You see, there is the old mini, then the new mini which is old, but then the new old mini. Oh, and there was also the second Mini. We all know who the original Mini was, but really, what was the true successor? For some people this is an easy answer, dull pencil types.
The mini is very similar to Elvis, a gimmick, but one we all enjoy and never grow tired of. A massed produced, lightweight FWD. But before we get into the definition of the original mini, let’s take a look at the variety of successors claiming they are the true second coming of the man himself….Elvis.
The Nissan BE-1
In the late 80’s Shoji Takahashi released a series of designs, heavily influenced by 50’s and 60’s vehicles, as seen here. Each was a throw back with a modern take. Filling the gaps and smoothing out the edges of the past the cars all bore striking resemblance to certain older european models. The BE-1 was the first of this troop of 4 to hit the streets, and albeit the lease popular of the group. Having owned a few RHD imports from Japan, the BE-1 has given me the least second looks, simply because people think it’s a mini. People will approach you with stories about their mini’s they’ve owned, lean on the car, and continue to chat without ever realizing it’s not a mini. Although similar in appearance, I don’t find it difficult to tell the two apart. It seems the Japanese like the earlier days of Elvis, when he was lean young buck trucker. It’s obvious the mini was the initial influence for the car both spiritually and technically. With a 50hp 1L engine and manual gear box, getting momentum before hills is expected. The construction of the car is extremely simple, and both the visual and actual assembly is very utilitarian. What’s most funny about the BE-1 is it’s even greater similarity to a new Mini Cooper. With a bit of paint work the two would be passable for each other…..
The BMW Mini Cooper
Although much closer to design with the BE-1, the new ‘Mini’ cooper is a bit of an oxy moron. Although BMW owns the tattered remains of the british car industry, someone forgot to inform the germans that the word ‘Mini’ is actually an unarguable and direct slang to the word ‘Small’. This BMW version really was beat to the punch of Austin Mini successor by the BE-1. This Mini impersonator carries the fattest gut of them all, and the most obvious gplastic gold glasses, Elvis would leave the building, but he’s too big to get out the door. With it’s huge size and completely un-utilitarian approach, the high price tag also defies the original spirit, heck the original purpose of the Austin Mini. Although on it’s own the BMW Mini is a fun car for today’s gargantuan times, it’s spiritual connection lies in the bottom of expensive latte cups and ignorance run amuck.
The Austin Mini Metro
Lastly we come to the Lisa Marie of the group. Oil is thicker than water, and the Austin Mini Metro was a hope of a new dream for the Austin Company. Originally designed as a secondary model above the mini, eventually through cost cutting and financial structuring the drivetrain of the original mini got slightly updated and jammed under it’s new shell, The Metro. And like en effeminate son, it was cleaner cut, well dressed, and much like real life, even an effeminate son will out grow their father at some point. The Mini Metro continued production till the late 90’s, which much like Elvis, aided in keeping the original Mini in our hearts and minds and some peoples driveways.