The original Mini has the distinction of being the best-selling British car of all time.
It also ushered in a number of automobile layout breakthroughs still employed to this day. Its designer, Sir Alec Issigonis specified mounting the engine in the front of the car sideways to shorten the hood of the new Mini cars as much as possible. He also specified front-wheel drive so the rest of the available space within the new Mini models could be given over to passengers and cargo. Every front-engine/front-wheel drive car in production today owes a debt of gratitude to Issigonis and the original Mini.
Those new Mini models were first offered in the United States as the BMC Mini for seven years between 1960 and 1967. However, new Mini cars were pulled from the U.S. market in 1968, because they wouldn’t pass revised safety regulations and the then newly tightened smog regulations—although they continued to be sold in Canada until 1979. That was it for new Mini cars as far as the U.S. was concerned—until BMW brought the brand back to the States in 2002.
Back in England, British Leyland eventually went belly up and the Mini brand became part of the Austin Rover Group—which eventually became known as the Rover Group—owned by British Aerospace. The Rover Group was bought by BMW in 1994, which broke it up in 2000, retaining the Mini brand.
In 2001, the contemporary new Mini Cooper models were introduced in Europe.
The first of the new Mini cars to appear under BMW ownership was called the Mini Cooper. A more powerful Cooper S model and an even higher performing John Cooper Works model soon followed it. This was in homage to John Cooper, of the Cooper Car Company who made his name tweaking the original Mini automobiles for more performance. Cooper was also a very successful racing driver. His name licensed to BMW to adorn the resurrected BMW Mini vehicle, Cooper was also a consultant on the development of the BMW version of the car.
Today’s Mini Cooper lineup includes a two-seat coupe and a two-seat convertible. The traditional hatchback model is also offered in a variety of performance tunes. There’s the crossover-inspired Countryman, and a station wagon-ish model called the Clubman. The most recent of the new Mini Cooper cars to be offered (as of June 2013) is a two-door version of the Countryman called the Paceman.