Classic Mini Introduction
- Getting Started
- Why Correct Identification is Necessary
- What to Know to Identify Minis
- Identification by Chassis Number/VIN – Standard Cars
- Identifying Minis by Engine/Power Unit
- Mini Mini History
- Identifying Minis by Mark
- Identifying Non Standard Minis
- Minis Built for Export and Minis Built Outside of the UK
Minis built in the UK for UK consumption made up about 46% of all the Minis built. About another 46% were built in the UK for export, either as whole cars or CKD (Completely Knocked Down) kits. Sort of a Mini in a Box -- Some Assembly Required! That leaves about 8% of the Minis built having been manufactured outside of the UK.
Minis Built for Export
The Minis built for export usually followed closely the specifications of those built for the home market. Minis built for export to the U.S. are a good example with very few differences (turn signal lens color is one difference). This is usually true for all of the earlier cars like the Mk Is, and since the factory never exported to the U.S. anything but the Mk Is and pre-1968 built Mk IIs, these cars are much like the English home market versions. There are exceptions; for instance, very early on German export cars already had a locking ignition switch on the column. Exhaust systems sometimes varied depending upon the destination; such as, France, Italy and Switzerland. A browse through the early factory Mechanical and Body Service Parts lists will turn up dozens of market specific examples for the early cars. Minis built for export differed more as the Mini moved into the Mk III and Mk IV range. A good example is those Minis built in the UK for the Canadian market. (Minis were not built in Canada.)
As the '70s went on, the Canadian Minis varied more and more from their UK market brethren. Fuel tank mountings changed. The fuel filler neck was modified and fuel tank caps from other markets would no longer fit. Huge side marker lights/reflectors were added. The front turn signal lights increased in size beyond anything ever offered elsewhere. Latches to hold the front seats in place were introduced on the Canadian Minis long before they were used in England. Dash panel arrangements and switches varied and even seat belt warning buzzers were incorporated. Bumpers were raised and an early form of smog control by using an air pump and injector ports in the head was added. The location of the smog pump also necessitated a change in the radiator so that the inlet was towards the back near the filler cap. If you have a Canadian spec. Mini, especially one from the later 1970s, be aware of these differences, and compare your car with others. You’ll find even more!
The “Rover” Minis, as they are called (those built approximately from 1990 on), were exported in large numbers to Japan (more so than earlier models), and the Japanese Minis incorporated many differences from the U.K. built Minis. The most common examples are that air conditioning was available on the Japanese Minis, and they did not go to the front mounted radiator when the MPis were introduced in 1996. If you have what you suspect is a Japanese market Mini, be careful when ordering parts. Make use of the On Line Parts catalog on the Mini Mania web site. There is a section devoted to the late cars and you’ll find many references to Japanese spec. Minis. See, Classic Parts/On-Line Catalog/ROVER Mini Range Index.
Minis Built (or Assembled) Outside of the UK
Over the years, there were more than twenty assembly/manufacturing plants for Minis around the world. In the early years of the Mini, the majority of Minis that came to life outside of the UK were assembled from CKD (Completely Knocked Down) kits. Everything the assembly plant needed (or at least almost everything) was shipped as a kit from England and assembled into the final product. Sometimes some local changes were made; e.g., the few South African 1071 Cooper Ss had a solid colored interior instead of the more familiar brocade. These changes could have been only a matter of changes for marketing reasons, but usually they were driven by “local content” laws.
“Local content” laws meant simply that Minis could be assembled in a country as long as a certain percentage of the total content of the car was produced in that country. That’s the simple definition, but many pages of laws were generated in all such countries facing the “local content” provisions in an attempt to define what local content meant.
Local content laws usually called for more local content as time went on and assembly became more and more a manufacturing process in some countries. Four such are Australia, Italy, South Africa and Spain.
Some literature is available for the Australian Minis. "Mini Minor Down Under," by Pedr Davis is one book. (ISBN 0-947079-10-6). The Cooper and Cooper S versions are covered to some extent in Parnell’s, "Original Cooper and Cooper S" (ISBN 1-870979-32-X).
