there was a full-blown four-speed fully automatic with planetary gearbox and torque converter for the Mini, cleverly housed in the oil pan - a tribute to the predominantly female clientele?

Our Mini Cooper 1.3i, one of the last ADO 20s produced in Longbridge in 2000, can shift gears a lot better. A five-speed gearbox would of course no longer have fitted in. On the other hand, extra-wide 13-inch wheels crowd into the temporarily widened wheel arches. They improve the excellent handling even further.Because tires that are too narrow always set the grip limit too early on the Mini, which actually moves the chassis very far up. The original model gives the impression that the old cross-ply tires simply smear away in very fast corners.

Woodie - the heartbreaker among the minis

The blue Austin Countryman welcomes us much more friendly than the cherry-red Spartan. It seems as if he is waving the flap doors, the cute station wagon looks so delightful to its viewers. The feeling of homeliness is not only due to the massive, warm-hearted wood paneling in the rear area. The two additional instruments for water temperature and oil pressure also alleviate the dreary forlornness in the cockpit.

As a later '67, the 1000 Woodie already embodies the Mk II, which came out at the time and differs from its predecessor through a less perky grille. Sliding windows and external door hinges, so other striking, even lovable features, did not lose the Mini until the end of 1968 as the Mark III, a year before the Clubman was introduced. Two years later, the Cooper legend, the holy of holies of the mini cult, fell victim to Leyland's model policy after a decade of brilliant motorsport triumphs. The Monte Carlo Rally victories of the equally underrated and talented upstart are legendary.

The noticeably livelier temperament of the thousand is hardly due to the modest extra power of just five horsepower. Rather, it is a result of the better pulling power of the brave four-cylinder, which also has an easy time with the somewhat heavier Countryman. The BMC-A motor, although by no means a brilliant one on paper, but a rather homely design that operates with pushrods, is one of the pleasing sides of the Mini. His sometimes unwilling hum - combined with tenacious perseverance and an iron will to turn - has something of a dogged but loyal terrier. An SU constant pressure carburetor keeps it under steam, something new-fashion like the cross-flow principle is alien to it, the inlet and outlet of the small cast block are one above the other, close to the bulkhead.

Whiskey-soda suspension - Hydrolastic minis preferred

Actually, due to its year of construction, the Countryman should hide the ingenious Hydrolastic suspension in its subframes. But this was reserved for the sedan from 1964 to 1971. Whiskey-soda suspension was called it in advertising. In principle, it is a greatly simplified hydropneumatic system based on Citroën, it does without shock absorbers. A mixture of alcohol and water compresses a rubber element during compression in the spring balls.

Hydrolastic minis are noticeably more comfortable to ride than the purely rubber-sprung versions, but maintenance and restoration are much more demanding. In terms of philosophy, the Hydrolastic fits the progressive mini better, it is at least the samesophisticated like the whole car. After all, the chassis, which is superior to other small cars, contributed to its legendary reputation. Bends can be approached very quickly in mini-style, but they slow him down unusually strong.

As a typical front-wheel drive from the old school, the Mini understeers heavily and pushes to the outer edge of the road by pushing straight ahead. If you fully or partially take your foot off the accelerator in the curve, the car suddenly turns in and willingly follows the curve. The driver steers with the accelerator pedal, but he shouldn't brake hard under any circumstances, then these load change reactions lead to sudden spins. The Mini leads to high spirits, because its excellent road holding even allows you to deliberately line up before bends, but it is not foolproof.

Mini 1.3i - the noble Mini in a wooden robe

Of course, the best is the late Mini Cooper 1.3 i. Its comparatively superior engine output of 63 hp is available at any time. Fortunately, the 1300 A Plus engine does not live from the speed alone, it also delivers a respectable torque.

The last of all traditional Cooper comes as a leather-bound burl wood luxury edition, like the noble notchback Minis once did Riley Elf and Wolseley Hornet or the Wood & Pickett minis popular with celebrities in the early 1970s. After all, the little one has always been a grateful object for customizing. The Mini Cooper 1.3i appears in the distinguished color Almond Green like a pocket Jaguar, its interior pleases with dignified quality. The three additional displays above the radio for the time, oil pressure and battery capacity set a fine accent, even if the charming miniature original of the central instrument fell by the wayside.

A look under the bonnet, which is now locked from the inside, also proves the turning point. The brave gray cast iron machine with the high tuning and efficiency potential has now grown a little over because so many ancillary units have to find space. The sports package with the lush fender flares and the four additional headlights do not only feel over-decorated for purists. A mini should maintain British understatement, wear the mink inside and not adorn itself with too much chichi on the outside.

The mini is an evergreen, forever young. In the Hall of Fame of the greatest automobiles, it has long held a place of honor on the gallery, next to the VW Beetle and Citroën 2 CV. In contrast to these, his concept is still valid. He deserves the credit for having implemented the theory of front-wheel drive and transverse engine most radically.

The old Mini still combines cult status with classlessness. What could be better for a car?

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