Fun Stuff

Find of the Week: 1979 Mini Cooper

The modern BMW-built Mini Cooper may be a small car, but it doesn't come close to living up to its name the way the original Mini did. Aside from being one of the most recognizable car designs, period, the British Motor Corporation Mini that debuted in 1959 was very mini indeed.

It measured 3,054 mm tip to tail, or 77 cm shorter than a 2017 Mini Cooper, which is one of the smallest cars you can buy today. That measurement also fits within the 3,019-mm wheelbase of the shortest version of the Ford F-150 pickup. (Unfortunately, you'd need a truck with a box bigger than the F-150's available eight-foot option to fit the Mini *in* the truck.)

If you want to experience a small car like people did when small cars were truly small and crash safety was an afterthought, our latest Find of the Week could be the car for you.

The Mini's development was, in part, a reaction to high gas prices created by the Suez Crisis, which began with the invasion of Egypt in 1956 by Israel, the United Kingdom and France. That prompted the Morris Company's Sir Leonard Lord to challenge engineer Alec Issigonis to design a small, efficient car that could carry four adults and that just about anyone could afford.

That challenge yielded a tiny car with wheels pushed way out to the corners and a super-compact front-wheel drivetrain, design features that allowed a cabin large enough for four and a not-insignificant amount of luggage.

Today's Find of the Week is advertised as a 1979, which makes it a Mark IV model, produced from 1976 through 2000, when production ended to make room for BMW to build the modern Mini, a few years after its 1994 acquisition of Britain's Rover Group, which owned the Mini brand at the time.

Our seller, based in Port Coquitlam, B.C. hasn't included much detail in their ad, but it does tell us the car has seen $14,000 in new and rebuilt components, included a 1,275-cc engine that was an option when this car was new; it's not clear if that's what was under the hood in 1979, or the seller replaced the base 1.0L motor with the hotter engine. lists the 1,275-cc engine's output in 1979 as 58 hp and 59 lb-ft of torque. That's practically ride-on lawnmower territory today, but it in the 1970s, those were respectable numbers for a sub 700-kg car.

This car wears what look like 10-inch Minilite wheels (or lookalikes, at any rate; the seller refers to them simply as alloys) that suit the car very nicely, as does its blue paint job. The engine bay looks tidy, too, with a red cam cover. We're not treated to much of a look at the interior, but what we can make out appears fine in photographs. Our seller mentions the sunroof visible in the photographs, as well as an "entertainment package;" if that refers to an OEM option, we would love to know what it included.

Despite the Mini's origins as an economy car, vintage vehicles like this require more maintenance than a modern subcompact, an important consideration for buyers expecting a flawless daily driver; a car like this is best suited to a tinkerer -- someone who doesn't mind getting their hands dirty adjusting things that are set-and-forget in today's cars. In that regard, we're a bit disappointed the seller doesn't even suggest how many kilometres the car has been driven in its lifetime.

Another consideration is this car's $10,000 price, which we feel is fair for a turn-key classic, especially if it has indeed enjoyed $14,000 worth of refurbishment. And while such comparisons are of dubious value, we feel compelled to mention that a Nissan Micra can be bought brand new for $10,000 in a model that comes with a CD player, auxiliary input and safety features and refinement that Alec Issigonis hadn't even dream of when he designed this car in the late 1950s. But you're unlikely to see a Micra stealing scenes in major motion pictures the way the Mini has.

But for a certified car nut -- or even just a serious Anglophile -- ten grand is a small sum for our latest Find of the Week, which brings along for the ride more automotive history than would fit in the Mini's space-efficient interior.