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BMC Mini

Published: 21st Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

BMC Mini
BMC Mini
BMC Mini
BMC Mini
BMC Mini
BMC Mini
BMC Mini
BMC Mini
BMC Mini

Buyer Beware

  • The body may be small, but that also means every panel is vital. Unfortunately they also rust readily, and need to be checked. MK7 panels are different to early cars.
  • Inner and outer sills rust quickly. Replacement panels are cheap, but fitting them can be expensive.
  • Noises emanating from the rear subframe can be the result of rust or wear. Check particularly the floor beneath the rear seat, which takes the stress of the rear subframe and can be weakened as a result.
  • The central crossmember rusts from the outer edges inwards, and its condition is vital for the shell’’s rigidity.
  • The A-panel ahead of the doors is a common rot spot, but by the time you see any sign of this, the structure below will be done for.
  • The rear quarters are cheap to buy, but expensive to fit. Doorskins and bootlids are usually cheaper to replace than to repair properly.
  • Roof gutters can rust behind shiny trim if this is fitted,  and are very difficult to replace.
  • Rust below the windscreen rubber is always worse than it looks (especially on 1990s Minis), water in the front footwells may mean the inner scuttle panel is holed and the bottom of the side rear window openings often rusts away unseen and out of mind.
  • Original Mini, Cooper, Riley and Wolseley trim can be very hard to find. Other stuff is more readily available, but there were a huge number of variations produced over the years if originality isn’t vital.
  • Clicking from the front wheels on lock means that the CV joints need renewing – but this is more of a bargaining point that anything to get worried about.
  • Engines are durable and cheap to repair (except some Cooper variants). Timing chain rattle is common, as are minor oil leaks and noisy tappets.
  • If the engine pops and bangs on the overrun, suspect a burnt exhaust valve. If the exhaust manifold is leaking, often the engine stabiliser is worn, allowing the engine to rock forwards and back and the gearlever to meander.
  • Transmissions aren’t quiet, but any whining is usually down to worn bearings. Autos can be dear to repair.
  • Leaking driveshafts could be caused by worn seals, but they in turn might have been destroyed because the driveshaft bushes themselves are worn.

Fast Facts

  • Driving: 5/5

    More smiles per mile than anything around. Frugal with it

  • Usability: 4/5

    Still one of the most practical runabouts, mainly for urban use

  • Maintaining: 4/5

    Only the awkward engine space robs the car of five stars

  • Owning: 5/5

    These cars can cost literally pennies if you shop around

  • Value: 3/5

    Bargain Minis are bangers – you need to spend to get good one

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A source of national pride and indisputably one of the most important designs of last century, the evergreen Mini is still just about the most fun you can have on four wheels

There have been some pretty durable designs in the history of car production, but has always been the basic ones that have proved the most long-lived. Think Ford Model-T, Volkswagen Beetle, Citroen 2CV – all were created to provide cheap transport and mobilise the masses. Excitement certainly wasn’t on the original spec sheet either. Our very own Mini fits into that list perfectly. Designed at the instigation of BMC’s Leonard Lord to drive the rash of bubble cars off Britain’s road in the wake of the Suez crisis, it lasted in through to the 21st century. The product of Alec Issigonis’ fertile mind, entertainment was never a part of the Mini’s design brief. All Issigonis wanted to provide was proper four-seat comfort in the smallest possible road space. To do this, he turned BMC’s A-Series engine sideways and fitted the gearbox underneath in the sump to save room. He also shrank the wheels to an unheard of 10in diameter, and used a rubber suspension system designed by his pal Dr Alex Moulton to save weight and space. The rest, as they say, is history. After a shaky start in the marketplace as a result of the British public’s dogged conservatism, the Mini was adopted by the great and the good of London’s high society and became the ultimate fashion accessory. It also turned out to be a natural born racer, delighting the world with its giant-killing exploits. By the time the rivals had finally caught up with the Mini a decade or two later, the buying public had warmed to the cheeky car so much that they saw off several attempts to kill it off, even helping the Mini to outlast the Austin Metro that was supposed to replace it.

Which model to buy?

This is the biggest dilemma. Although there’s no such thing as a duff model, there is a huge variety in what is basically the same shape. Even leaving aside the luxurious and booted Wolseley and Riley versions and the stripped out oddball Moke, you can choose between saloon, estate, pick-up, van and convertible. The saloon is the classic Mini shape, but there you have choices to make. The most expensive will always be the original Coopers, for which you will have to pay a huge premium. A cheaper way is to buy one of the lesser variants and add your own tuning gear – there’’s no shortage of either go-faster gear or modified cars on the market. The later the year then the better the car. Go for 998cc after ‘67, 1098cc in ‘79 and 1275 for 1990. Then there’s the choice of trim, stuff like an alternator from 1973, inertia reel seatbelts from 1974 and a heated rear screen from 1976 on some models. There are anomalies though, such as base models that retained the classic and basic dash, while special editions, the Clubman and Mini 1000HL move the clocks to a more conventional position in front of the driver. And don’t forget the Coopers, be they the original or the hugely agreeable 1990 relaunch.

Behind the wheel?

