Built into the subframes, the rubber cone system gave a raw and bumpy ride accentuated by the woven-webbing seats, but the rigidity of the rubber cones, together with the wheels' positioning at the corners of the car, gave the Mini go kart -like handling. Initially an interconnected fluid system was planned, similar to the one that Alec Issigonis and Alex Moulton were working on in the mids at Alvis.
The short development time of the car meant this was not ready in time for the Mini's launch. The system intended for the Mini was further developed and the hydrolastic system was first used on the Morris , launched in ; the Mini gained the system later in As launched the Mini had simpler suspension made from conical springs of solid rubber.
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These were compact, saving on intrusion into the cabin space, and required no maintenance. The fully independent suspension the rubber cones provided was almost unheard of in low-cost cars of the time. The conical shape gave the springs a progressive action, becoming stiffer at greater degrees of compression. This gave the ADO15 a smooth ride over small bumps but minimised roll and pitch on more uneven surfaces. It also allowed the springs to cope with the huge variance in load between an unladen car approx.
An agreement was made on the ten-inch size, after Dunlop rejected the eight-inch proposition. 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 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. The Mini was designed as a monocoque shell with welded seams visible on the outside of the car running down the A and C pillars , and between the body and the floor pan. Those that ran from the base of the A-pillar to the wheel well were described as 'everted' lit.
To further simplify construction, the hinges for the doors and boot lid were mounted externally. This also saved a small amount of cabin space. It also made the ADO15 very easy to assemble from Complete Knock Down kits in overseas markets with only basic industry. Cars could be assembled with minimal use of jigs as the external seams made the panels largely 'self-aligning'.
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They also allowed panels to be stacked flat on top of one other for easy shipping. As originally built all the structural body panels were welded to the top of the single floor pressing but this caused major problems with water ingress to the cabin and was quickly changed in the first months of production. Early prototypes were fully unitary in construction but the cars broke apart under the high loads from the large lever ratios used with the rubber cone suspension.
The design was changed to use steel subframes to carry the drivetrain and suspension for the front and rear. This also simplified production as both subframes could be built up independently and then mated to the already-completed bodyshell. It also opened up the possibility of easily producing variants on the ADO15 as a body of any shape or design could be used provided it could accommodate the subframes. The production version of the Mini was demonstrated to the press in April , and by August several thousand cars had been produced ready for the first sales.
Some 2, cars had already been sent abroad and were displayed that day in almost countries. The Mini was marketed under BMC's two main brand names, Austin and Morris, until , when it became a marque in its own right.
This seems to have been a play on words: The Morris name Mini Mini-Minor was first used for Austin's version by BMC in when the Austin Seven was rebranded as the Austin Mini,  somewhat to the surprise of the Sharp's Commercials car company later known as Bond Cars , who had been using the name Minicar for their three-wheeled vehicles since However, legal action was somehow averted,  and BMC used the name "Mini" thereafter.
In , the suspension of the cars was replaced by another Moulton design, the hydrolastic system. The new suspension gave a softer ride, but it also increased weight and production cost. In , the original rubber suspension reappeared and was retained for the remaining life of the Mini. From October the option of the unique Automotive Products AP designed four-speed automatic transmission became available.
Cars fitted with this became the Mini-Matic. Slow at the outset, Mark I sales strengthened across most of the model lines in the s, and production totalled 1,, BMC insisted that the way company overheads were shared out, the Mini always made money. The Mini entered into popular culture in the s with well-publicised purchases by film and music stars.
The Cooper S version was also used by some British police departments as a plainclothes car. The Mark II Mini was launched at the British Motor Show ,  and featured a redesigned grille, a larger rear window and numerous cosmetic changes. A variety of Mini types were made in Pamplona , Spain, by the Authi company from onwards, mostly under the Morris name.
The bodyshell mould was created by the Peel Engineering Company. Production began in and continued for a few years; these fibreglass Minis can be recognised by the missing body seams and by larger panel gaps. The Chilean market was never very large and the hyperinflation and political and social collapse led to the coup The Arica plant was closed in The most obvious changes were larger doors with concealed hinges.
