Book Review: Mini: 60 Years

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

I have a few confessions to make: I love Mini’s and one of the cars on my list for the next Joe Car is a classic Mini. Maybe I’m a sucker for punishment because I used to have a new MINI, a Clubman (at right) that was both the best and worst car I ever owned. For a photographer the space inside the Clubman was practical and it was fun to drive… when it wasn’t breaking down. It got to the point that the tow truck driver and I were on a first name basis; it was Sean by the way. But we’re here to talk about the book:

So naturally, I love Giles Chapman’s MINI: 60 Years. The book is a valentine for all of the enthusiasts who have loved Mini automobiles over the years. For those of us who love the original Mini, the book’s first 117 pages are all about that model and one of the opening photographs of the factory showing wall-to-wall Minis on the assembly line just tugged at my heartstrings.

The book begins with a look at the world economic events that led to the sainted Alex Issigonis creating the Mini and makes interesting reading for history buffs, which seems to a trend in books these days. Once we get to Chapter 2, “Designing a car like none other” we get into territory that features insightful text and photographs where no other book about Mini has gone before.

As a Mini maniac I have a few books about the car but none as nice as this one. The production quality of MINI: 60 Years in is quite high, rivaling many coffee table style books and is rich with well reproduced images.

My favorite section of the book is Chapter 4, “Cooper’s Magic.” Here we get into how a vehicle originally designed to be an economy car just happened to have an amazingly capable suspension. That may have been because of Issigonis’ own involvement in motorsports with his friend George Dowson, which the book briefly describes before jumping into the Mini’s rally successes.

This all leads up to John Cooper, who’s depicted in a charming photograph showing him with his son looking at a racecar. And this leads us to Monte Carlo and the Mini’s storied history of rally wins. This chapter is rich in information of the Mini’s emergence as a competitive racer and is full of wonderful historical photographs of the Mini at speed. There’s even a section on Pat Moss who rallyed Minis with her later husband Eric Carlson and made racing history time and time again. This one chapter alone is worth the price of the book.

After this, the book drills down on the Mini and its many variants, including the original Mini van and my wife’s favorite, the Mini-Traveler. In Chapter six the shows how the Mini evolved, along with a mention of its big brother the Morris 1100, sold in the US as the MG 1100 and the Austin America, that was Mary’s first car. Then the book jumps into describing all the different versions of the car starting with, of course, the Mark II. For  true believers, this section is all too brief and ends in Chapter 8 before moving into a look at the new MINI

The MINI section show the prototypes of what would become BMW’s version of this iconic automobile. Completists will love these four chapters because they bring the Mini story up-to-date, while some actual owners of the BMW versions, like me, may this find the experience, a bit painful, albeit well written and illustrated. Yet, when all is said and done, whenever I see a new 4-door MINI Clubman I stop and look at it longingly and at one time tried to buy one, proving that the Mini magic never goes away.

Because the car is so beloved by so many, the Mini’s story has been told many times but perhaps never as lovingly as in MINI: 60 Years. Maybe someday I’ll own a classic Mini but in the meantime, I’ve got this great book to keep me company.

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Motorbooks
  • ISBN-10: 0760363994
  • ISBN-13: 978-0760363997
  • Size: 9 x 10.2 inches
  • Price: $25.47 (Amazon Prime)

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