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Mini Time Line Part 1 – The Early Years, Through 1962

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Mini Time Line

Part 1 – The Early Years, Through 1962

Last Updated October 27, 2012. Information added and corrections made.

Please, see the Notes and Sources listed at the end of the last Time Line article.

1893

October

  • Charles Newton Cooper (John Cooper’s father) was born in Paris to an English father and Spanish mother on Saturday the 14th. The family moved to England (Malden) when Charles was a child.

1906

November

  • Alex Issigonis was born in Smyrna, Turkey, on Sunday the 18th to Konstantinos and Hulda Issigonis.

1922

  • Charles Newton Cooper married Elsie Pond.

1923

July

  • John Newton Cooper was born to Charles and Elsie Cooper on Tuesday the 17th.

1952

  • The British Motor Corporation (BMC) was formed in 1952 by joining the Nuffield Organization (Morris, MG, Riley, and Wolseley) with the Austin Motor Company. It was during BMC’s reign that the Mini was designed and introduced.

1955

Fall

  • Alex Issigonis was asked by Leonard Lord to go to work in the BMC design headquarters as Chief Engineer.

1956

July

  • Egyptian President Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal on the 26th. With the main route for oil to the West closed, “bubble” cars are born in response to scarce fuel.

November

  • Leonard Lord gave Issigonis instructions to move from the bigger car projects he had been working on to a small car project. Although Issigonis was given free reign for the car, he was required to use a current production engine.

1957

January

  • Issigonis started his notebook on the XC/9003 with material weight calculations and an estimate of the car’s length: 116”.

February/March

  • A very basic prototype (XC/9003) was on the road and tested during the two months. The first official test run was on February 22.

July

  • Leonard Lord, based on a demonstration of the improved prototype and a look over the production wood mock up, gave the OK for the Mini project on the 19th. It was code named ADO 15 and early on was referred to as the Austin Newmarket.

August

  • The engine size was fixed at 848ccs.

October

  • On a trip to the Paris Motor Show, Issigonis, Jack Daniels, John Sheppard and Dick Burzi became interested in the recent launch of the first man made satellite, Sputnik. They wondered whether their car would have the same around the world impact and picked up on the Sputnik name. The future Mini became known as the Sputnik to the insiders. (Other versions of this story can be found in the Mini literature.)

1958

March

  • Five preproduction cars were assembled in a manner similar to production methods.

May

  • The decision to forego hydrolastic suspension on the XC/9003 was made on the 19th.

July

  • Leonard Lord set the date the car should be ready: August 1959.

October

  • The preproduction cars made an extended testing trip to Spain and back.

1959

March

  • The Morris Mini Minor, later to be known as the first Mini built (621 AOK), came off the production line on the 30th.

April

  • The first two Austin production Minis came off the end of the line at Longbridge on the 3rd.
  • A prototype Van was shown in a factory photo. The gas tank filler was on the left side and about foot behind the front door.

June/July

  • Even though production of cars that would be for sale in August had already started, the final testing program had not been completed. A major testing trip was taken in June and July covering thousands of miles in all the major European countries, as well as a trip north of the Arctic Circle.

August

  • The first official, public showing of the Minis was a press get-together on the 18th and 19th.

  • The Austin Seven and Morris Mini Minor in Basic and De-Luxe versions went on sale, August 26th. Basic, 500UKP. De-Luxe (the most popular), 537UKP. The Morris was available in Red, White, or Blue. The Austin in Red, Grey or Blue. The De-Luxe versions had such extras as carpets instead of rubber mats, a passenger adjustable seat, opening rear side windows, bumper overriders, full width wheel trims, and a heater!

September

  • The first works Mini in an international event was driven by Marcus Chambers on the Viking Rally. YOP 663 was 51st overall.

Misc.

  • 19,749 Minis were produced by the end of 1959.

1960

January

  • The Van went into production. The first Austins were produced around the week of the 11th, and the first Morrises were produced around the week of the 18th. (See June for first time available.) Longer by 9 5/8”. Wheelbase 4” longer. 6-gallon (UK) fuel tank under the rear floor. Longer rear suspension trumpets, spare wheel and battery behind the front seats under the leading edge of the load floor. Passenger seat and rear view mirror were extra cost options!

March

  • The first production Austin Countryman was built. (See September for on sale date.)

April

  • The first international class win came for a works Mini: Don Morley on the Geneva Rally, 618 AOG. April 1st.

June

  • The Van went on sale.

  • The first production Morris Traveller was built. (See September for sale date.)
  • Australian assembled CKD Minis were tested.

September/October

  • The Countryman (Austin) and Traveller (Morris) Estate cars (with wood) went on sale. They had the same “long” wheelbase and length as the Van. Unlike the Morris Minor Traveller, the Mini’s wood was non-structural. Because of trim levels, the Estates weighed over 120 pounds more than the Van and over 160 pounds more than the saloon. Initially, the gas tank was located inside the car in roughly the same position as a saloon tank (although it was of a different shape).