Customer demand led to the sliding windows being replaced with winding windows—although some Australian-manufactured Mark I Minis had adopted this feature in with opening quarterlight windows. The suspension reverted from Hydrolastic to rubber cones  as a cost-saving measure.
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Production at the Cowley plant was ended, and the simple name Mini completely replaced the separate Austin and Morris brands. In the late s, Innocenti introduced the Innocenti 90 and , Bertone -designed hatchbacks based on the Mini platform. It also used homokinetic shafts instead of rubber couplings.
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The Mini was still popular in Britain, but appeared increasingly outdated in the face of newer and more practical rivals. Since the late s, plans had been in place for a newer and more practical supermini to replace it, though the Mini was still the only car of this size built by British Leyland for the home market. The Mark IV was introduced in , even though by this stage British Leyland was working on a new small car which was widely expected to replace the Mini before much longer.
It had a front rubber mounted subframe with single tower bolts and the rear frame had some larger bushings introduced. Twin stalk indicators were introduced with larger foot pedals. From onwards, the rear indicator lamps had the reverse lights incorporated in them. In , the engine was upgraded to the improved A-Plus unit from the new Metro. This was then followed by a number of later incremental developments:.
In , the Mini was one of the key cars made available to disabled motorists under the new Motability scheme. Reports of the Mini's imminent demise surfaced again in with the launch of the Austin Mini-Metro badging with the word mini in all lowercase.
Faced with competition from a new wave of modern superminis like the Ford Fiesta , Renault 5 and Volkswagen Polo , the Mini was beginning to fall out of favour in many export markets, with the South African, Australian, and New Zealand markets all stopping production around this time. Buyers of small cars now wanted modern and practical designs, usually with a hatchback.
Although the Mini continued to be produced after the Metro's launch, production volumes were reduced as British Leyland and successor combine Rover Group concentrated on the Metro as its key supermini. The arrival of the Metro also saw production of the larger Allegro pruned back before it was finally discontinued in In BL made 56, Minis and over , Metros.
During the early s the Mini received many mechanical upgrades which were shared with the Metro, such as the A-Plus engine , inch wheels with front disc brakes, improved soundproofing and quieter, stronger transmissions. This not only modernised the Mini but, because many of its major sub-assemblies were now shared with the Metro, made it very cost-effective to produce despite falling sales volumes. The Mini's 25th anniversary fell in and British Leyland produced a 'Mini 25' limited edition model, both to mark the occasion and to publicise the recent upgrades to the model.
This marked the start of a turnaround in the Mini's fortunes. Basic models such as the City and the City E using the economy-tuned drivetrain from the Metro HLE filled in the bottom of the Austin-Rover range and still found buyers who wanted a compact city car that was easy to park and cheap to run. Low purchase and running costs also made the Mini continually popular as a first car for younger drivers, and Austin-Rover introduced a steady stream of limited editions with bright paint colours, body graphics and trim to appeal to this market.
The Mini was also becoming prized as a characterful and nostalgic car in its own right, and the London Collection of limited edition models were more upmarket and luxurious and named after affluent or fashionable parts of London. These marketing strategies proved very successful - Mini production actually saw modest increases through the mids, from 34, in to 35, in and 39, in By , with the reintroduction of the very popular Cooper model, Mini production would pass 40, In Austin Rover decided to keep the Mini in production for as long as it was viable to do so, putting an end to reports that it would be discontinued by — by which time the original Metro would also be replaced.
The fibreglass Mini built in Chile from until was not the only fibreglass version: The producer, Facorca, intended to sell the car in the Caribbean and Central America, and also had plans for Brazilian assembly. Released in as more luxurious versions of the Mini, both the Wolseley Hornet and the Riley Elf had longer, slightly finned rear wings and larger boots that gave the cars a more traditional three-box design. Wheelbase of the Elf and Hornet remained at 2. The cars had larger-diameter chrome hubcaps than the Austin and Morris Minis, and additional chrome accents, bumper overriders and wood-veneer dashboards.
The Riley was the more expensive of the two cars.