The Mini is a small economy car produced by the English-based British Motor Corporation (BMC) and its successors from 1959 until 2000. The original is considered an icon of 1960s British popular culture. Its space-saving transverse engine front-wheel drive layout – allowing 80 percent of the area of the car's floorpan to be used for passengers and luggage – influenced a generation of car makers. In 1999 the Mini was voted the second most influential car of the 20th century, behind the Ford Model T, and ahead of the Citroen DS and Volkswagen Beetle.
On its introduction in August 1959 the Mini was marketed under the Austin and Morris names, as the Austin Seven and Morris Mini-Minor.The Austin Seven was renamed Austin Mini in January 1962 and Mini became a marque in its own right in 1969. In 1980 it once again became the Austin Mini and in 1988 just "Mini" (although the "Rover" badge was applied on some models exported to Japan).
The Mini came about because of a fuel shortage caused by the 1956 Suez Crisis. Petrol was once again rationed in the UK, sales of large cars slumped, and the market for German bubble cars boomed, even in countries like Britain where imported cars were still a rarity. The Fiat 500, launched in 1957, was also hugely successful - especially in its native Italy.
Leonard Lord, the somewhat autocratic head of BMC, reportedly detested these cars so much that he vowed to rid the streets of them and design a 'proper miniature car'. He laid down some basic design requirements: the car should be contained within a box that measured 10 4 4 feet (3.0 1.2 1.2 m); and the passenger accommodation should occupy 6 feet (1.8 m) of the 10-foot (3.0 m) length; and the engine, for reasons of cost, should be an existing unit.
Many features were designed into the ADO15's interior to maximise its passenger and luggage space on top of the major savings allowed by the transverse engine and 10-inch wheels. Sliding windows allowed single-skin doors to be fitted, improving elbow room and reducing costs. A bracing bar was fitted across the door frame to brace the single skin and this was later adapted into a large storage bin on each door. Issigonis would later say that he had sized the bins to carry the ingredients of his favourite drink, a dry martini in the correct proportions (one bottle of vermouth and 27 of Gordon's Gin). Similar bins were provided outboard of the rear seats, also serving a dual function of bracing the single-skin body panel. Small items could also be stowed under the rear seats, and early Minis would be sold with optional wicker baskets specially shaped to slot under the seats. The fixed rear parcel shelf contributed to the rigidity of the body shell, although it did preclude fitting the ADO15 with a hatchback. The boot lid was hinged at the bottom so that the car could be driven with it open to increase luggage space. On early cars the number plate was hinged at the top so that it could swing down to remain visible when the boot lid was open. This feature was later discontinued after it was discovered that exhaust gases could leak into the cockpit when the boot was open.