At the same time that Detroit car designers were busying outdoing one another with enormous tailfins and liberal doses of chrome detailing, the British Motor Corporation (BMC) asked Sir Alec Issigonis to create a small, fuel-efficient car. The result was the 1959 Morris Mini Minor, a small front-wheel-drive vehicle with a transverse engine layout, itsy-bitsy 10-inch wheels, and plenty of space for such a tiny little car. It went on to become the best-selling British car in history before going out of production in 2000.
Today, BMW owns Mini*, and since 2001 has modernized and expanded the brand both here in America and abroad. Take a look at the Autobytel archive of Mini pictures, and it is easy to see how the brand has expanded beyond that reborn 2002 Cooper Hardtop model. As can be seen in the Mini photos, all models share key styling characteristics, including similar headlamp and grille themes, gray protective body cladding, and available 2-tone paint jobs that give the roof a contrasting color. Those vehicles in our Mini images gallery that have an “S” or “John Cooper Works” designation are the models with performance-oriented aspirations, and these are our favorites.
A third-generation Cooper Hardtop is expected for the 2014 or 2015 model year, and if history is any lesson, its engineering and design elements will ultimately spread to other members of the Mini lineup. Today, Mini sells just about any kind of car or crossover you might want, as long as you want something small and loaded with character.
*Modern Mini models are represented as MINI, though the capital letters do not reflect an acronym of any kind.