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Thoroughly modern Mini
BL tried to replace the Mini on numerous occasions. Here we look at those that did—and didn’t—make it to market.

Pininfarina 9X
Motor magazine sourceIssigonis and personal 9X

Top Pininfarina's 9X mock-up of 1968. Above Sir Alec Issigonis used a 9X as his everyday transport in the 1970s. This was the second prototype which he saved from the crusher

BY THE END of the 1960s, Issigonis planned a Mini successor, codenamed 9X. It was approached the same way, with Issigonis and his team finding inspiration from needs. Innocenti, BMC’s Italian affiliate, wanted a "mini-Mini". When Issigonis realized that a smaller, all-new car might be in order, 9X was born. He asked BMC’s George Harriman to relieve him of all responsibilities, now that the 1100 and 1800 were on the market, so he could concentrate on the new car.
   He began with a space-saving engine, of a capacity between 750 and 1,000 cm³. The engine developed for 9X had a flywheel alternator, along the lines of the motorcycle’s flywheel generator. While even the Model T Ford had a flywheel magneto, Issigonis perfected his system. There was a horizontal distributor mounted directly on the rear end of the camshaft. It was incredibly compact, and was lighter than the equivalent A-series engine and transmission by 125 lb. A six-cylinder 1.3 was also developed for a successor to the ADO 16 (Austin/Morris 1100).
   Both the basic 9X and the five-door ADO 16 successor had modern lines which have stood the test of time better than the Mini itself. John Sheppard, who carried out the bodywork engineering, widened the body proposed by Pininfarina and also reduced the number of components, making the car 120 lb lighter than the Mini.
   The car was also roomier. Although 9 ft 8 in long—shorter than the Mini’s 10 ft—it is incredibly spacious (more so than the Mini) and easily rivals 1980s and 1990s cars. The short front end is mirrored in later cars such as the 1986 Citroën AX and the 1992 Renault Twingo.
   Ford had costed the Mini in the 1960s and found that BMC must have been losing £30 on each one. Issigonis’s 9X was cheaper to manufacture, and BMC would have made money on the car had it sold at Mini prices.
   As another example of the 9X’s brilliance, the four-cylinder developed the same horsepower as the late 1980s K-series engine from Rover and only 2 lb ft per litre less torque. The 1.1 K-series engine and transmission weighed 251< lb, while the 9X four weighed 212 lb. The six weighed 275 lb.
   9X was killed by politics. The BMC-Leyland merger which created British Leyland (BL) meant rivalry between Triumph’s Harry Webster and Issigonis, although Sir Alec had, in his lifetime, been too gentlemanly to point his finger at Webster. Nevertheless, the rivalry resulted in 9X being shelved, although Issigonis had a 9X Continuation Programme throughout the 1970s, to test the engines and a gearless transmission.
   Issigonis rescued two prototypes, one which was used as his personal transport. At one point, as part of the Continuation Programme, Issigonis and his team installed a normal Mini with a 9X engine and lent the car to a BL director. He became enthusiastic about the performance of the car and wanted to put it into production—until he looked under the bonnet and found it was powered by the 9X engine which he had just canned.
   BL did not have to soldier on with an outdated design through the 1970s. It could have also avoided the shame of the Mini Clubman, a facelifted version of the Mini launched in 1969.
   If 9X had come along, the Mini may not be remembered with the same affection. In any case, it remains a lesson on how politics interfere with the overall good of the company.

Innocenti Mini 90

Innocenti Mini 90, designed by Bertone. A tuned de Tomaso version was also available

Innocenti Mini
INNOCENTI got the shorter Mini it asked for, in 1974. The Innocenti Mini 90 and 120 was on a shortened Mini platform, and was essentially a two-seater. The body design was crisp and Italianate (designed by Bertone), and there was a standard hatchback, although it is clearly a product of the 1970s. There was even a sporty Innocenti Mini de Tomaso. It was never offered in right-hand-drive and was sold only on the Continent. The car survived till 1992, when Fiat bought Innocenti and it began selling Brazilian-built Uno derivatives.

