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Classic Mini Voted Greatest British Car of All Time

Posted September 17, 2012 10:30 AM by dstrohl

From Britain comes news that the original Mini has been chosen as the greatest British car of all time in a poll of Autocar readers. The British motoring magazine tells us that Alec Issigonis's baby beat the Jaguar E-type and the Range Rover for top honors. (We should note that this news reaches our inboxes not from Autocar, but from the PR folks at BMW, which owns Mini today.)

The magazine offers no details about its polling methods - for all we know, the vote was taken in the executive washrooms in Munich. But this is not the first time the Mini has topped a poll of this nature. The ground-breaking design (transverse front engine, front-wheel drive), a 41-year production run, prominent rallying successes and a total output of 5.3 million cars are certainly strong arguments in the model's favor. (Among the many designs it influenced was that of the Lamborghini Miura.)

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#1

Re: Classic Mini Voted Greatest British Car of All Time

09/18/2012 1:22 AM

I was hoping that some of our British members would have jumped in first with opinions.

It's pretty sad that it has gained this recognition. What happened, did the Brits stop trying or what (ducking for cover now...)?

My exposure to the mini was in Oz. It had a well earned reputation for unreliability that sadly overshadowed any of its positive attributes (which it did have).

Greatest? Define "great".

Then again the Brits are known for their colourful sense of wit eg Great Britain...(I'd best leave while I still can)

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#3
In reply to #1

Re: Classic Mini Voted Greatest British Car of All Time

09/18/2012 9:53 AM

Shame Wal,

It is, was a great little car well suited to narrow British roads. I had the mini van and enjoyed every minute with it.

It is possible you had unreliable Australian mechanics.!

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#4
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Re: Classic Mini Voted Greatest British Car of All Time

09/18/2012 10:53 AM

Wet distributors due to the carefully thought out location directly behind the front grill and over heating due to superb placement of the radiator were great innovations.

Did you have a rubber glove over your distributor or just not use it when it rained?

Then there was the awesome turning circle which was nearly tighter than that of a Leyland bus.

Someone else mentioned rust already.

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#2

Re: Classic Mini Voted Greatest British Car of All Time

09/18/2012 8:18 AM

I owned a Mini and drove it to work. While the engine was outdated, the car was beautifully engineered. If you could think the Model T was the greatest American car, then the Mini deserves to be the greatest British car. It was simple and inexpensive, with no parts it didn't need. The air-liquid-rubber suspension was innovative and very effective. My travel time in my Mini was shorter than the same trip in my "respectable" car, as it clung to curves as if on rails, as long as the road was paved. I had no problems with reliability, tho' some had problems with rust. The basic Mini engine could be rebuilt for the price of pistons for a Mini-Cooper.

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#5

Re: Classic Mini Voted Greatest British Car of All Time

09/18/2012 1:51 PM

My 2nd car was a 1964 Austin America... I loved it.

When it was close to dieing... it had an amazing feature. By times, with no warning or no apparent cause, it used to dump about a half a quart of oil into a cylinder. The cascading billows of white smoke that spewed out of the exhaust pipe was priceless.

Handy of the Brits to equip such a car with a non-controllable smoke screen device al la James Bond!!Some

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#6
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Re: Classic Mini Voted Greatest British Car of All Time

09/18/2012 2:19 PM

Actually the rather clever "Oil Management System" was always a feature of traditional British cars. Its normal mode usually consisted of a method of applying a mist of used oil to the underside of the car. This was a clever means of providing some rust-proofing (unfortunately it missed the critical sills, sub-frames and doors!) whilst at the same time extending oil-change intervals (you continually topped up the sump with fresh oil). It never really caught on, and has since been discontinued.

I suspect thatWal had a bad experience with his Mini. It has never had a bad reputation for reliability. It was hugely innovative, well engineered (the engine is a peach!), did exactly what it was supposed to do, but most of all, an awful lot of fun.

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#7

Re: Classic Mini Voted Greatest British Car of All Time

09/19/2012 10:21 AM

The mini was a great british concept (by an italian??) ruined by classic british under-engineering to meet a £100 price target and thereby to guarantee a job for life for car mechanics!

The incredibly effective use of space was possibly its best feature since few cars have since matched its carrying capacity per unit of road space.

The original rubber cone suspension was a much more durable unit than its replacement.

The handling was streets ahead of anything previously put in the public arena.

If only the designers had had the lubrication and rust-proofing technology of modern manufacturers and installed seats that were properly supportive for the human frame it would have been far more noteable. However it also needed C-V joints and idler bearings engineered to a modern standard, a rust proof exhaust system, front mounted radiator with electric fan and thief resistant security.

The main flaw was in not separating the engine oil from the gearbox oil to prevent carbon grit from attacking the gears as well as the bores and pistons.

It was certainly a great trend setter for the private car market and possibly the greatest british car idea but sadly let down by putting price before quality - cost price allied to planned obsolescence was still the financial driver of most mass manufacture as makers wanted to still be selling cars 10 years down the road . . .

When a relative of mine moved from BMC to BMW he was given a design task and asked how much could he spend? The reply was "how much will the best cost?". I don't think that response ever got past a British 1960's finance department!!!

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