Monday 22nd July 2019,

Mini MK III 1969-1976: Spartan Finish Giving Way To Comfort

Mini MKIII 1969-1976 mustard front shot profile picture
British Leyland (BL) took over British Motor Holdings (BMH) in 1968, the following year the Mini MK III was introduced. No longer badged as Austin/Morris, the `Mini` brand was born.

The Mini MK III saloon differed from the MK II in a number of ways, not least of which was the image projected by the company. The Mini had always appealed to a very wide market, creating many fans and enthusiasts along the way. It was now a car that demanded to be taken seriously, especially as fuel became more and more expensive.

Now it had penetrated the mature section of the market, a section that did not appreciate the `Spartan` finish and noise levels of the Mini MK I and MK II. The Mini had to become `respectable` and no longer be solely the property of the enthusiast. The so called `silent majority` started to make itself heard, resulting in a much-modified Mini MK III. The MK III was well short of a luxury car but nevertheless was easier to live with. The `upholstered roller-skate` of the early sixties had grown up. However, the Mini MK III would still out-perform any small sports-car on the market.

The doors were enlarged for ease of entry, the side-windows were also enlarged for no apparent reason. Sound-proofing was improved and carpets fitted. Gone were the sliding windows and large door-bins, replaced by `normal` wind-up windows and concealed door-hinges. This necessitated making the doors much thicker and therefore, the cabin a little narrower.

In retrospect it should be noted that other manufacturers had, by this time, realized that there was a big market for super-small saloons and had entered the competition. Only Fiat got down to the size of the Mini with the dismal Fiat 500. This car was so under-powered that the Italian authorities had to impose a special speed-limit on the autostradas for cars of 500cc or less to prevent their self-destruction caused by engine melt-down at `high` speeds.

The other competitors attacked the Mini on comfort grounds so BL upped it`s game and made the Mini more luxurious, quieter and warmer. However, none of the competitors could compete with the handling characteristics, especially in bad weather, especially snow. The Fiat 128 came as close as anybody with it`s power and front-wheel-drive. The problem for all of the foreign makers was an in-built suspicion in Britain of foreign cars on the grounds that they lacked `character`. That was probably unfair and the British public would `grow out of it` eventually. For the time being the British motorist preferred British cars.

Back in 1965 BMH had offered an automatic transmission as an option on the Mini MK II. Very few people availed themselves of it because of a particularly British prejudice against automatic gearboxes in small cars. General opinion was that only the lazy or the disabled needed them and if anybody else bought one he had to make excuses to his friends! It just wasn`t `macho`! However, now that the Mini was `respectable` the automatic came into it`s own in the MK III. Along with all the other `comfort` improvements the gearbox suited the disabled driver. However, anyone driving in London traffic would say that it was the only way to travel. The sprint performance was most impressive!

Lightning fast away from traffic-lights, it was a revelation. In the hands of an `enthusiast` it was often used to terrify taxi drivers! Not all automatic transmissions perform that well but this one was different. Automotive Products (AP) had built it for BMH and it was totally suited to the 998 engine (it was never offered on the 848 engine). The 998 automatic spec MKIII was a perfect engine/transmission combination. It was revolutionary at the time, giving the driver a choice between a 4 speed manual shift or a fully automatic shift. Almost all automatics at that time had a `PNDLR` shift with almost no manual control. Unlike most automatics of the time it positively thrived on abuse!

In 1974 BL made the heater fitment standard on the Mini `Basic` (though nobody noticed) and in 1976 the Mini reverted to rubber cone suspension, which was much appreciated by the enthusiasts. The `mature` market did not like the harder ride very much but they got used to it. The enthusiasts returned to cornering very fast without body-roll. Wonderful!

The Mini MKs I and II were a little primitive but it was impossible not to love them. The Mini MK III was, even by modern standards, a great car, which is why they will always be with us, the eternal classic car.  It`s not just a car, it`s a Mini!

Mini MK III 1969-1976 Specs
Body Type5/4 seater 2 door saloon
Engine PlacementFront
Drive TypeFront wheel drive
FrontDrum/Discs (opt.)
Cargo Volume156 L5.5 cu. Ft.
Engine848 cc BMC "A" series OHV 8V
Cylindersstraight 4
Displacement848 cc51.7 cui
Power25 Kw34 bhp5500 RPM
Torque60 Nm44 ft. lb3000 RPM
Power/weight53 bhp/t
Top Speed121 km/h75 mph
Acceleration0-100 km/h - 0-60 mph26.5 s
Fuel consumptionl/100 kmImperial mpg
Gearbox4 speed manual
Weight639 kg1409 lb
Engine1000 BMC "A" series OHV 8V
Cylindersstraight 4
Displacement998 cc60.9 cui
Power31 Kw41 bhp5000 RPM
Torque71 Nm52 ft. lb2500 RPM
Power/weight64 bhp/t
Top Speed129 km/h80 mph
Acceleration0-100 km/h - 0-60 mph22.7 s
Fuel consumptionl/100 kmImperial mpg
Gearbox4 speed manual3 speed automatic
Weight639 kg1409 lb
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Mini MK III 1969-1976: Spartan Finish Giving Way To Comfort, 8.5 out of 10 based on 6 ratings
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About Bev Roberts

Speed, the smell of hot oil, the roar of a straight-through exhaust and the scream of an engine at max revolutions. They have all been a large part of my life for almost 50 years. It is time to share my experiences with you, dear reader. Do you want to know more? Read on through my `Full Bio` and many articles.

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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.

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