Another look at the Issigonis Minis

The British Motor Corporation's Mini Minors need no introduction, for they are as much a part of the British motoring scene today as was the original Austin 7 in the mid-'twenties and 'thirties. They have evolved along sound lines and MOTOR SPORT has been taking another look at them.

First we tried a 998-c.c. Austin-Cooper (£590), in which the Editor drove 620 miles. It had very useful acceleration, excellent manners but such a horrid driving seat that both he and a colleague thought after a few days in the car that they had slipped a disc. No fuel consumption check was made, but the range was a mere 152 miles, suggesting a m.p.g. figure inferior to that of the "big" Cooper-Mini.

Next a Morris Mini de luxe (£515) came along for test. It had a much more tolerable driver's seat—I could never have endured the one in the Cooper, even if the car had been purchased—but we were back to that dreadful too-short gear lever, resulting in an unpalatable gear change, the clutch was very fierce, but this one was quieter, naturally, than the Cooper version and a spot check showed a remarkable 48.3 m.p.g. of premium petrol on a run in which speed, admittedly, was somewhat subdued by the streams of traffic on the Henley-Oxford road on a Sunday evening. The spaciousness within and the generous stowage space impressed as much as when the first Minibric came our way for road-test.

Finally, there were 1,200 satisfactory and fast miles in a 1,275-c.c. Austin-Cooper "S" (£778), which has exceptional performance without being in any way intractable or temperamental, although the throttles opened with unnecessary suddenness on this particular car. Fuel consumption of super-grade petrol averaged 34.6 m.p.g. and was better than 35 m.p.g. for much of the test. The range was a pathetic 166 miles, suggesting that the maker's tank capacity of 5.5 gallons is optimistic. In a total of 1,500 miles only 1 1/2 pints of oil were required to keep the sump/gearbox full, which suggests that the once-notorious oil-thirst of these Cooper-Minis has been cured. The car is extremely good fun to drive and ideal for traffic negotiation and what a relief to get back to the remote gear lever! But, when idling, the vibration was on a par with that of a badly-balanced Edwardian car. There was considerable noise as speed rose and rough roads made the little thing buck about, but in general the Hydrolastic suspension now used on all these Minis gives a high standard of ride for such compact cars, although the precision of control has suffered, but almost imperceptibly. All three Minis were on Dunlop tyres, the excellent Dunlop SP41s on the Coopers, Gold Seal C41s on the de luxe Mini. Those who tried them spoke enthusiastically of real-tyre B.M.C. Safety Belts.

I do not think I would want to return to regular Mini motoring, splendid as these cars are, although I would welcome a 1275 "S" in the garage. But I am glad Issigonis thought up his ingenious little cars, because from them evolved the B.M.C. 1100s, and I enjoy going back to the Editorial Morris 1100 after driving more expensive or competitive cars. It is such a comfortable small car-of-character, with good seats, light steering and impeccable manners. But I wish it were more dependable—330 miles after having its transmission repaired (see last month) the throttle spring broke—although the Rivermead Service Station in Sunbury very obligingly fitted a new one at once, although they were very busy, charging a mere couple of bob,—but I got wet and dirty getting there.—W. B.