The beginning of the new century kicked off with celebrations across the globe. In Britain, over two million people gathered on the banks of the River Thames to watch the fireworks display.
The ‘00s was a decade of great change; technically, politically and socioeconomically. The humble car had been transformed and there was now a multitude of makes, types and classes being offered to UK consumers. With so much choice, it had never been easier – or more affordable – to drive a car.
For Mini, the transition from the 20th to the 21st century was huge…
Mini and the noughties
By the end of the 1990s, it was clear that Mini was running into financial trouble. The re-introduction of the Cooper at the start of the ‘90s was perhaps the main reason why the company could continue production, but even the Cooper wasn’t enough to salvage a dying brand, and on 4 October 2000 the very last Mini (a red Cooper Sport) rolled out of the production line. The car was presented to the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust later that year. Records indicate that from 1959 to final production in 2000, a total of 5,387,862 Minis had been built.
During the 1970s, manufacturers attempted to compete with Mini by coining a new phrase – ‘supermini’- to describe models that were smaller than a family car but larger than a city car. The turn of the century saw a return of the superminis, with cars like the Ford Fiesta, Renault Clio and Volkswagen Polo being very popular among UK buyers. However, it was the 2000s that also marked the revival of the true ‘super Mini.’
In 2000, Rover Group was broken up by BMW, who had acquired the company in 1994. Technically, all Minis produced by BMW from this point are unrelated to the original, though advertised as a ‘retro’ design of the classic car. The cars are manufactured in Cowley, inside the plant that originally belonged to Morris Minor.
The actual design process for the new Minis began in 1998, with the final design, by Frank Stephenson, being chosen from 15 full-sized studies. At the start, the Mini was sold in four models: Mini One, Mini One/D, Mini Cooper and the Mini Cooper S. John Cooper designed a one-off model called the Cooper S Works, which featured upgraded suspension, an air filter and a racing exhaust to enhance performance. The car was also fitted with unique 17-inch racing wheels. A convertible model went on sale in 2004 and a second generation of the car was released two years later in 2006.
Although the new Mini is markedly different in many ways and has not been universally appreciated by diehard Mini enthusiasts, some things about the car’s production remain the same, like the release of numerous special edition models. The Mini Cooper Monte Carlo was recently launched in Singapore, in honour of the 1994 Mini Cooper Monte Carlo, which itself was a special edition car to honour the return of Paddy Hopkirk to the Rally 30 years after his initial win.
Mini also went even more ‘mini’ for the 2012 London Olympics, where remote controlled, scale- models were used to transport equipment to the athletes. An Olympic-themed car was built to celebrate its official status as a Team GB partner – the car’s dashboard had London’s skyline printed on it.
Mini’s 50th birthday in 2009 was hugely celebrated across the UK. At the start of the year, Royal Mail released a special edition stamp which featured an image of the original MK1 Mini. In May, a record 1,450 Minis and their drivers gathered at Crystal Palace for the London to Brighton Run, and a week later Silverstone hosted a huge birthday bash for the marque, in which 10,000 Minis and 25,000 people attended. A few months later, a firm called smallcarBIGCITY launched in the UK capital, which provides sightseeing tours in classic, restored Minis.
This year, Mini celebrates its 55th birthday, which coincides with the release of the third-generation model. And although at the end of the 20th century it seemed that time was finally up for Mini, the company returned bigger and better than ever before and it shows no signs of slowing down. From the classic ‘60s Cooper to the modern-spec models, Mini remains one of the most iconic cars in the world.
Mini in the 2000s: Fun Facts
– – A Guinness world record for the largest Mini convoy was set in 2008, with a whopping 884 Minis joining in the procession in the Netherlands.
– – In 2003, Madonna released the song ‘American Life’ which featured the lyrics: “I drive my Mini Cooper, and I’m feeling super-duper.”
– – In 2005, staff at Knowsley Safari Park reported that lions had been chasing Mini Coopers after mistaking the small cars for prey.