The Mini is more important than a whole car park full of Ferraris. This tiny, cheeky little runabout revolutionised motoring and made 60s Britain smile. No other car, including the VW Beetle and Ford Model T, has been more influential. That sideways engine, huge interior, big glass area and flat sides changed automotive design forever. But as well being an engineering and social landmark, it was an economy car that won rallies and races, became a fashion icon and film star and was even loved and owned by the royal family. The Mini broke all the rules.
At first gloomy late 50s Britain thought the £500 pastel-coloured Mini silly and unconventional but it went on to sell five million units and opened up affordable mobility to a generation. And it’s those very first cars that took so long to sell – the 1959 models – that have become seriously collectable. The 59miniregister.com reckon only a couple of hundred survive out of the 10,000 built in that first difficult year of production and prices for really early cars can reach £40,000. I found mine on eBay one evening (a December ’59 Austin) for £2,700 so it’s worth keeping an eye out. Even the later 1960s Minis are going up too and you’ll need £10 – £12k to buy a nice one. Mini Coopers can make £35,000, Mini Vans £10,000 and the wood-sided Mini Traveller up to £15,000. In fact any early 60s Mini is extremely desirable right now with no signs of interest (or prices) declining.
Even the square-fronted 70s Clubmans (meant to replace the Mini) are appreciating fast and the last Minis to leave the Longbridge factory in 2000 have also been making record money. If you fancy buying into this little legend be prepared for rust on the older models, remember that original spec cars are worth the most and never pay big money for a Mini that’s been re-shelled. Collectors like original Minis with their factory body shells. But a well bought early Mini that’s unspoilt and unmolested is a very safe place to park some pension loot.
And they’re such a blast on the road. Even the little 850 engine snorts and growls like a dragon, you sit inches from the tarmac and the steering is so direct and quick you want to laugh out loud. Everybody needs to drive an old Mini just to understand how that revolutionary front wheel drive transverse engine set up went on to influence the design of every small car in the world. Plus you get 50 mpg, you can mend a Mini at home, parking’s a breeze and everybody who sees you just smiles. Ironically all the reasons the Mini was designed in the first place – economy, size, simple ownership – are as relevant now as they were back in 1959. At The Classic Car Show, we don’t just love Minis – we absolutely adore them.