Engage reverse: a brief history of the MINI

One of the most exciting things about car-sharing with SHARE NOW is having thousands of vehicles at your fingertips. Our fleet is made up of some of the most iconic and decorated brands in the world of motoring. In this mini-series, we’re engaging reverse and taking a look back into what made the cars of the past the icons they are today. From the ideas and socio-economic factors that led to their birth, to the pioneers and stories that ultimately added their names to both the history books, and the hearts of drivers everywhere.

The mother of all invention

Necessity is, as they say, the mother of all invention. Back in 1957, England was still very much in a post World War II phase economically. The Suez Crisis had sent the price of fuel soaring, and engineers had started to question whether the huge, thirsty cars of the previous decades made sense moving forward. Alec Issigonis, a top engineer at the Morris Company in England, was given a challenge - design and build a small, fuel-efficient car capable of carrying four adults. It took him two years, but by 1959 he had completed his brief. The MINI was born.

© Image: Manuel Palmeira / Unsplash

The Swinging 60s icon

The original MINI design turned heads right from the start. In order to create more space inside, Issigonis had moved the wheels right into the corners of the car and turned the engine sideways. This not only gave the MINI space for four in the cockpit but driving stability - making this small, cost-effective car fun and nimble to drive. The youth of the 1960s, driven by the independence and spontaneity of the emerging culture, instantly fell in love. The MINI transcended British class divides and became popular with everyone from hipsters to royalty. It was a true cultural phenomenon.

© Image: Ilinca Roman / Unsplash

John Cooper and British racing

Issigonis’ design may have been to save space and keep costs low, but it didn’t take long for the racing world to realise the handling and performance benefits of the MINI’s go-kart stance. By 1961, British racing legend John Cooper had seen the potential in the humble MINI. With a more powerful engine, better brakes, and a touch of racing tuning, the so-called Classic Mini Cooper 997 was ready to rally. A year later in 1962, female racing driver Pat Moss - ahead of the curve in more ways than one - steered the car to victory in the Netherlands Tulip Rally, and a giant killer had emerged.

© Image: Roland Telegdi / Unsplash

share-now-some-jr-mun-4896 ID 9941
The MINI is reborn

By 1969, more than two million MINIs had been sold around the world, and the car had even outshone Michael Cane as the ‘star’ of The Italian Job the same year. Fast-forward to 1999, and sales of the classic MINI exceeded five million, with 130 international automotive journalists voting the MINI as European Car of the Century. However, it was time for a revamp. The concept for a new MINI was unveiled at the 1999 Paris Auto Show. With the brand now in the hands of BMW, the first modern MINIs started rolling onto our streets in 2000, with all the charm and energy of the original.

share-now-some-jr-munich-mini-6 ID 8289
A MINI for everyone

Back in the 60s, the original MINI became an icon by knowing no cultural boundaries. Everyone from rock bands touring the country to families heading for the seaside crammed into these cars to get around Britain. The MINI was never a status symbol, it was for everyone. BMW took that idealogy into the 21st century and today, all sizes and shapes of the MINI are on the move. From the classic MINI 3-door, to the MINI Convertible, to the MINI Countryman, the MINI is still an iconic car that transcends society’s divides. Times have changed, but the Morris Company’s vision remains one of the most popular in the SHARE NOW fleet to this day.

martin-katler-a Fy7a4KO6g-unsplash
The future is electric

Just like back in the late 50s when necessity drove the innovation behind the original MINI, climate change and emissions legislation is forcing the automotive industry to once again reinvent itself. Thus, in 2020, the MINI Electric became the latest addition to the brand’s iconic line of consumer vehicles. Built on the drivetrain technology developed for the earlier BMW i3, the MINI Electric represents the future of what Alec Issigonis and the Morris Company started all those years ago. Mechanically different, but culturally and characteristically the same. The world may not the same today as it was in the 60s, but the spirit of the MINI has survived.

© Image: Martin Katler / Unsplash

SHARE NOW not only gives you access to a large fleet with a wide range of vehicles, but it opens up the possibility to drive some of the most celebrated and iconic models available today. We'll be taking a deeper look into the history, cultural importance and stories behind the world's favourite cars from some of the most renowned manufacturers that feature in our fleet. Stay tuned for more.

David McCourt

David McCourt

Sr. Editorial Content Strategist

"Own less, share more."

David is on a mission to improve the quality of life in cities through modern mobility solutions.