60 YEARS OF MINI IN AUSTRALIA.
MINI’s history in Australia is a long and exciting one, with the iconic vehicle first hitting our shores in 1959. Over the past 60 years, the vehicle has gone through many engineering innovations – and taken on a distinctively Australian character in the process.
But the history of MINI down under goes well beyond its identity as a car for road trips down the coast, or for zipping around the city.
Racing its way into first place on countless occasions, the MINI made a name for itself in motorsports.
Arguably the biggest moment in MINI’s Australian racing history – at least on home turf – was the 1966 Gallagher 500 race, in which MINI took the first nine places outright.
It wasn’t all play for the zippy vehicle, though – in 1966, the NSW police force cottoned onto the power of MINI, and trialled 6 Cooper S MINIs on patrols down the Hume Highway. The force quickly put in an order for a further 200 cars and, in total, more than 1,000 MINIs joined the NSW Police force over the multi-year run.
As MINI quickly won over Australians across the country, fans and designers alike put their own touches on their cars, to make them a match for the sunburnt country.
The Mini Deluxe was the first of its kind worldwide to sport manual roll-down windows. Designed and developed by BMC Engineer Chris Rogers and Draughtsman Frank Lesha, wind-up windows were a must-have feature for letting in cool breezes during long summer drives in the 1960s.
In a similar vein, the aptly-named Mini Sunshine was developed in a limited run of 390 cars in 1976, making it the first vehicle with a sliding Autosun glass sunroof, with the most prominent feature a unique vacuum operated mechanism.
Released in 1969, the Mini K – affectionately nicknamed the Mini Kangaroo – was a product of Australia, with 90% of the materials being sourced in the country. The distinctive green colour and Australian map gave it an Aussie feel – although the name baffled the press to begin with.
Since then, an avid community of fans have lovingly restored and cared for these special cars – which can be found on farms, in garages and driveways from Parramatta to Perth. This year, we’re tracking down some of these unique cars, and telling the stories of the people who have brought them to life.