Minis were being road tested in Australia as early as June 1960, but assembly didn’t start until January 1961, and they were officially being sold by March 1961, as Morris 850s. You’d have been hard pressed to tell the difference between the English and Australian cars at that point.
The sliding windows of the English style Minis proved unpopular in the hot country and roll up windows were developed for the external hinged cars in 1964. They appeared on the Mini Deluxe Mk I in March 1965. These doors with their vent wing window (also used in South Africa for a time) became popular and were even introduced on the Mini Van when it showed up in May 1965. By October 1965, all Australian Mini models had the roll up, vent wing windows.
The roll up, vent wing window doors continued on through all Australian production, but a major change was made to the shape at the same time as the “burst proof” door lock went into production. The two doors can be told apart by the pivoting door handle for the earlier doors, and the flush, lift up handle for the later. The earlier doors will fit directly onto a Mk I or Mk II English Mini, but the later doors are a bigger project than just a bolt on one.
Although much of the English Mini remained in the Australian versions, and major changes in the English versions were adapted for the Australian cars (usually a little after introduction in England), the Australian versions do have differences that one has to be aware of. Interiors differed. Heaters were different. Some braking systems used a different master cylinder not found on any English cars. Some body pressings were different; e.g., the cowling around the wipers, the drip rail holes and the floors in the hydrolastic models. The later had recessed channels to raise the under-floor pipes and covers were installed below the pipes for further protection.
In late 1971, the Clubman style Mini became the Australia standard and by October 1978, all Australian Mini production (except Mokes) ceased. The production count at that time was approximately 176,000 plus another 26,000 Mokes.
Moke production continued on into 1982 before it finally stopped in Australia. (Production started again in Portugal in 1983.) If you own an Australian Moke you will find them very different from the English versions starting with the introduction of 13” wheels in 1968. Over time, body panels changed (and were even galvanized!), the fuel tank filler was relocated to the side panel, different engines were used, interiors were changed…and more. As the years went on, the Moke was still instantly recognizable as the same vehicle first put on the roads in England in 1964, but the Australian versions changed significantly.
Moke owners tend to be fanatical about their cars, even more so than owners of other types of Minis, so the networking necessary to find parts and information is not difficult to do. Internet searches will turn up Moke owners all over the world.
The Innocenti assembled Italian Minis were put on the market in November 1965, as the Innocenti Mini 850. Later versions had 998cc engines, including the up-market 1001, and a 998 Cooper. Innocenti produced a model called the Mk 3, one of only two models to be so designated with the other being built in South Africa.
A wood sided Estate was produced, called the Mini T, and was the only variation on the Mini standard saloon shape produced by Innocenti.
Perhaps the Innocentis are best known for the 1275cc powered Mini Cooper 1300 models. For details on the Cooper versions of the Innocentis, see Parnell’s book, "Original Mini Cooper and Cooper S " (ISBN 1-870979-32-X)
By February 1970, the Innocentis had adopted a roll up window different from the English version that incorporated a fixed quarter light window. By October 1970, the quarter light windows were redesigned to open much like those on the Australia and South African cars; however, the window assemblies are not interchangeable. The opening quarter light was not available in all markets, Germany, for example.
Like cars in other markets, the Innocentis changed more away from their English brethren as time went on. The boot lid shape was different. Interiors changed dramatically, and usually for the better, with more gauges and more comfortable seats. Exterior trim varied, especially the grilles, and switches and electrical fittings in general were unlike English cars. Finding the proper gauges or items like head light surrounds or proper tail lights can be difficult.
Mechanically, the Innocentis remained much like the English cars, more so than with interior and exterior appointments. It is interesting to note, however, that the 998 Innocenti Coopers used the larger Cooper S brakes instead of the English Cooper type brakes.
By early 1975, production of the Mini-looking Innocentis stopped and the deTomaso Mini 90 and 120 were introduced. Under the skin these still had many Mini components, but looked much like any other small hatchback of the period.