Austin Mini Metro
Rover 111

Top The full range of 1981 Austin Mini Metros. Above Successive facelifts and renaming resulted in the 1996 Rover 100 series—which did little to mask that it was, in fact, the Metro

Austin Mini Metro/Austin Metro/MG Metro/Metro/Rover Metro/Rover 100 series
BL DEVELOPED a Mini replacement for 1980 called the Austin Mini Metro, although the Mini itself has now outlived it.
   The Austin Mini Metro was itself derived from Project ADO88 (Austin Design Office, No. 88), which had its roots within BL in the early 1970s. There had been an earlier attempt, ADO74, but Charles Griffin, Director of Engineering, demanded supermini space in a mini-size shell.
   The initial car was squared off, with an almost vertical tail. The door handles resembled those on Michel Boué’s Renault 5, which was, at the time, one of the leaders in the supermini market. However, customer clinics showed that ADO88 compared unfavourably to the Renault, Volkswagen Polo and others, according to BL’s Metro product planner, Mark Snowden.
   Snowden recalled, ‘In January 1978, I presented my ideas to Ray Horrocks [managing director of Austin Morris] on the 12th floor of Coventry House, our then-headquarters. I told him we should not replace the Mini but should build a larger car that would be the leader in the 1980s, rather than a hatchback version of the old Mini.
   ‘Horrocks stopped the ADO88 project dead, just at a point when the company was about to order the tooling. We were given just seven weeks to produce our replacement model.’
   Horrocks himself recalls that it was a tough move, as his contract with Austin Morris began only that year. It also put back the launch to 1980, instead of ADO88’s intended 1979 release.
   Due to a tight budget, there would be no funds for re-engineering: the new car would have to use what had been developed for ADO88, which included Mini running gear, and the A-series engine coupled to a four-speed transmission. While an ideal supermini would have cost £1 billion to engineer, according to the Metro’s chief engineer, Fred Coultas, wound up costing £270 million.
   The LC8 (Leyland Cars 8), as ADO88 became, was born. David Bache, Harris Mann, Roy Tucker, Gordon Sked and others worked on the LC8’s exterior. The car received crisper wheel arches, a chiselled edge, a more pronounced slope to the tailgate and other improvements. Bache intentionally made the car slightly rounded, sensing that the folded-paper era was at its end. They were limited by the ADO88 technology, including the high air filter housing, which explains the car’s high windscreen.
   Snowden continued, ‘It took us just six weeks to produce the clay model of the Metro and the manufacturing feasibility study.’
   A factory was built at the same time, overseen by Harold Musgrove. He had to face the unions and to assure them that no one would be laid off despite the promised robotization of the plant.
   BL’s chairman Michael Edwardes would have closed Austin Morris if the unions had blocked the company further. In February 1980, he had two speeches prepared for an address: one announcing the launch of LC8, the other saying Austin Morris would be closed. Eventually, with union leader Derek ‘Red Robbo’ Robinson ousted, Edwardes gave the good news.
   The car itself was launched as the Austin Mini Metro, but the word ‘Mini’ was soon dropped. MG and Vanden Plas versions were launched in 1982. Marque confusion persisted within BL, now Austin Rover, however. By the late 1980s, the ‘Austin’ tag began disappearing and the cars were known simply as ‘Metro’. The Rover marque was used for the 1990 model year, when the car became the Rover 100 series for export and Rover Metro in the UK (although both home and export models became the 100 in 1994).
   Four years later, a final facelift came for the car which was, by this stage, outclassed. Rover found itself with two mini-class cars, now that the average supermini had grown in size. The Metro was to have been replaced by the Rover 200 (now Rover 25), and shifted downmarket to become the Rover 80, but last-minute changes saw the 200 launched in the Escort sector.
   The Rover 100 soldiered on till the end of 1997, finally replaced by lesser versions of the Rover 200.

Mini Spiritual 3-door
Mini Spiritual 5-door
2000 Mini Cooper

Top The Mini Spiritual 3-door captured the spirit of the original through styling, cheekiness and innovation. Centre The long-wheelbase 5-door version. Above Rover's retro-styled Mini for 2000, as previewed in 1997. CAP remains sceptical, believing it could be a Mini in looks but not in the concept's originality

Mini Spiritual
ROVER designers and engineers came up with two innovative city cars for motor shows in 1996. There was a mid-engined, rear-wheel drive three-door model, and a five-door, long-wheelbase city version. Both captured the spirit of the Mini and were innovative in its packaging and claimed performance. This met the ideals captured by Issigonis in the 1950s and would have given Rover an entrant in the mini class to rival the Mercedes-Benz A-class and the Smart. However, BMW management has decided to go with the "retro" styled Mini for 2000.
   As a result, the leader in the "space race" in the small car sector has to be Mercedes-Benz. The A-class is only 40 mm longer than the Rover 100, but its interior dimensions are in the Escort class. It almost seems that this will be the car to beat or emulate, just as the Mini had been in 1959. BMW promises innovations for the 2000 Mini, so one can only hope that appearances can be deceptive.

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