Today, May 8th 2009, is the 50th anniversary of the first Mini coming off the production line at Cowley. What a long time!
To celebrate, and for a bit of free publicity (see, we’re playing the game) BMW has shipped the first Mini to roll of the production line back to Cowley to celebrate (picture at the bottom). 621 AOK, a Mini Minor, in Old English White, looks as fresh as the day it rolled off the production line half a century ago (although I wouldn’t mind betting it doesn’t have it’s original sills – they always rusted through – or copes with its original distributor and leads – one splash of rain and the car ground to a halt!).
But despite the inevitable problems such an innovative car had, it had more than enough going for it to be a massive success. The swinging sixties turned it in to a class-less icon, and despite the best efforts of BMC (British Motor Company) and its successor British Leyland, the Mini has managed to survive almost unbroken production since 1959.
In the over 40 years of production Cowley produced 602,817 Minis in a variety of guises (almost as many as BMW are managing with the modern MINI. They even had two ‘makes’ of Mini- Austin and Morris) before production ended. Remarkably, BMW has managed to churn out 1.4 million MINIs since production moved to Longbridge when the new MINI was born – more than twice as many as the original.
The Mini-fest will continue later this month at ‘The Mini Festival’ at Silverstone – a three day celebration of all things Mini.
Will the Mini still be around in another 50 years? Don’t bet against it, although the chances are it will be made by a Chinese car maker by then!