No official production total is known but about 400,000 is quoted, including all the CKDs from the early years.
Like Minis built and assembled in other countries, owners of Innocentis need to immerse themselves into the sources of information available, especially the Internet. With the many differences it is important to know what can be obtained through normal Mini suppliers (almost all mechanical bits, for instance), and what is going to take some digging to find (for example, gauges and electrical items).
As an interesting side note, not all Innocentis were built in Italy. Some were built in Seneffe in Belgium.
South African Minis
If you have read some of the previous sections, you should have seen a pattern: the earlier the Mini the more like the English Minis, if not exactly the same. As time went on, the differences mounted. The South African Minis are no exception, and South African Mini assembly and production was heavily influenced by the “local content” regulations.
There is one book in the works that will explain the South African Minis in great detail. "A South African Mini Story," is being written by Ryno Verster. Hopefully, it will be in print before the end of 2006. The working copy already runs to almost 250 pages so you can see the complexity of the Mini history in South Africa.
In the meantime, finding information about the South African cars is difficult. If you happen to own a South African Mini, make good use of the Internet and link up with other owners.
All of the basic Mini body styles were built in South Africa starting with the standard Saloon in January 1960. The Estate, Van, Pick-up (“Bakkie”), and the Moke followed. All of the engine variations were used, too, from the 848cc to the 1275 Cooper S (used in both a Cooper S body and in the Clubman nosed Leyland Mini GTS – the car that the English 1275GT should have been).
If you have a South African Mini, you will find detailed differences from the English cars following a pattern similar to the Australian cars. In fact, the South African Minis made use of the same roll-up, vent wing window doors for a while starting in early 1967.
The round nose Minis were built into 1980. The Clubman square nose version was introduced in 1971 and continued on to October 1983, when Mini production was stopped in South Africa – the last country, other than England, to do so (Mokes excepted!).
In the earlier cars, look for minor differences in exterior and interior trim. Mechanically the cars will be very much the same with minor exceptions in some models like slightly bigger air filter housings, radiator overflow systems, heaters as optional, tropical fans as standard, and other items that would make sense in a harsher, hotter, dusty climate.
In the later cars, the differences became more pronounced with some models having no contemporary equivalent in England. The Wolseley 1000 had a Wolseley Hornet front end combined with a standard Mini saloon rear profile. And the follow-on car, the Mini Mk 3 (not Mk III) had a front end equivalent to an English Mk III, but had the extended boot of the Elf and Hornet! There was even a Clubman convertible.
Interiors, optional exterior trim and badging, and even the engine block changed over time. The later engines had provision for the oil filter in the same position as the MPi; i.e, screwed directly into the block at a downward angle towards the clutch end of the block.
Assembly and production for all models for all years (including imported CKDs) was around 104,000.
Automoviles de Turismo Hispano Ingleses SA (AUTHI) produced Minis in Madrid starting in October 1968, and ending in 1976. During that time various Saloon models (all in round nose form) were made in standard, deluxe and Cooper versions using 848 to 1275cc engines. The Cooper models were almost identical to the Innocentis.
Like those Minis built in other countries, AUTHI Minis were no exception to variations from the English versions. In most cases, the differences are in exterior and interior trim with some of the cars being much more luxurious. There is the odd mechanical difference as well. One model used an interesting version of a U-joint instead of the outboard Constant Velocity joint used in every other Mini ever built!
There are no known factory production records. Parnell, in "Original Mini Cooper and Cooper S", estimates that the Cooper version may have reached a production number of 5,000.
Minis built for export and those produced outside of the UK do not account for very many of the total number of Minis built; however, they do include some of the most interesting Minis, some of the oddest Minis, and certainly Minis with many differences from the UK home market cars.
The moral of the story is that you need to know where your Mini was built or, if UK built, what export market it was built for. Be cautious when ordering parts, make use of any literature you can find, and make use of the Internet to seek out support from others owning similar cars. You’ll most likely find that the work involved in owning one of these Minis is well worth the extra effort.