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The Mercury Cars Guide : July 18th 2009
20— Classifieds 62 300 400 • carsguide.com.au Legend of an enduring and endearing icon Today’s Minimaybe light years away in cost and equipment, but the original is credited with starting a small-car revolution. Neil McDonald hears some big talk about the world’s most famous small car Saturday, July 18, 2009 RETRO: The 1997 Mini range harks back to the original design sketched on a table cloth. I N Craig Watson’s opinion, no other car comes close to his Mini. ‘‘Even 30 years down the track there is hardly anything that handles as well, except perhaps the new Mini,’’ he says. Apart from being a Mini historian, Watson is publisher of a quarterly magazine called The Mini Experience, which he started in 2004. Watson’s magazine is the country’s primary resource for all Mini enthu- siasts and it has an eager following with more than 1200 subscribers. Fittingly, his daily driver is a 1976 Mini van, which shares his garage with a 1972 Mini Moke. ‘‘They are a barrel of fun to drive,’’ he says. ‘‘It’s got the grin factor. ‘‘Every time I get behind the wheel, I break out in a grin. ‘‘As long as it’s well maintained, there are very few cars on the road today that can compare.’’ Of the more than 5.3 million Minis sold, 200,000 buyers were in Australia, with production here ending in 1978. The car was the brainchild of engineer and designer Sir Alec Issigo- nis, who famously drew the prototype on a tablecloth. The project was initially called the Austin Design Office Project 15 (ADO 15). When he sketched out his ideas, Issigonis made sure the car had a wheel at each corner to free up interior space, micro 10-inch tyres and east-west engine withagearbox design that shared engine oil. The original design was also about 300mm narrower than the final pro- duction car. It is said that when the final prototype was built, Issigonis was not WINNER: The original Mini goes down the factory line and into history. happy with its proportions and sug- gested it be cut in half longitudinally and widened. The extra width ultimately helped its proportions and gave the car a better on-road stance and its famous sporty handling characteristics. He also wanted 80 per cent of the three-metre-long car to be for passen- gers, a goal he achieved. Although front-wheel-drive cars were already on roads, Issigonis took the concept further. Hemounted the engine transversely to drive the front wheels, with the radiator at the sideandthen placed the transmission underneath. The British Motor Corporation started Mini production on August 26, 1959. It was launched in two versions, the Morris Mini Minor and the Austin Seven, and cost less than 500 pounds. Australian versions followed from BMC’sZetland plant inSydneyin 1961. The Mini was initially sold as a bare-basics car with few luxuries. To help trim costs, the original had sliding windows, external body welds and minimal creature comforts. Issigonis, who was a smoker, put an ashtray into the car but there was no radio and a heater was not available until the 1961 model arrived. Despite being a smash hit, the first European examples had a few prob- lems that would spell an instant consumer backlash and recall today. Ventilation was initially a problem as the rear-hinged windows would not stay open, exhausts were fracturing because they lacked flexibility and if it rained the cabin could be flooded. All this did not matter though. People were crying out for low-cost motoring, and as soon as the Mini arrived in showrooms it was a sellout. It started a craze and became the car to own for people from pop stars to British royalty and appeared in cameo hardly anything that handles as well, except perhaps the new Mini ‘ roles in various films, including The Italian Job. It also spawned a range of models including a van, wagon, ute and the hotter Cooper series. The Mini’s compact rubber-cone independent suspension and a wide track allowed safe, responsive han- dling that later won races, including a swag of Monte Carlo rallies. Of the locally built Minis, about 26,000 were Mokes, a quirky open-air car that defied description and ini- tially was conceived as a British military vehicle. Watson says despite the fact that the Mini has been around in Australia for just as long as the UK versions, little has been written about it. ‘‘There’s lots of information avail- able about the English cars,’’ he says. ‘‘But I’m still finding out stuff about the locally built cars.’’ For example, the Moke was origi- nally designed and built in the UKbut it was never popular. Only 10,000 were built in theUKand about 90 per cent were exported, including to Australia. BMC’s Australian operations grab- bed the opportunity to assemble the cars and in 1968 Australia became the sole builder and supplier. The Moke was something of a success locally and was subsequently exported to 80 countries. Watsonalso says there issomemyth about whether the Mini was a profit- able car. DRIVEAWAYNO MORE TO PAY! $14.75 per day† Only 04 NISSAN Patrol Turbo Diesel 3.0 litre, 7 seat capacity, 2.5 tonne towing capacity, air conditioning, CD player, cruise control. Stock No. 321555 †To approved business clients only, with a $2,500 deposit over five years with a 30% residual payment. Interest rate 10.50%. DRIVE WAS$29,990 NOW $26, 990 AWAY WAS$27,490 NOW $24, 30,000km 07 HONDA Civic Hybrid 1.3 litre IMA, hybrid continuously variable transmission with integrated motor assist. Stock No. 321636 990 DRIVE AWAY $13.50 per day† Only $6.00 per day† www.djmotors.com.au firstname.lastname@example.org Easy finance 42,000km 1.5 litre automatic, dual airbags, ABS brakes. Stock No. 321675 05 MITSUBISHI Colt WAS $13,990 NOW $12, 490 DRIVE AWAY available with DJ Financial Services Hobart 1a Brisbane Street,Hobart Phone: 6213 3300 Warren Amos 0417 544 829 Luke Mitchell 0408 545 146 Glenorchy 275 Main Road,Glenorchy Phone: 6213 3315 Brian Anning 0418 531 853 Chris Wakefield 0400 635 446 Allan Gebel 0428 729 659 ‘‘It was always said that the Mini was a low-profit or no-profit car,’’ he says. ’ ‘‘Ford apparently stripped onedown and said that if it had built the Mini it would have lost 30 pounds on each car.’’ Watsonbelieves that it’s possible the entry bread-and-butter model would have lost money. ‘‘But very few people bought the base car,’’ he says. ‘‘The Deluxe and premium models like the Coopers were very popular and profitable.’’ Watson says little is known about the first six Minis brought to Australia in 1960, except that they were not pre- production cars. It is generally accepted that the original Mini is one of just a handful of cars that have reached such an iconic status. It joins the originalVWBeetle, Citroen 2CV and Model T Ford as having brought low-cost mobility to millions of people. The original ranks fourth as the world’s biggest-selling car and re- mainsBritain’s best-selling car to date. TheVWBeetle managed 21 million, the Ford Model T 15 million and the Renault R4 eight million. Low-mileage original limited edi- tion and Cooper S models fetch up to $30,000 in the UK. Even 30 years down the track there is
July 11th 2009
July 25th 2009