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Wednesday, March 7, 2007

๏ Mini ๏

In 1959, a groundbreaking new subcompact coupe emerged in England using a transverse-mounted engine and an efficient, boxy front-wheel-drive layout. It achieved truly mini-compact exterior dimensions along with a surprising amount of usable space inside. Because it was affordable, stylish, fun to drive and easy to park anywhere, the British Mini and Mini Cooper quickly achieved icon status around the world -- including the U.S., where it sold as a brief counter-culture favorite during the 1960s.The Mini is a small car that was produced by the British Motor Corporation(BMC) and its successors from 1959 to 2000. The most popular British-made car, it has since been replaced by the New MINI which was launched in 2001. The original is considered an icon of the 1960s,and its space-saving front-wheel-drive layout influenced a generation of car-makers. In the international poll for the award of the world's most influential car of the twentieth century the Mini came second only to the Ford Model T.
This revolutionary and distinctive two-door car was designed for BMC by Sir Alec Issigonis (1906–88).It was manufactured at the Longbridge and Cowley plants in the United Kingdom, and later also in Australia, Belgium, Chile, Italy, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, 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.

After a lengthy break, the Mini Cooper returned to our shores in 2002 under BMW's direction to resurrect the legend. As before, the current Mini Cooper hatchback coupe and convertible appeal to a diverse audience. Its high style is embraced by pop stars and celebrities, while an affordable bottom line enables middle-class commoners to easily scrape together the entry-level price of admission. It's a uniquely sporting blend of classic British mini-car heritage and charm combined with precise German engineering and construction underneath.

The born-again Mini Cooper and supercharged/turbocharged Mini Cooper S are stylish, affordable go-karts for adults. As such, whether new or used, our editors prefer to option the Mini Cooper sparingly. Though available with loads of premium -- and premium-priced -- upgrades and packages, Minis are an even better value and more true to their roots with just a few options. Equipped thusly, you won't find a more satisfying subcompact hatchback or convertible for the price.

The current Mini Cooper has been redesigned for the 2007 model year. The goal was an evolutionary one, as befitting an icon. Though scarcely different looking, the Mini Cooper's mechanicals were updated to a more state-of-the-art condition, and shortcomings were addressed as well as accommodating various regulations that have changed since the last one was sculpted in the late '90s. The front overhang and nose were reshaped to be more pedestrian-friendly in the event of a collision, and the car is almost 3 inches longer than its predecessor, but the width and height carry over. Its wheelbase is also unchanged, but despite similar appearances no body panels are shared between generations. For now, it is offered as a hatchback only.

That new front end also provides more underhood space for two all-new, more fuel-efficient 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engines. The base version develops 120 horsepower and a tad less torque, while the turbocharged, direct-injected engine in the Cooper S replaces last year's supercharged engine and turns out 175 hp and 177 lb-ft of twist. Power is directed through six forward gears, with your choice of manual or automatic control.

Inside, the interior adds a bit more function to the Mini's already well-sculpted form. There's an even larger central speedo pod that now also houses the audio system controls, a tilt wheel that now telescopes and cupholders that really hold cups. Best of all, the overall cabin aesthetic is more spacious and refined with better materials, the seating more comfortable and the controls easier to reach.

Although slightly bigger, stronger, faster and demonstrably improved over its predecessor for most drivers doing the daily grind -- and a fine car that's still plenty of fun to drive -- there does appear to be a trade-off for enthusiasts: The new Mini Cooper seems to have lost something dynamically at the edge. It feels a little heavier and more buttoned-down when driven with gusto, perhaps a little less eager to be tossed into corners than the last-generation Cooper.

In 2002 the legendary Mini Cooper returned with a modern, space-efficient interior, chassis by BMW and a generous list of standard features for under 17 grand. The standard Cooper had just 115 hp, but the supercharged Cooper S weighed in with a more forceful 163 ponies. Detail improvements and color changes carried the Mini Cooper through its first few years, so even early examples look up to date and can make particularly fine used values. Expect lively handling from either model, but be aware that the suspension setup of the modified Cooper S -- though enthusiasts will love it -- might be overly stiff for some.

Previous-generation Mini Coopers from 2002-'06 tend to retain their value and outshine the competition in many ways, so they're highly sought after among used shoppers. To keep things fresh and perky in 2005 before the model run was through, the Mini Cooper updated the front and rear fascias, chopped the top off the Cooper and installed a canvas top that could be lowered in just 15 seconds. The resulting Mini convertible combined the freedom of open-air driving with the expressive, hip Euro attitude and carefree agility that made its hatchback coupe sibling so famous. For those who wanted their hatchback served up extra-hot, there was a special John Cooper Works option that upped the power to 207 horses and fortified the chassis with larger brakes.

๏ Design & Development ๏

Designed as project ADO15 (Austin Drawing Office project number 15), the Mini came about because of a fuel shortage.In 1956 as a result of the Suez Crisis, which reduced oil supplies, the United Kingdom saw the re-introduction of petrol rationing. Sales of large cars slumped, and there was a boom in the market for so called Bubble cars, which were mainly German in origin. Leonard Lord, the somewhat autocratic head of BMC, decreed that something had to be done and quickly. He laid down some basic design requirements: the car should be contained within a box that measured 10 × 4 × 4 feet (3 × 1.2 × 1.2 m); and the passenger accommodation should occupy six feet (1.8 m) of the 10 foot (3 m) length; and the engine, for reasons of cost, should be an existing unit. Issigonis, who had been working for Alvis, had been recruited back to BMC in 1955 and, with his skills in designing small cars, was a natural for the task. The team that designed the Mini was remarkably small: as well as Issigonis, there was Jack Daniels, who had worked with him on the Morris Minor, Chris Kingham, who had been with him at Alvis, two engineering students and four draughtsmen. Together, by October 1957 they had designed and built the original prototype, which was affectionately named 'The Orange Box' because of its colour.

