The present-day Mini Cooper may be more of a fashion accessory than an affordable, fuel-efficient vehicle, but that wasn’t always the case. The original Cooper was created in response to Britain’s oil crisis of the late 1950s and came in a compact, affordable package. It was UK’s version of the Volkswagen Beetle; it was a people’s car.

The tiny economy car debuted in 1959, seven years after Morris and Austin merged to form the British Motor Corporation (BMC). Initially powered by an 848cc engine rated at 35 horsepower, the Mini received larger 1,275cc inline-four that delivered more than 70 ponies. It may not sound like much, but the first-gen Mini was quite the nimble car thanks to its reduced weight. The entry-level car tipped the scales at a feathery 1,360 pounds; the more powerful Cooper S weighed in at 1,512 pounds.

Mini’s sales success was soon backed by numerous motorsport achievements, including Monte Carlo Rally wins and impressive performances in the British Touring Car Championship. The Cooper S won no less than three Monte Carlo rallies between 1964 and 1967, beating iconic cars such as the Porsche 911, Porsche 904, and Lancia Fulvia HF in the process.

Although the original Cooper was built until 2000, the same year BMW launched the modern Mini, its presence on the U.S. market was rather brief. BMC exported about 10,000 Minis to North America between 1960 and 1967 before discontinuing sales due to the stricter federal safety standards that were imposed in 1968.

The Mini Cooper remains popular today, 55 years since its inception, with many cars being restored to their original specification and paraded during local and international events. The video above pays tribute to the Mini with a loving look at a 1971 Cooper S. This car defined what a small sporty car should be, and for that, we love it.


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