The Mini brand, of course, hasn’t always existed as we know it today — a subsidiary of BMW. The company started life as a model that wore both Morris and Austin badges. At the time, Austin and Morris were owned by the British Motor Corporation, which was looking for a new model that had more interior space than the Morris Minor but retained a small footprint. The engineers figured out a winning formula — mount the engine sideways and have it drive the front wheels, eliminating the need for a driveshaft tunnel and opening the rear floor for passengers. The resulting small, front-wheel-drive Morris Mini Minor proved to be such a hit that it stayed in production for over 40 years without getting completely redesigned.
BMC raced a Mini at the Monte Carlo Rally in 1961 and was leading its class until it crashed out. The Mini did well enough to catch race driver and engineer John Cooper’s attention, despite losing. With Cooper’s development, Morris churned out the Mini Cooper S with twice the power and better brakes. The better-performing Mini managed to dominate various rallies in the 1960s.
The Mini did go through some minor updates over the years and gained additional models like the Mini Van, Mini Countryman and Mini Pickup. Eventually, BMW added Mini to its product list after buying Rover and introduced the modern Mini in late 2000.
Want a deeper dive into Mini’s history? Check out the video above