Let’s Motor: Celebrating 15 Years of Mini in America
As a child, I had seen them in England but hadn’t paid much attention. It was a fixture in spy films of the 1960s and 1970s including the classic 1969 film “The Italian Job,” starring Michael Caine. It was featured in what was one of the most memorable scenes in the film “The Bourne Identity,” released in 2002, where Matt Damon playing the amnesiac assassin Jason Bourne drives a battered one through Paris to evade the police and CIA.
It, of course, is the classic Austin Mini, now brought to you by the folks at BMW.
The Mini got to BMW through a rather circuitous route. It was designed by Sir Alec Issigonis, a British-Greek engineer and car designer par excellence. His work on the Mini was and continues to be considered groundbreaking and timeless.
The original Mini was first produced by the British Motor Corporation in 1959. BMC merged with Leyland Motors in 1968 to form British Leyland, which became the Rover Group, which subsequently was acquired by British Aerospace in 1988. Six years later, BMW acquired Rover and sold off Land Rover to Ford in 2000, while retaining the Mini brand.
BMW started work on designing a new and bigger Mini in 1998 and introduced it to the world in 2000. The new Mini was cute and playful, could seat four with reasonable comfort, and was fun to drive. Since its launch in the United States in early 2002, BMW has sold over 725,000 Minis, and the majority of sales has come from the standard hardtop Cooper model.
Suddenly, Mini was living large.