Minis, More January, and Into Febuary
The last article focused on the importance of January in the history of the Mini as it related to the Monte Carlo Rally successes. Here are a few more January dates that are less well known and some February dates.. How many of these do you know?
1957. January. Alex Issigonis started keeping his detailed notebook of this prototype of the Mini. His first entries had to do with calculation of weight of materials and his estimate of the finished length, 116”. He wasn’t far off of the 120” (and a little bit) for the first cars.
1957. February 22nd was the first official run of the prototype known as the XC/9003. If we only had it on film!
The Mini Van
1960. January. The first Austin Seven Van was produced about the week of the 11th and the first Morris version rolled of the assembly line the following week. The Van was the first produced variation on the Mini theme and the first long wheel base Mini with its wheel base 4” longer than the saloon and an overall length 9 5/8” longer. When the Vans went on sale (June) the passenger seat was an extra cost option!
The Mini Pick-up
1961. January. The third of the long wheel base Minis started coming down the production line. (The Countryman and Traveller Estates, with wood trim, were the 2nd LWBs.) The same wheel base was used as the other LWB cars, but the Pick-up gained the honor of being the longest Mini produced…by 5/8”. It weighted 34 pounds more than a saloon and 8 pounds less than the Van.
Australian Production Starts
1961. January. In Australia, the first Minis rolled off the assembly line. They were basically CKDs (Completely Knocked Down kits) brought in from England.
Austin Seven To Austin Mini
1962. January. The Austin Seven name was changed to Austin Mini for English market cars. The Morris Mini-Minor retained its name all the way through the Mk I range. Note that export cars, like those sent to the U.S., usually used Austin 850 and Morris 850.
The Start of the Cooper S
1963. January. The first Austin version of the 1071 Cooper S was built on the 16th. (The first Morris version wasn’t built until March.)
South African Name Change
1963. January. In South Africa, the literature starts advertising the South African Austin 850 as the Austin Mini, and the deLuxe name was changed to Super.
Mk II Booted Minis
1963. January. The Riley Elf and Wolseley Hornet Mk II were introduced and were the first Minis to use the 998cc engine and dual leading shoe front brakes. [Note: at least one source indicates November 62 was the beginning of the Mk II and another March 1963. The Nov. date (the last of the Mk Is) is unlikely. This January date may have been the start of production with the March date the first date for the cars to be on sale.]
1964. February. With production of the 998 Cooper already started the previous November, the discontinued 997 was replaced by the 998cc version, even though the last 997 didn’t roll off the assembly line until April 1964. The 998cc engine is a performance version of the engine first introduced in the Mk II Elf and Hornet. The basic, non-Cooper 998 became the main Mini engine for many years. The new Cooper’s brakes are improved over the 997’s, but, still at 7” diameter and thin, they were not as good as the Cooper S’s.
1275 Cooper S Arrives
1964. February. The first 1275cc Austin Cooper S was built on the 14th and the first Morris version on the 25th.
Australian Van Variant
1964. February. The Australian Van is introduced. It is interesting to note that the Van was the only one of the three LWBs built in Australia. (All three were built in South Africa.) Neither the Estate nor the Pickup was Australian made. The Van could be ordered with rear side windows, however. When you see a photograph of an “Australian Pickup,” check out the angle of the tailgate. It’s usually slightly off vertical, rather than straight up and down; i.e., a Van chopped into a Pickup.
Oil Cooler and Twin Fuel Tanks
1966. January. How many times have we heard, “It can’t be a Cooper S. It doesn’t have twin tanks and an oil cooler.”? It wasn’t until January of 1966 that the Cooper S started coming standard with the twin tanks and the oil cooler (moved behind the grille from the below the radiator position). Prior to that time, both were optional extras.
1966. February. The “little wheel” Moke (basically the same as the English Moke) goes on sale in Australia. This was the start of a good relationship with far more Mokes being produced in Australia over the years than all other countries combined.
Australian Mini Deluxe Automatic Mk I
1968. January. Australian Mini Deluxe Auto Mark I launched. 998cc. 4-speed automatic. Production stopped in August of 1968.
All Synchro in Australian and Italy
1969. January. The all synchromesh gearbox became available on the Innocenti Mini Cooper Mk II and the Australian Cooper S Mk I.
Written By: Chuck Heleker|
Article Date: Feb 14, 2011