Five concept cars that Mini should have put into production
The Mini is almost unique in the car world for having one everyman, utilitarian model that was built for way longer than logic would suggest - only to be eventually be replaced by a newer, way more upmarket and luxurious version that outraged fans of the original by actually being modern.
But it didn't actually need to play out that way. Here are five Mini concepts that could have totally changed the way we look at the iconic brand if the company had actually built them.
As early as 1967 Alec Issigonis, father of the Mini, was working on a replacement for his small creation. The 9X addressed much of what Issigonis saw as flaws in his original design and was shorter and wider than the original Mini. It had an all-new engine with an aluminium alloy head and a transmission house behind the engine in a separate casing, as opposed to the original's which shared the engine's sump. It was also a hatchback and was cheaper to produce than the original Mini.
Why it would have changed the marque: For a start it was modern, but it also predated the birth of the successful European supermini segment (think cars like the Peugeot 104, Renault 5 and VW Polo) by a number of years and would have put British Leyland well ahead of the game.
By 1972 Issigonis had retired (after being sidelined within the company) and plans were made to replace the Mini with a much larger car. After not putting the 9X into production BL was playing catch up with the more modern market-dominating superminis from other European manufacturers, so launched the ADO74 project. The ADO74 was 15 inches (381mm) longer than the original Mini, with a 10 inch (254mm) longer wheelbase. Much dithering, redesigns and agonising led to the project dragging on too long and it was eventually scrapped for a smaller concept in the form of the ADO88 which would eventually become the Austin Metro.
Why it would have changed the marque: we would have got all the "It's not a proper Mini because it's too big" whinges out of the way far sooner.
After BMW bought Rover but before it ditched the marque and just kept Mini there was a new design advanced by the Rover side of things that would have been a forward-looking reimagining of the Mini that focused on clever packaging over style, just like Issigonis did with the original. The Mini Spiritual concept of 1997 was where Rover wanted to take the Mini in the future - a super-space-efficient hatch with an 800cc three-cylinder engine in the back. It was the same length as the original Mini and while it had a few subtle design hints, was nothing like the obviously retro styling exercise that BMW preferred.
Why it would have changed the marque: modern and cleverly designed, it would have seen Mini become more noted for its packaging than its retro design.
Released as a concept shortly after the Spiritual in 1997, the AVC30 was BMW's idea of what a modern Mini should look like and showed the glaring split that was developing between the Germans and their recent British purchase over where exactly Mini should be heading. Where Rover favoured a smart, advanced, well packaged small car, BMW wanted a way more upmarket sporty retro hatch and the AVC30 telegraphed this. While it wasn't a hatch (it was mid-engined, rear-drive and based on the MGF) it foreshadowed the R50 hatches retro styling and sporty pretensions nicely.
Why it would have changed the marque: a mid-engined RWD Mini would have thrown all the preconceived ideas of what a Mini should be out the window, opening up some very interesting possibilities for sportier models.
Revealed at the Geneva motor show in 2001 the Rocketman gave hope to everyone who voiced dismay at the size of the current Mini. Almost as small as the original, the Rocketman was conceived as a small, economical city car with clever packaging and interior design, but still very much a premium product. Just like BMW wanted Mini to be: regardless of what you think of the design, the current Mini range has been a massive success. The Rocketman looked an almost certainty for production, with suggestions that an all-electric version could also be on the cards, but BMW could never make the numbers add up, so by 2012 all production plans had been quietly dropped.
Why it would have changed the marque: putting Mini right back to where it began - a clever, economical and fun tiny city car.