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50 of MINI’s Greatest Hits in The World of Pop Culture, Music and Art

Paul McCartney of The Beatles with his Mini Cooper

This article was produced in collaboration with MINI Australia

Our most recent issue celebrating the 50 Greatest Australian Artists of All Time featured a collaboration with MINI to include a double page spread of 50 facts about the iconic and stylish car manufacturer. From David Bowie’s involvement for a signature Mini design, to Beach Boys helping take the car across the globe when they posed in front of a Mini Moke as part of their international tour in 1966, these facts show the breadth and impact of MINI on music, pop culture and art.

Mini delivering the world record breaking wishlist to Santa Clause

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1. The original Mini was voted the second most influential car of the 20th century.

2. The first generation of Mini remained almost unchanged for 41 years. If it isn’t broken, why fix it?

3. A car for the people: The original Mini was designed around passengers with 80 per cent of the interior space dedicated to passengers and luggage.

4. The original MINI design was drawn on a napkin by Sir Alec Issigonis!

5. Good things come in small packages: the original Mini was designed to be able to fit into a box that measured just 10 ft by 4 ft – approximately 3 metres by 1.2 metres

6. Inventor of the miniskirt, Mary Quant, was inspired by the Mini when she created the iconic fashion item.

7. The storage bins in the Mini doors were initially designed to fit a bottle of Gordon’s gin.

8. The first version of the Mini did not have a radio, but it did have a large ashtray. The creator of Mini decided that a radio was an unnecessary luxury.

9. MINI collected 75,964 wishes from around the world and set a 2012 Guinness World Record for the longest wishlist ever delivered to Santa Clause.

10. There is another Guinness World Record for fitting 29 people into a 2012 MINI Hatch. Talk about flexible!

The 40th anniversary Mini Designed by David Bowie

The 40th anniversary Mini Designed by David Bowie

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11. Small car, big achievements: In 2013, 400 MINIs broke the world record for the largest ensemble of car horns. They beeped the song ‘Smoke on the water’ simultaneously

12. The original Mini did away with wind up windows and replaced them with a sliding mechanism to maximise cabin space.

13. To maximise space, the original Mini had small 10-inch wheels positioned at the corner of each car and utilised rubber cones instead of springs for its suspension. Coincidentally, this is what produced the go-kart like dynamics and made it such a joy to drive.

14. Lord Snowdon, the husband of Princess Margaret and a personal friend of Alec Issigonis was one of the first to purchase a Mini Cooper.

15. MINI designed a special MINI Cooper S, which includes a hand-made roof graphic, to celebrate the royal wedding of British Price Harry and Meghan Markle in 2018.

16. The Queen’s seal of approval: Alex Issigonis once took the Her Majesty for a spin in a Mini around the park of Windsor Castle.

17. Enzo Ferrari owned three Mini Coopers and was frequently spotted driving his Mini Cooper in the 1960s and 1970s. He and the inventor of Mini were mutual admirers.

18. Did you know David Bowie was once an assembly line worker for British Motor Corporation (BMC), the manufacturer that produced the original Mini?

19. When asked what the classic Mini meant to David Bowie, he gave a one-word answer: parking. When asked why he thought the Mini design had lasted so long, the answer was the same: parking.

20. In 1999, David Bowie was commissioned to design a MINI to celebrate its 40th anniversary. Bowie created a mirror-plated classic Mini with inspiration from the fable Emperor’s new clothes, where the Emperor was naked, but believes himself to be dressed in a fine set of new robes. He liked the fact that anyone who saw the car would also be looking at their reflection and thereby becoming part of the Mini.

The Beach Boys pose for a portrait in a Mini Moke, 1966

The Beach Boys pose for a portrait in a Mini Moke, 1966

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21. MINI embraced sustainable mobility in 2020 with the first-ever plug-in hybrid Countryman and a fully electric MINI hatch.

22. In 2009, a total of 1,450 Minis were recorded for the record of the world’s longest parade of Mini Coopers, stretching almost two-miles long!

23. In 2019, the ten millionth MINI rolled off the production line in Oxford which happened to be the MINI 60 Years Edition anniversary model

24. Beatles in Minis: They might have been the ‘Beatles’, but they all drove Minis – every Beatle had one!

25. John Lennon ordered a Mini in 1964 – even thought he didn’t have a driving license

26. Paul McCartney owned a 1965 Mini Cooper S which was then personalised by renowned body maker, Harold Radford. The car had Aston Martin California Sage Green metallic paint and Aston Martin rear lights. It also had rare halogen headlamps and built-in fog lamps which retracted into the grille, and wall-to wall black leather interior.

27. Paul McCartney’s green Mini met with an unfortunate end. He lent the car to a friend, who subsequently crashed it.

28. In 1965, George Harrison painted his black Mini Cooper a psychedelic red and gold to be featured in the band’s film ‘The Magical Mystery Tour’, and he was photographed driving it with his first love Linda sat in the passenger seat. He then gifted the car to the late Eric Clapton, who owned it for a while before returning it.

29. George Harrison’s Mini still belongs to his wife, while Ringo Starr’s was sold to Spice Girl Geri Horner, a woman who would go on to define British pop culture herself, only 30 years later, and in a slightly different way.

