Like Father, Like Son: the Mini



Father’s Day is coming up, and so we’re celebrating automotive dads and their little sluggers that got all growed up. Today, we’re profiling a family of little cars that changed the world: the Mini!

Like Father: The BMC Mini


Although you probably already know this David and Goliath story, Alec Issigonis’ wildly unconventional little cars challenged the big boys at the Monte Carlo rally and for 3 years (1964, 1965, and 1967) won outright victories. That’s pretty amazing when you consider the Mini was designed to be the barest of basic transportation, fitted with rubber cones as suspension, a monocoque shell to save weight, and a tiny front-wheel-drive layout to save space. Spurred into development by the Suez Oil Crisis and Austin’s chairman’s hatred of “bubble cars,” it was a proper car of miniscule proportions.


It wasn’t designed to be a sportscar, but it handled like a go-cart and weighed less than 1500lbs at its heaviest. When John Cooper got his hands on them, he nearly doubled the output of the BMC A-series engine, creating the legend that won rallies. It was also a legend that convinced the world that transverse front-wheel-drive engines were the future, providing the extra traction that would keep future generations safe in inclement weather. Finally, it represented the zenith of British automotive ingenuity, become a lasting legacy to Issigonis’ seemingly hare-brained ideas. Selling from 1959 until 2000, it was one of the greatest little cars of all time.

When you’re dad’s this multi-talented, how could you possibly hope to step out of his shadow? That’s the challenge the new MINI faced …

Like Son: the new BMW MINI


BMW purchased the Rover Group in 1994, and a year later Rover began development of a Mini successor. When BMW determined that Rover was slowly circling the bowl of the WC, it jettisoned the group to Shanghai Automotive Industry Group, which turned it into the Rowe line of cars. That bit of arcane history out of the way, BMW was wise enough to hold onto the Mini, reinvisioning it as “MINI” and throwing a Tritec engine, co-developed with Chrysler and built in Brazil, under the hood. In case you can’t tell, the MINI was truly an international car.


Enough about its genealogy, you say, how did the bloody thing drive? Well, despite being several orders of magnitude larger than its diminutive predecessor, by modern standards it’s a small car and has small car dynamics. The first-generation BMW MINIs weighed 1,000 lbs more than the heaviest old Mini, but there’s more grunt to move the extra mass. The standard MINI had 114 HP and 110 ft-lbs. of torque, and the supercharged Cooper S version had a stonking 168 HP and 162 ft-lbs. of torque, enough to motivate the Cooper S to 60mph in 7.4 seconds. So despite losing out somewhat on the go-kart dynamics of the older car, it kept the sporting feel. The car is currently in its second generation, and reviewers generally feel that despite growing slightly in size and heft, it’s a modest improvement over the first generation. And the new MINI has a much improved “Prince” engine, co-designed with PSA Peugeot-Citroen, with the Cooper S getting a turbocharged version.

The Family Portrait

New And Old Harrison Minis

New And Old Harrison Minis

Just like how we’re sure it is with your dad, some things about the new MINI are like his pa, and some things are different. Thankfully for this pair, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Despite the compromises associated with added bulk, the new MINI is definitely his father’s son. Dad would be proud.

2009 Mini Cooper S Convertible adds open-air fun for a price

2009 Mini Cooper S Convertible -

Back in 2001, BMW revived the Mini brand by unveiling a new Cooper model that updated the classic English design of the original while growing the car's trademark size just enough to fit the engineering, safety equipment and conveniences that modern drivers demand. It was a perfect play, and if Mini sales haven't exactly set the world on fire here in the U.S., that's only because the brand has been alone in teaching American car shoppers what Europeans already know: Premium small cars are worth every penny. In other words, Americans generally associate the value of a vehicle with its size - the more you pay, the larger a vehicle you should get. The Mini Cooper exists in stark contrast to this notion.
Fast forward to 2009 and we're already a couple of years into the second generation of the modern Mini Cooper, also known as the R56. The redesigned hatchback was joined last year by the long-wheelbase Clubman and the R56 lineup is now complete with the arrival of the convertible model. Our tester, a 2009 Mini Cooper S Convertible, will challenge the notion that value equals size. Why? Aside from opting for the high-performance John Cooper Works trim, the convertible is the most expensive model in the Mini lineup, and the S model makes it even more so. The total tally for our tester, including $650 in destination charges, is $32,700. Read on to find out if the Mini Cooper S Convertible is packed with enough value to prevent its sticker shock from sending you into cardiac arrest.

Motoczysz releases pics of E1pc electric superbike, complete with iPhone gauges!

Motoczysz E1pc -

Finally, speculation on the appearance of the Motoczysz E1pc can end as the fledgling American motorcycle maker has released official pictures of the machine that will take on the rest of the field at the upcoming TTXGP zero-emission eGrandPrix motorcycle race at the Isle of Man. Things are shaping up largely as we expected, with the E1pc sharing its basic layout and look - including the innovative front suspension design - with Michael Czysz's earlier race bike, the C1, which never actually made it to a MotoGP race.
Such a fate appears highly unlikely for the E1pc, and Czysz is understandably excited to see one of his two-wheelers hit the track in actual competition. In a post on Motoczysz's official blog, Czysz says, "In less than 24 hours I leave to go to the biggest race of my life, not because it is the largest, not because it is the fastest but because it will be the first time a MotoCzysz motorcycle will compete in an FIM sanctioned event."
As far as we're concerned, he has a right to be proud of his team's accomplishment. Looking over the pictures of the E1pc, we can see that there are three motors (one spins backwards) and 10 battery modules that appear to be swappable in relatively easy fashion. Perhaps the geekiest (in a good way, of course) bit is the iPhone mounted directly in front of the rider, which acts as the electric bike's instrument panel. Check out the photo gallery below for more, and be sure to click past the break for a short video of the bike in action.

Underwriters Lab holdup means some MINI Es will take all day to charge

With MINI Es finally being delivered to the 450 test drivers in New York and California, a problem has cropped up that will limit the ability of many of those people to actually use the car. When MINI USA was taking applications for leases on the new EV, among the requirements were a garage with 220V electrical service. This was necessary in order to be able to charge the 35 kWh battery in four hours. When the car is delivered, MINI sends along an electrician to install a special wall box for charging.
The problem is the non-standard charging cable. In many of the areas where the cars are being distributed, local building codes require Underwriters Laboratories approved electrical hardware. Approval is still pending from UL on the 220V charging cable so it can't yet be distributed in those areas. The cars are all being delivered this month but roughly 300 of the recipients will have to charge from 110V wall sockets until they get UL-approved cables. That means a full charge will take about 23 hours. MINI USA spokeswoman Nathalie Bauters told USA Today that the company expects to have UL approval for the cable and have them all distributed by the end of July.