The classic Mini was never so noble, upmarket and refined as it was at the apogee of its long career in the year 2000. It appealed in athletic guise as the Cooperand in a noble version as the Knightsbridgeto match every taste. Even the basic model as the Sevenwas ideal for promenading along elegant boulevards. Today, anyone who leafs through the brochure of the time will understand why its successor – the NEW MINI – creates such good mood music. The fact is, it’s a chip off the old block.
Right at the beginning, way back in 1959, many people utterly failed to understand the Mini. After all, its main feature was the small size – wasn’t that all? Yet, when shortly afterwards it was named Cooper and ran rings round the big boys, the entire world sat up and listened. The diminutive run-around quickly found favour with city slickers because it was a good runner and easy to park. But the Mini had far greater aspirations. There were estate cars and delivery vans, pick-ups and even a convertible. While it was a run-away success, the story of the Mini seemed to have run out of steam in the 1990s. This was just the time when it took off again and celebrated its 40th birthday with the “Mini 40” special model in 1999.
In April 2000, the “Mini Classic Edition” heralded the end of the classic MINI with the models Mini Classic Seven, Mini Classic Cooper, Mini Classic Cooper Sport, and for the European market Mini Classic Knightsbridge.
How it all began. The “Seven”.
In 1959, when the Mini rolled off the assembly line and into the world, it was called the “Seven” – or more precisely the Austin Seven. In addition, there was also the Morris Mini-Minor. This primarily embodied the Mini as a small Minor because the fully-fledged Mini had been exceptionally popular and successful. The Sevenin the year 2000 was finished in a cream livery (or red or anthracite) with wheel rims coloured in the matching “Pepper Pot” design. However, the interior knocked everyone for six when they opened the door. Cream upholstery and red leather, even the gear knob was two-tone. This was truly a snuggly and cuddly Mini “just as it used to be”.
Icons of the race track. Cooper and Cooper Sport.
When something diminutive appears in your rear-view mirror and you still change lanes to allow it to pass, the motor-car can only be a Mini. The livery choice of British Racing Green with white stripes on the engine bonnet and a white roof creates the perfect “here I come” effect. You couldn’t possibly be angry with it, after all this little car only wanted to play. Additional headlamps are pretty much a must-have. The Cooper Sport even has four of them and wider flared wheel arches. 13 inch instead of 12 inch wheel rims along with painted muscular wings. The interior boasts upholstered leather seats in black, set off in the Sport by silver. Only the engine lacked premium finesse, somehow rather a shame.
Beautiful and noble. The Knightsbridge.
And now the stuff of dreams: soft leather seats in Alpaca livery, instrument panel made of polished walnut burl, two-tone leather steering wheel, velour carpeting. Perhaps Sienna Gold appeals with a white roof as the outer skin? A good choice for the 13-inch wheels in classic Minilite design. You might think that this Mini had been parked alongside a Rolls-Royce for rather too long. The only thing missing was the radiator emblem. By the way, Knightsbridge is a part of London renowned for exclusive shopping.
One for all. Engine and engineering.
Although Minis had very different appearances during the final years of their manufacture, under the bonnet they were all the same. The 1.3 litre four-cylinder engine with its multipoint injection and 3-way catalytic converter generated 63 hp at 5700 rpm. This was quite adequate to achieve a racy 148 km/h. The engine was complemented by a 4-speed manual gearshift.
The classic Mini was never more beautiful and more coveted than in the grand finale. Designers at BMW had long since realised the treasure that had been entrusted to their stewardship. And this is why the Mini was developed further. Side-impact protection, airbag in the steering wheel, comprehensive corrosion protection with a 6-year guarantee. The classic Mini laid the roadmap for the success story written so joyously by the NEW MINI in the new millennium. Getting hold of one would have been a smart idea.
Report by bmwgroup-classic.com