30. The popularity of Mini expanded on an international level when the Beach Boys posed in front of a Mini Moke as a part of their international tour in 1966.

Tony Hawk jumping over a moving Mini Cooper S, 2014

Tony Hawk jumping over a moving Mini Cooper S, 2014

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31. Despite owning a garage full of expensive sports cars, Britney Spears has been most frequently seen to be driving her Mini Cooper convertible.

32. The Monkees band member, Monkee Nesmith, had his own personal Mini Cooper S made by renowned body maker, Radford. The extravagant and expensive one-off specimen had a folding roof, 100 horse power engine and a wooden dashboard with additional instruments.

33. Mini makes an appearance in the 1966 cult movie “Blow Up” as well as crime comedy “Kaleidoscope” of the same year, in which Warren Beatty played the leading role.

34. Popular English film actor Peter Sellers, known for his role as Chief Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther was an avid collector of Minis. He acquired approximately a dozen individually enhanced classic Mini vehicles, including one he gave to his then wife Britt Ekland as the contents of an oversized birthday cake

Michael Caine arriving at building with men holding bats in a scene from the film The Italian Job, 1969. (Photo by Paramount/Getty Images)

35. The classic Mini also made a spectacular big-screen appearance in the 1969 gangster comedy The Italian Job featuring Michael Caine. 34 years later in the 2003 remake starring Mark Wahlberg and Jason Statham, the new MINI Cooper S was cast as the leading four-wheel star once again.

36. Fashion model Lesley Hornby AKA Twiggy passed her driving test in a classic Mini in 1968

37. Lovable comedic character, Mr. Bean – played by Rowan Atkinson – owned a 1977 British Leyland Mini 1000 in Austin Citron Green with a matte black bonnet in the internationally successful comedy series.

38. Kirsten Stewart – best known for her starring role in film series, Twilight – drives a MINI Cooper S around town. Paparazzi photos have her pictured with several different MINI models so it is possible she owns more than one.

39. If you needed further convincing that MINI is a car for the ‘cool kids’, movie icon Clint Eastwood has had a Mini in his vast car collection at least at one point in time. He once said, “I’ve got a Morris Mini Countryman. That’s kind of an interesting little car. It came from England and has all the Mini Cooper S racing fear, but in a mini station wagon. It’s a cool car because there aren’t many like it.”

40. In 2014, MINI partnered with renowned skateboarder, Tony Hawk to produce internet-breaking videos including one where he jumps over a moving MINI Cooper S.

The Beach Boys posing with five matching Mini Mokes

The Beach Boys posing with five matching Mini Mokes

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41. Don’t try this at home: French daredevil Guerlain Chicherit was the first person to ever backflip a MINI in snow.

42. An original works Mini that won RAC rally UK in 1965 and the Scottish Rally in 1966 was lost to the world for 20 years. The barn find then surfaced in 1986, and by the time the car was restored to full original glory, it was worth a staggering $200,000!

43. The Mini ute is an actual thing – in 2014, MINI posted pictures of a Paceman Adventure, jacked-up with beefy tyres, a light bar on the roof and a tiny cargo bed at the back! The car was a one-off design study created by students and instructors at BMW plants Munich and Dingolfing.

44. The Mini panel van was another unique and practical body style of the classic favourite, released to the public for sale in 1960. Because it was to be used for commercial purposes, it was cheaper than the car! More than 500,000 over these Mini panel vans were eventually sold, taking on all sorts of roles, from breadvans, tradesmen transports, to even an AA rescue vehicle!

45. Defying labels with authenticity – Instead of paying millions for celebrity endorsement, MINI simply sought out stars that already owned MINIs, recruiting superstar owners like actor Harvey Keitel, tennis legend Serena Williams and rapper T-pain to speak authentically about the brand. The resultant Superbowl ad message was powerful – that the marque defied labels, and was instead a car of choice for people who defined themselves.

46. Alfred, to the Mini! British actor Michael Caine, who famously plays Alfred in Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, also enjoyed screen time in a Mini in the 1971 British classic Get Carter.

47. The King of Cool – American actor Steve McQueen, nicknamed “The King Of Cool” also owned a Mini until the 1970s, one that he’d bought himself from the Mini co-creator John Cooper. It’s now believed to belong to his friend Lee Brown. “Back in the 1960s, if you didn’t have a Ferrari and a Mini Cooper, you just weren’t a movie star,” said Brown. “Well, Steve McQueen already had his Ferrari Lusso and spotted this Mini over at Hollywood Sports Cars… He called me up and said: ‘I bought it. Go over and pick it up, and I’ll come to the shop and we’ll figure out what to do with it’.”

48. Neal Pogue, who was an audio engineer on the seminal Outkast album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, released in 2003, remembers the role that the Mini played in creating one of the most defining records of the era, and he recalled driving with Andre 3000 and the musician playing him demos. “I just remember we were driving. It might have been on cassette because I remember us driving over Laurel Canyon in a little Mini Cooper and listening to all the demos for that album.”

49. In 2003 Madonna referenced the Mini in her song “American Life”, and she used her Mini Cooper S constantly during her time living in London.

50. Bruno Mars drove a Mini in the video for Travie McCoy’s global smash hit “Billionaire”, and Britney Spears included a pink convertible Mini in her 2011 Femme Fatale tour.