In my book Mini Cooper: 1961-2000 I quote Rover development engineer and enthusiast Alastair Vines who was part of the team that reintroduced the Mini Cooper to production in 1990 following its first introduction in 1961. When the little car was back on sale Alastair bought the very first production vehicle (which had been used for advertising), had it registered as H106MOF and gave it to his wife Caroline Horne. Caroline drove it as her everyday car for a while until it became impracticable whereupon the car was taken off the road and put into storage. Recently H106MOF has been given a light restoration and is now proudly displayed at classic car shows and events. A couple of advertisements from that time are shown here along with a picture of the car as it is today.

A picture of the H106MOF car as it is today. (Image are courtesy of Alastair Vines)

As I also mention in the book, the reintroduction of a model of car to full scale production 20 years after it was discontinued was previously unheard of. The Mini Cooper range of cars, including the fabulous Mini Cooper S, was deleted from the production model list by manufacturers British Leyland in 1971 only to be reintroduced by successors Rover Group in 1990. In the intervening twenty years automotive trends, manufacturing techniques and legislation had all moved on, leaving the Land Rover Defender and Porsche 911 as the only mainstream passenger cars contemporary with the Mini Cooper still in production in Europe at that time.  The reintroduced Rover Mini Cooper was a great success, and its renewed sales can only have helped in persuading BMW Group to introduce the new MINI Cooper in 2001.

Mini Cooper
In practically standard condition this early Austin Cooper S, in Tartan red and black, shows off its narrow 3.5 inch J ventilated steel wheels. Apart from a windscreen-mounted GPS unit, the interior of the car looks standard. Even the original ‘bus driver’ large diameter steering wheel is in place. (Peter Barker, Mini Cooper: 1961-2000, Amberley Publishing)

The combination of relatively small size, nimble handling, sprightly performance, and the ability to carry four or five adults made the car very attractive to buyers around the world upon introduction in 1961. Some of the same qualities still hold good today with the MINI Cooper models although the original Mini’s tiny size is now a thing of the past for safety and practicality reasons. In its heyday it was a winning race and rally car, achieving race championship victories and winning the Monte Carlo Rally three times. It was also a great everyday car, the proud transport of many young (and not so young) people and their families. Its designers led by Alec Issigonis, Alex Moulton and John Cooper made sure that the car was fun to drive and practical but also very safe. With its excellent handling and sporty engine, the Mini Cooper taught many people how to drive well at an affordable cost.  It was truly the first sporting saloon car for the people!

Peter Barker's book Mini Cooper: 1961-2000 is available for purchase now.