The ADO15 used a conventional BMC A-Series four-cylinder water-cooled engine, but departed from tradition by having it mounted transversely, with the engine-oil-lubricated, four-speed transmission in the sump, and by employing front-wheel drive. Almost all small front-wheel-drive cars developed since have used a similar configuration. The radiator was mounted at the left side of the car so that the engine-mounted fan could be retained, but with reversed pitch so it blew air into the natural low pressure area under the front wing. This location saved precious vehicle length, but had the disadvantage of feeding the radiator with air that had been heated by passing over the engine.
The suspension system, designed by Issigonis's friend Alex Moulton at Moulton Developments Limited, used compact rubber cones instead of conventional springs. This led to a rather raw and bumpy ride, but this rigidity, together with the wheels being pushed out to the corners of the car, gave the car its famous go kart-like handling. It was initially planned to use an interconnected fluid system, similar to the one which Issigonis and Moulton were working on in the mid-1950s at Alvis, but the short development time of the car meant this was not be ready in time for the Mini's launch. The system intended for the Mini was further developed to become the hydrolastic system and was first used on the Austin 1100 (launched in 1962). Ten-inch wheels were specified, so new tyres needed to be developed, the initial contract going to Dunlop.

The car was designed with sliding windows in the doors, thus allowing for storage pockets to be fitted in the space where a winding window mechanism would have been. Issigonis is said to have sized the resulting storage bins to take a bottle of his favourite Gordon's Gin. The boot lid was designed with the hinges at the bottom so that the car could be driven with it open to increase luggage space. On early cars the number plate was hinged so it dropped down to remain visible when the boot lid was open.

To keep labour costs down, the car was designed with quirky welded seams that are visible on the outside of the car running down the A and C pillars and between the body and the floor pan. To further simplify construction, the car had external door and boot hinges.

This cross-sectioned Mini demonstrates how passenger space is maximised.All of these novel and elegant technical innovations resulted in a car with minimum overall dimensions yet maximised space for passengers and luggage.

Production models differed from the prototype by the addition of front and rear subframes to the unibody to take the suspension loads, and by turning the engine around with the carburettor at the back rather than at the front. This required an extra gear to be placed between engine and transmission to reverse the engine direction. Making this a reduction gear had the beneficial effect of reducing loads on the gearbox and preventing the rapid wear on the synchromesh which had been a problem on early prototypes. Having the caburettor at the rear helped to reduce carburettor icing, but did expose the distributor to water coming in through the grille. The engine size was reduced from 948 to 848 cc, which reduced the top speed from an unprecedented 90 mph (145 km/h) to a more manageable (for the time) 72 mph (116 km/h) — a decision that was reversed in 1967.

Despite its utilitarian origins, the classic Mini shape had become so iconic that by the 1990s Rover Group, the heirs to BMC, were able to register its design as a trade mark in its own right

๏ The Mk I Mini — 1959 To 1967 ๏

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 name Mini did not appear by itself immediately — the first models being marketed under two of BMC's brand names, Austin and Morris. The name Austin Seven (sometimes written as SE7EN in early publicity material) recalled the popular small Austin of the 1920s and 1930s.

The other name used in the United Kingdom, Morris Mini-Minor, seems to have been a play on words. The Morris Minor was a well known and successful car, with the word minor being Latin for "smaller"; so an abbreviation of the Latin word for "smallest" — minimus — was used for the new even smaller car.

Until 1962 the cars appeared as the Austin 850 and Morris 850 in North America and France, and in Denmark as the Austin Partner (until 1964) and Morris Mascot (until 1981). The name Mini was first used to name the car in 1961, somewhat to the surprise of the Sharps Commercials car company (later known as Bond Cars Ltd) who had been using the name Minicar for their three-wheeled vehicles since 1949. However, legal action was somehow averted and BMC used the name Mini for the remainder of the life of the car.

In 1964 the suspension of the cars was replaced by another Moulton design, the hydrolastic system. The new suspension gave a softer ride but it also increased weight and production cost and, in the minds of many enthusiasts, spoiled the handling characteristics for which the Mini was so famous. In 1971 the original rubber suspension reappeared and was retained for the remaining life of the Mini.
From October 1965 the option of an Automotive Products (AP) designed four-speed automatic transmission became available.

Although they were slow at the outset, sales were strong across most of the model lines in the 1960s, with a total of 1,190,000 Mk I's being produced. The basic Mini never made money for its makers because it sold at less than its production cost. This may have been necessary in order to compete with its rivals, but it is rumoured that this was actually due to an accounting error. Some profits came from the popular deluxe models and from optional accessories, which included items such as seat belts, door mirrors and a radio that would be considered necessities on modern cars.
The Mini etched its place into popular culture in the 1960s with well-publicised purchases by film and music stars.

๏ The Mk II Mini — 1967 To 1969 ๏

From 1967 to 1970, Issigonis had been designing a replacement for the Mini in the form of an experimental model called the 9X.It was shorter and more powerful than the Mini, but due to politicking inside British Leyland (which had now been formed by the merger of BMC's parent company British Motor Holdings and the Leyland Motor Corporation), the car did not reach production. It was an intriguing "might-have-been"; the car was technologically advanced, and many believe it would have been competitive up until the 1980s.

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 Mini was arguably the star of the 1969 film The Italian Job, which features a car chase in which a gang of thieves drive three Minis down staircases, through storm drains, over buildings and finally into the back of a moving bus. This film was remade in 2003 using the new MINI.

Credits : From Wikipedia,the free encyclopedia