The Austin Mini MKI takes the title as Britain's finest automotive design. Don't agree? Read on...
Beloved by all, the Austin Mk1 Mini was wizardry on wheels. With a career spanning eight years and leading to a dynasty lasting for over fifty, many purists find the MK1s the best of the bunch. Certainly, the early cars now command a significant premium over later equivalents – a good MK1 will now fetch in excess of £20000 in the right spec. Plus due to the amount of specialists catering for you and your Mini, pretty much everything that isn’t unique to a certain spec is available off the shelf and for peanuts. Unusually in a Buying Guide, we’ll also be covering some of the modifications popular on Minis; whilst there are several original cars out there many MK1s will have been modified, and it helps when buying to know what modifications may have been effected.
Engine – 848cc, 4-cyl, OHV
Power - 34bhp@5500rpm
Torque - 44lb/ft@2900rpm
Top Speed – 72.4mph
0-60mph – 27.1 seconds
Economy - 41mpg
Gearbox – 4 speed manual
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Minis corrode for fun, let’s be honest. But here’s the thing; everything is available right down to new shells for the later cars. BMH are looking at the possibility of new MK1 shells, but even with the parts situation as it is the owners of early cars are not left wanting. Check the sills, valances, door bottoms and floorpan first; and beware that most Minis will have had repairs which are structural but effected without care; as befits a car which for much of its life was seen as a workhorse. Scuttles can corrode, and stone-chip damage to the front isn’t helped by the headlamp trims; which trap water and rot out. Whilst MK1 bodyshells aren’t yet available, there are several companies which will sell you panels. Quality ies, however – be prepared to fettle before they fit.
As standard Austin Minis had 10" steel wheels with hubcaps and – depending upon the model – rimbellishers. These may have been changed for period alloys – most styles suit the car.
Engines and Running Gear
The beloved A-series with box-in-sump is responsible for making the Mini move, as with the ADO16, Allegro, and Metro ranges. In the MK1 Mini, the standard engine was an 850cc iant of this putting out 34bhp. They feel quicker than they seem on paper, though – and let’s be honest, if it had power it wouldn’t be so fun! Little tends to go wrong with the setup, which given the constraints of packaging is probably a good thing! Coopers had a range of engines, spanning 970cc to the popular and long-lived 1275S. However, as the prices of Coopers are vastly different to those of MK1 Minis in general it would perhaps be wiser to focus upon these separately. We shall confine ourselves here to saying that whilst most parts are available the sensible advice would be to stick to one with a common engine capacity such as the 998 or 1275. It should make sourcing parts far easier.
It’s less common to see MK1s with engine transplants than it is to see other Minis; but as any front wheel drive box-in-sump A series will fit, it’s possible that a previous owner may have fitted an MG Metro, Allegro, or Austin 1100 engine in order to give the car a little more go. Should originality be a concern, there are tools on the Internet which can confirm the specification of your A-series; all you need is the engine number from the plate riveted to the top front right hand corner of the block. Further mechanical modifications include disc brakes; in order to retain the 10" wheels it’s vital to use 7.9" discs from a 1960s Cooper. The 8.4" discs which became standard on 80s Minis require 12" wheels to fit.
New-old-stock grey fleck as found in many Minis of this era is hard to source; though Newton Commercial have remanufactured it. It’s sought-after, and comes with a price tag to match. An interesting and rare derivative is the Super – made from 1961 until the introduction of the Super DeLuxe; which combined the original Super and DeLuxe specifications. As the original Cooper cars were to Super specification, interior trim isn’t too hard to source but is again highly desirable – a fact reflected in prices. Single clock speedos as found in standard Minis are hard to source – and beware that Austin and Morris iants used different gauges. For originality fiends, autojumbles and auction websites are likely to prove useful, as are the classified pages of magazines and newspapers such as Classic Car Weekly.
If originality isn’t your thing there are scores of later trim pieces to fit, or if none of them suit you can even purchase period aftermarket seats, steering wheels, and gauges galore. Part of Mini’s charm is that with so many about and so many specialists, there are enough aftermarket options to truly personalise the car if you so wish.
Why Should I Buy One?
Because it’s a Mini, it’ll be part of the family, and will make you smile; what more do you need? If you’re considering one, you’ve probably already got a name for it. Being the original, it’s Mini as Moulton and Issigonis intended it to be – no add-ons, no frills, nothing to wow audiences, just simple, basic, family friendly tiny transport. On top of this, they’re a hoot to drive, rare, and MK1s can only appreciate in value. They might seem pricey compared to other Minis, but the only way is up!