Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What the New MINI Could Have Been

Back in the day when the folks at Rover realized that the Mini was coming up on its 40th birthday virtually unchanged the call went out for a clean-sheet redesign. One of the entrants in the internal competition was a Rover design dubbed Mini 'Spiritual'.

The Spiritual design team did their best to adhere to the project brief assigned to the BMC Genius-In-Residence Alec Issigonis: Seating for four in the absolute minimal footprint. In other words, it was a Mini for the millennium. 

About this time, Rover and its cupboard of brands had been bought from British Aerospace by BMW. The new masters in Munich said publicly that the design and engineering of the British brands would stay in the hands of the British team with minimal BMW influence. The MGF, Rover 75 and a few other projects were well along in the development stage, but the Mini replacement was ripe for meddling.

BMW decided that the Mini brand was too valuable to risk on a single design proposal, so a competition was launched to determine what the new Mini would be. The Spiritual was one of the proposed designs. Shown in both two and four door versions, the Spiritual was powered by the Rover K-Series 4 cylinder engine placed in the rear under the floor. The suspension was by the same Hydragas setup that the MGF used.

The BMW masters rejected the Spiritual in favor of a design from the BMW North America styling center (with significant Munich input) by American Frank Stephenson

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