The British Motor Corporation Mini, marketed at launch as the Austin Seven and Morris Mini Minor, is one of Britain's most iconic cars. The Mini was Britain's first mass-market small car. The Mini's designer, Alec Issigonis, produced an innovative space-saving design that could still carry four passengers. Later variants introduced included an estate, pick-up and light van. The Mini was the car of the 1960s, favoured by pop stars, actors, celebrities and the general public alike. In the cinema the Mini had a starring role in the 1969 Michael Caine and Noel Coward film "The Italian Job". The Mini won the famous Monte Carlo Rally four years in a row beginning in 1964. Over 5.3 million Mini variants were manufactured during 41 years of continuous production.
In 1955 a small team at the British Motor Corporation (BMC) started working on designs for a new small car. In 1956 Britain was facing international criticism following an invasion with France and Israel to take control of the Suez Canal from Egypt. Sanctions including an oil embargo threatened oil supplies to Britain.
Elsewhere, imports of small cars from Europe were threatening the dominance of British manufacturers. BMC countered with the Mini, which was unveiled in April 1959. The team at BMC took a new approach by mounting the engine transversely to save weight. This allowed more space for the cabin, seating four passengers.
In 1961 the performance version of the Mini, the Mini Cooper was introduced. John Cooper's Cooper Car Company had worked on racers for Formula One and the Indianapolis 500. The Mini Cooper S went on to win the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964, 1965 and 1967.
Several variants were produced including an estate "Traveller" model, van and pick-up. Production continued until October 2000. A modern interpretation of the Mini is produced by BMW.