Misc.

  • 116,677 were produced in 1960. Total Minis to date, 136,426.

1961

January

  • The first Pickup was produced. It was longer than the Van by about 5/8” and used the same “long” wheelbase. It weighed 34 pounds more than the saloon and 8 less than the Van.

  • Australian Mini production started.

March

  • The Pickup made its debut at the Geneva Motor Show on the 16th.

  • Estates, sans wood, were announced at the Geneva Motor Show, but were not available in the U.K. until October 1962.
  • The Australian Morris 850 went on sale for $1,550AUS. It was announced at the Melbourne Motor Show on the 16th.

April

  • The earliest prototype Cooper on record was produced.

June

  • The Pickup went on sale in England.

  • The first Austin Super Seven and Morris Super Mini-Minors were produced: the Austin on the 7th and the Morris on the 16th.  Unlike the Austin and Morris 997 Coopers (which were all built at Longbridge), the Supers were built at both Longbridge and Cowley with not all of the Austins being built at Longbridge.
  • The Austin 850 and Morris Mini Minor (Standard and de Luxe) were for sale in South Africa. The exact production and selling starting dates have not been discovered.

July

  • The first 997 Coopers, Austin and Morris, were produced on the 11th. There were seven cars built on the 11th, 5 were Austin and 2 Morris. The first two Austins were black over red and the first two Morris cars, one OEW over smoke grey and one OEW over almond green. One Austin and one Morris were built with twin tanks. Of the first 500 cars (built through Oct. 11, 1961) the most popular color was a surprise: OEW over surf blue. The second most popular: OEW over smoke gray. The two colors accounted for over 200 of the first cars with the remaining ten color combinations accounting from the rest. Ten of the cars were monotone.

September

  • The Super went on sale. It used the same body and exterior specifications as the soon-to-be-sold Mini Cooper; except, the grilles were unique to the Super. The power unit and brakes remained 850 Mini with the exception of the introduction of the 16-blade fan.

  • The 997 Coopers were introduced to the press on the 20th at Brands Hatch.

October

  • The 997 Cooper went on sale. (Some sources say September but probably are referring to the press introduction.) By stroking the 848 and reducing the bore slightly, 997cc was achieved. The long stroke engine with a good cam, twin HS2 carbs, and other modifications, produced 62% more horsepower (55) than the 848. A remote gear change was added and 7” disc brakes were fitted. Of the first 500 cars built (through the 11th): Austin 269, Morris 231.

  • The booted Minis became available. The Riley Elf and Wolseley Hornet went on sale. Mechanically, they were the same as the Austin/Morris saloons, and they used the same wheelbase as the saloon; i.e., they were NOT a long wheel base Mini like the Van, Pickup and Estate. With the extended boot they were 8.5” longer than the saloon and just shorter than the Van and Estates. Weight for the Elf was 114 pounds more than the standard saloon with the Hornet a little less. All versions used the extended boot and a traditional Riley or Wolseley shaped grille. There was a full width wood dash in the Elf, and a center pod wood dash in the Hornet. Leather faced seats were standard; although, not on all the early cars. Bumpers and some exterior trim varied from the standard saloon. Whitewall tires were an option!

Misc.

  • 157,059 were produced in 1961. Total Minis to date, 293,485. Of those, the new-to-1961 Cooper accounted for 1775 cars of which only 11 of the first 500 are on the Mini Cooper Register’s list of survivors as of mid-2011.

1962

January

  • The Austin Seven name was changed to Austin Mini. Morris versions continued on as Morris Mini-Minor until Mk I production ended.

  • The Austin Super Seven and the Morris Super Mini-Minor names changed to the Austin Super and the Morris Super Mini; although, at least some Austin Super Sevens were produced as late as June.
  • The Austin 850 Countryman and Morris Mini Traveller went on sale in South Africa

May

  • The first outright international win for a works Mini was accomplished: Pat Moss on the Tulip Rally in a 997 Cooper, 737 ABL.

June

  • The Austin/Morris Mini Cooper (997cc) went on sale in South Africa

September

  • A works Mini was first overall in the Baden-Baden Rally: Pat Moss, 737 ABL.

October

  • Both the De-Luxe and Super models were dropped, and were replaced by the Super De-Luxe. It was generally regarded as a step back from the Super model in trim level.

  • The Countryman and Traveller were offered for sale without wood in the U.K. This version had been originally announced at the March 1961 Geneva Auto Show and had been available outside of the U.K.
  • The Australian 997 went on sale.

November

  • The last few of the Austin Supers were built for export. The total number of Supers produced (Austin and Morris) is reported to be around 14,000.

  • The Riley Elf and Wolseley Hornet Mk I were discontinued. (Total production of Mk I: Elf, 3,522; Hornet, 3,166)

Misc.

  • John Love won the British Saloon Car Championship driving for the Cooper Car Company.

  • 216,087 were produced in 1962. Total Minis to date, 509,572.

 

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