When the Mini was introduced in 1959, early sales were so disappointing that production might even have been halted. Somehow it caught on, though, and the car that was originally designed as a utility vehicle for the working classes became the runabout of choice for the smart set and an indelible symbol of the Swinging Sixties.
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Who had a Mini? Who did not, more like. Peter Sellers had one, as did Princess Margaret, and the Beatles had one each (customised, of course). Jack Profumo used to drive around in a bright red one — unusual for a government minister — and Christine Keeler claimed that she had sex with him in it, which was even more unusual.
When a Mini won the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964, its status as a motoring legend was assured and by the time the car appeared in The Italian Job, it had become a global superstar.
Now, 50 years later, our affair with the Mini is still going strong — although, as with any longstanding relationship, it is politic not to draw attention to the various changes that have taken place over the years, such as the new owner and the new design.
But love is blind, especially if it means the best news for the British motor industry in years and the creation of up to 1,000 jobs at Mini’s Cowley plant, where 3,700 workers are employed building three versions of the car. The two new models, one of them a coupé, will be unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show on September 15.
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