The rule is the later the year then the better the car

Issigonis added great roadholding and stability to make his Mini safe – but that also makes it tremendous fun to drive. The chassis can even take phenomenal amounts of tuning and still stick to the road. The steering rack is derived from the Minor, which is a great pedigree. In the Mini, it’s so light that you may not appreciate just how precise a system it really is. The original rubber suspension often results in a choppy ride – an inevitable consequence of the car’’s low weight and compact dimensions. Hydrolastic cars are a little more comfortable, but the handling is not generally reckoned to be quite as immaculate and they tend to bounce and pitch as you step on and off the power. When cornering hard, it is best to keep on the power, as lifting off will only cause the nose to turn in a little more. Cars on 10in wheels are more likely to follow road irregularities than their bigger-wheeled cousins, but they’re generally reckoned to handle better overall. Early Minis are not particularly fast, but their diminutive size makes them feel quick – an impression highlighted by the gutsy low speed torque of the A-Series engine that has great pull from 2000rpm. The 1275 unit is particularly lusty; in 1275GT and later 1.3/Cooper guises they are quicker than the original Cooper and don’t give much away to an S in normal conditions. Automatics are also surprisingly nippy thanks to the use of four ratios, and they’re very well suited to city driving. Travellers are heavier, and slower than saloons.

The Daily Option?

Don’t forget that the Mini is still a 1950s design

If you like your Mini and enjoy driving it, then it can handle the daily grind with ease. The earliest cars were basic in the extreme, which helps to give them an amazing amount of interior space given the modest exterior dimensions. The upright steering column might feel strange at first, but it’s easy to get used to and, even on the more luxurious (in Mini terms) later cars, you’ll still be able to get comfortable even if you’re a leggy sort. There’s ample room to take three mates along too, but not with much luggage. The bootlid is designed to double up as a luggage rack when left open, but carrying too much weight ruins the handling (especially in Hydrolastic cars which then adopt a very tail-heavy attitude). It quickly knocks performance and adds more body roll too. It’s also a worthwhile idea to change the tyre pressures to suit dramatic shifts in carried weight for the good of the rubber. Visibility is excellent all round, particularly when compared to other cars of similar vintage, although the central speedo can be partially obscured by the steering wheel and switchgear can be difficult to reach. Refinement isn’t great on any Mini, so you can expect some noise and harshness as part of the package, particularly on more basic specs.

Ease of Ownership?

The Mini is a genuinely compact car, which makes it easy store and park – it doesn’t take up too much room if restoration is your game either. But this very compactness does mean that most jobs are a bit of a fiddle, and a surprising number are easier with two people (one working from above and another from below) because access is so tight. The mechanicals themselves are generally straightforward, although there are inevitably one or two little quirks (such as the frail two inch bypass hose that can be temporarily replaced with a concertina item, but needs the radiator and the water pump to come off for a permanent fix). Don’t forget that the Mini is a 1950s design though, and neglecting maintenance is not an option. Drum brakes need regular adjustment – there are grease nipples at both ends and you need to be generous with the anti-rust wax. The engine oil has a lot of work to do in keeping both the gearbox and the differential running sweetly as well, so 3000-mile changes are better than 6000 mile ones. On the other hand, spares remain very cheap, particularly if you shop around.



Cars are built in volume from June to build up stocks prior to its launch on 26 August, 1959 as the Austin Seven and Morris Mini-Minor. By the end of the year, the Mini chalked up its first class win (at Snetterton).


Half-timbered Austin Mini Countryman and Morris Mini Traveller arrive, as does the van on a four inch longer floorpan.


Mini Cooper goes on sale in both Austin and Morris guises, each one sold earning John Cooper a £2 royalty. Upmarket and booted Wolseley Hornet/Riley Elf duo are introduced, as is Mini Super (most of the Cooper's extras but without the power) plus a novel pick-up.


Cooper S is launched with 970cc race engine and 1071cc 70bhp in road trim. Elf and Hornet now get 998cc to cope with extra weight.


Saloons are changed to Hydrolastic ‘wet’ suspension. 1275cc Cooper arrives which soon becomes mainstay unit.


The millionth Mini is produced. New automatic gearbox is unveiled in May, but not ready for two years. All versions get key start and better 1.5in wide brakes.


Mini MkII has larger rear screen, better trim, bigger rear lights and a 998cc Super DeLuxe variant of the saloon and estate. All get winding windows and concealed hinges. Cooper gains an all-synchro ‘box.


Elf, Hornet,Traveller, Countryman discontinued, Mini 1000 replaces the Super DeLuxe. All-synchro gearbox is standardised. Snub-nose Clubman intended to replace the original shape, with a mild 1275cc version that sees off the Cooper. The two millionth Mini is produced.


All cars switch back to the original dry cone suspension set up in June. Production peaks at 318,000 units.


Inflation pushes the cost of a new Mini to over £1000 for first time. The start ofnumerous limited edition runs helps keep consumer interest alive.


12inch wheels with low profile tyres solve clearance problems and make room for front disc brakes across the range (they had first appeared on the 1275GT in 1974).


The Cooper reappears as a kit, becoming an official model the following year when a limited run of RSP Mini Coopers (Rover Special Projects) tests the water for a despecced version in 1991.


The last Mini is built in October after a grand total of 5,387,862 cars with the last car driven off the Longbridge lineby 60s star Lulu.

We Reckon...

After an incredible production run of 50 years, the Mini remains that rarity in classic circles: a car that makes total financial sense to buy, yet still delivers huge smiles per mile. You really can have your cake and eat it in a Mini. And it’s still delicious.

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