August 26 marks 60 years to the day that the Mini, one of the most enduring automotive icons of all time, made its public debut. And luckily there's a cool new book, Mini: 60 Years by Giles Chapman, published by Motorbooks to help us celebrate.
The very first Mini that eventually hit the streets in 1959 was created as a direct result of the fuel shortage caused by the 1956 Suez Crisis, and was literally designed to be a miniature car.
The rest, as they say, was history. "Throughout six decades, Minis have been some of the most charismatic cars you can buy," Chapman writes. "From a driving point of view, the experience has always been joyful—scintillating, even—whether the power on offer is meager or mighty."
Starting in 1961 high-performance versions of the Mini proved that its brilliant design would carry it beyond the initial premise of fuel economy. Dubbed the Mini Cooper and Cooper "S", they were particularly successful as rally cars, winning the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964, 1965, and 1967. And nowadays of course in their new incarnation under the auspices of BMW, their sporty reputation endures.
1969 saw the introduction of the 1275 GT (below), a further evolution of the Cooper. "The original car was the brainchild of a single individual, Sir Alec Issigonis, who had the opportunity to reshape mass motoring like few before or since," Chapman notes. "He mixed the forcefulness of Henry Ford and André Citroën [with] the engineering standards of Ferdinand Porsche."
"Everything about it was daring," Chapman notes. "The [original] Mini went on, both by design and unexpected circumstance, to be a constant in Britain’s motoring scene for an incredible 41 years. The last car made in 2000 really was very little different from the first one in 1959. Its survival throughout that time is an eye-opening story in itself."
Subsequently, "Replacing the Mini with the MINI proved to be one of the hardest assignments any car manufacturer could undertake. BMW grabbed the mettle and chose to reincarnate the hard-charging Mini Cooper for the new millennium," he writes. "Totally updated twice more since 2001, the MINI has retained its distinctiveness while blossoming into an entire range of cars."
Over five million examples of the original 1959-2000 Mini were manufactured, making it the best-selling single British car of all-time. And the newer MINI is well on its way to setting another record.
The book, which features over 200 photos including period advertising and archival material, is a must for any Mini owner or automotive enthusiast, but is a cool pop culture reference for anyone with an interest in iconic design.