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; and the passenger accommodation should occupy 6 feet of the 10-foot length; and the engine, for reasons of cost, should be an existing unit.
Alec Issigonis, who had been working for Alvis, had been recruited back to BMC in 1955 with a brief from Lord to design a range of technically advanced family cars in the same innovative spirit as his earlier Morris Minor to complement BMC’s existing conventional models. Issigonis had set out design projects for three cars – large and small family cars and a very small economy car. His initial work was on the largest car, designated XC9001, with the smallest car, XC9003, having the lowest priority despite it being Issigonis’ greatest personal interest. With Lord’s dictum to produce a bubble car competitor and his revised design requirements being laid down in October 1956, work on XC9001 stopped and XC9003 became the priority. The team that designed the Mini was remarkably small: as well as Issigonis, there was Jack Daniels (who had worked with him on the Morris Minor), Chris Kingham (who had been with him at Alvis), two engineering students and four draughtsmen. Together, by July 1957, they had designed and built the original XC9003 prototype, which was affectionately named ‘The Orange Box’ because of its colour. Leonard Lord approved the car for production on 19 July and XC9003 became project ADO15 and the Mini was born.
This superb example of the Mark IV Mini 1000 was purchased new by Bob Willis for his wife Cilla Black. The Mini was treated to an extensive upgrade by Wood & Pickett of Abbey Road which included solid black paintwork, extended wheel arches, complete Margrave leather interior and walnut dashboard. Recently restored while maintaining its originality this car is described to be in excellent condition throughout and has a wonderful provenance, sure to provide a ‘lora lora’ smiles!