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This distinctive two-door car was designed for BMC by Sir Alec Issigonis. It was manufactured at the Longbridge and Cowley plants in the United Kingdom, and later also in Spain (Authi), Australia, Belgium, Chile, Italy, Portugal, South Africa, Uruguay, Venezuela and Yugoslavia. The Mini Mk I had three major updates: the Mk II, the Clubman and the Mk III. Within these was a series of variations including an estate car, a pickup truck, a van and the Mini Moke — a jeep-like buggy. The Mini Cooper and Cooper "S" were sportier versions that were successful as rally cars, winning the Monte Carlo Rally three times.
The production version of the Mini was demonstrated to the press in April 1959, and by August several thousand cars had been produced ready for the first sales.
The Mk II Mini featured a redesigned front grille which remained with the car from that point on. Also, a larger rear window and numerous cosmetic changes were introduced. 429,000 Mk II Minis were made.
A bewildering variety of Mini types were made in Pamplona, Spain, by the Authi company from 1968 onwards, mostly under the Morris name.
The Mk III Mini had a modified bodyshell with enough alterations to see the factory code change from ADO15 to ADO20 (which it shared with the Clubman). The most obvious changes were larger doors with concealed hinges.
Customer demand led to the sliding windows being replaced with winding windows – although some Australian-manufactured Mk I Minis had adopted this feature several years earlier (with opening quarterlight windows). The suspension reverted from Hydrolastic to rubber as a cost-saving measure.
In 1994 under Bernd Pischetsrieder, a first cousin once removed of Issigonis, BMW took control of the Rover Group, which included the Mini, fitting an airbag to comply with European legislation.
By 2000 Rover was still suffering massive losses, and BMW decided to dispose of most of the company: MG and Rover went to Phoenix, a new British consortium; and Land Rover went to Ford. BMW retained the Mini name and the planned new model, granting Rover temporary rights to the brand and allowing it to manufacture and sell the run-out model of the old Mini. By April 2000, the range consisted of four versions: the Mini Classic Seven, the Mini Classic Cooper, the Mini Classic Cooper Sport and for overseas European markets, the Mini Knightsbridge. The last Mini (a red Cooper Sport) was built on October 4 2000 and presented to the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust in December 2000. A total of 5,387,862 cars had been manufactured.
Years after the Mini finally ended its production run, there are still ample third-party parts – both spares for restoration and performance parts for race tuning.