The word `icon` is so often misused. We should examine, clarify and re-define the word. A fair and accurate definition of the word is established with the following hypothesis: If a photograph is displayed almost anywhere in the world and is immediately recognized by the majority of people then it can be described as an iconic object.
The Eiffel Tower, Big Ben and Tower Bridge are excellent examples. In motor vehicle terms the double-decker bus, the London taxi-cab, the Volkswagen Beetle and the Mini clearly fall into the category of `iconic`. Now we begin the story trying not to over-use words like iconic, revolutionary and unique. This may prove a little difficult.
Sir Alec Issigonis, chief design engineer at British Motor Corporation (BMC) was charged with designing a totally new car. He had had great success with the Morris Minor which would be in production for many years to come and so came his chance to put into practice many theories and innovations residing in his portfolio. With a blank canvass he designed a car that would do everything it needed to do with variable but acceptable levels of success. In other words, the Mini.
He had definite parameters to work within. The car must be small and economical but must have a family-sized cabin. It must be front-wheel drive and must be cheap to build and sell. To achieve this it must be minimalist. Legend has it that when Alec Issigonis was designing the Mini he took the 4 biggest workers he could find, sat them on a floor two by two and drew a line around them. Once he was done he said: “This is how big the car has to be”
By the time of production the cabin occupied 80% of the overall length. All features and equipment that might be deemed unnecessary or superfluous would be offered as optional extras and not supplied automatically. It was a very basic machine and indeed became known later as the Mini `Basic`.
We will take you on a journey over 40 years of iconic driving, superb handling, film stars and British eccentricity. We present to you the forever classic, Mini!
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I was born in Hereford UK in 1948 and brought up in Gloucester UK. I played Rugby football internationally as a schoolboy. At the age of 17, a new and wet driving license in my paw, I entered motor racing. I was supported and financed by my parents and so my journey began.
In 1965 I bought a 1293cc Mini-Cooper `S` and campaigned it for a season. Having quickly made some good friends in the racing fraternity, several interesting opportunities came my way. I joined a sports-car team and raced in the Le Mans 24 hours in 1968 and 1969 in a Lola T70. Mechanical failure defeated both efforts. During that period I owned and raced a `D type` Jaguar and an AC Cobra. In those days cars like that were available and not too expensive, now they reside in museums and private collections. I had a chain of interesting cars through my youth including Jaguars, Minis, Mustangs and Lotus-Cortinas.
As a young driver I had my share of accidents too. Often the car would only be worth scrap-metal value by the time I got it home! I worked for an Aston-Martin/Jaguar dealership for a while, which enhanced my experience and gave me the opportunity to sample some very exotic machines, Ferrari, Facel-Vega, Iso and Maserati to recall a few of them.
At the end of 1969 I moved to South Africa to work on my uncle`s farm but the S.A. government had other ideas and drafted me into the army. After five years had passed I was thanked and released from the service. While I was there I bought a beige Cadillac Eldorado, previously the property of Marilyn Monroe. While I was away on a patrol my girlfriend had it re-sprayed pink! I was unimpressed by both the joke and the bill for the work!
When I returned to UK in 1974 I left it behind. On my return I found that the once-mighty British motor industry was in decline and was headed for oblivion. Motor racing was now very expensive so I turned to commercial transport. Driving large trucks gave me freedom and a chance to see some of the world. I don`t remember ever making a career choice but for the next thirty years a truck was my home. For about ten years in that period I owned two trucks of my own.
I also owned a famous MGB-GT, known as `Lucky`. If you`d like to read `The Story of Lucky` there is an article in Inopian`s archive. I finally retired, due to ill-health, in 2008. Since I had varied knowledge and many experiences on our subject I decided to share the stories of the cars I enjoyed (and hated) with the new generation.
Enjoy Inopian… it is constructed and written for you.