The Mini was created due to the fuel shortage caused by the 1956 Suez Canal Crisis. Petrol (gasoline) actually was rationed in the U.K., sales of large cars plummeted. During that period of time the German Bubble Cars soared, the President of BMC Leonard Lord said "God damn these bloody awful Bubble Cars. We must drive them off the road by designing a proper miniature car." The rest is English automotive history. Shown below is a BMW Bubble Car, note that it is a three wheel vehicle.
The Mini is considered the British equivalent of the Volkswagen Beetle. In 1999, the Mini was voted the second most influential car of the 20th century behind the Ford Model T.
One of the interesting features of the original Mini was mounting the engine transversely with front wheel drive. This feature has become the standard powertrain configuration for small front wheel drive cars today. The suspension system used compact rubber cones instead of conventional springs. The rubber cone system gives the Mini a hard and bumpy ride. But the wheels pushed out to the corners gave the Mini go-kart like handling that has became famous.
Minis were marked under the under the Austin and Morris names until Mini became a brand in 1969, see Austin 7 post dated March 11th. Minis were produced in a number of configurations. A prime example of a 1964 Austin Mini is shown below.
Most Americans are familiar with the new Mini which has been produced since 2001. The Mini brand is owned by the BMW Automotive Group. I will do a post on the new Mini in the future. Enclosed below are pictures of a 2006 and 2007 Minis.