MINI Concept Geneva celebrates Monte Carlo Rally winner
By Mike Hanlon
February 25, 2006
February 26, 2006 From 1964 to 1967 Mini dominated the Monte Carlo Rally, setting the foundation for its legendary reputation as a highly agile and nimble sports car. Now, commemorating the 100th birthday of Sir Alec Issigonis (the creator of the Mini and the outstanding victories scored by the Mini brand some 40 years ago, MINI Concept Geneva offers an up-to-date interpretation of the small British racer in its great days. In particular, this new concept model presents the core idea of the Mini Traveller, Mini Countryman, and Mini Clubman Estate in a highly progressive new model variant.
The overall impression conveyed by MINI Concept Geneva is one of strength and muscle, with particular emphasis on individual details such as the car’s wheel arches, its shoulder line and powerdome. MINI Concept Geneva is a clear statement – the car has stance, looks strong and powerful, but is also elegant at the same time.
One of the fundamental ideas in developing MINI Concept Geneva was to make the entire car easy to enter and load. Accordingly, the driver’s/front passenger’s and rear doors all come on special mounts with parallelogram kinematics swivelling in one single movement to the side and to the front and thus offering maximum access to the interior. The rear side sliding windows open electrically.
The luggage compartment of MINI Concept Geneva features a flexible Cargobox with its lid extending out to the rear whenever required to assist the user in loading cargo. The transparent cover on top of the Cargo box also swivels up whenever required, acting as a partition between the passenger compartment and the lug gage area.
The Sports Utility Box is a multi-functional, additional storage compartment clipped on to the opened rear side window. It features flaps on either side facilitating the process of loading and unloading the Utility Box both from outside and from the passenger compartment, and allowing the driver or passengers to pass through objects transported very practically from one side to the other.
MINI Concept Geneva stands out in its beautiful silver paintwork in the light, all points not directly in the beholder’s line of vision being kept in a more discreet grey. Red highlights, in turn, give MINI Concept Geneva a particularly dynamic touch. Soft, resilient neoprene is featured on the black side band so characteristic of the car, extending along the side sills and wheel cut-outs.
The “Floating Elements” concept offers a supreme impression of generosity and open space right from the start. The seats are suspended in “hovering” arrangement on the centre tunnel, and the free-standing dashboard with its Center Speedo as a swivelling central instrument with both a digital and analogue display further supports and enhances this impression.
Four persons have adequate space in MINI Concept Geneva, with access to the rear facilitated by the front seats swivelling round to the side. After being tilted down, the rear-seat backrests form a flat surface merging directly into the floor of the luggage compartment.
Throughout the interior, white leather on various surfaces under lines the impression of modern style and generous space, adding a strong touch of sophisticated class and stylish flair. An aluminium-coated glass-fibre structure, in turn, accentuates the door panels and linings inside the car, while a special carbon-fibre look highlights the foot area in combination with nylon texture carpeting.
The Mini Traveller concept
The Mini Traveller concept made its debut in September 1960 in the guise of the Austin Seven Countryman and Morris Mini Traveller. The term “Traveller” alone made it clear from the start that this particular Mini was conceived from the beginning for an active target group of connoisseurs and individuals. Total sales between 1960 and 1982 amounted to more than 400,000 units, including the Mini Clubman launched in 1969.
2006: commemorating the 100th birthday of Alec Issigonis, the creator of Mini.
Alexander Arnold Constantine Issigonis was born on 18 November 1906 as the son of a Greek father and a German mother in a region that now belongs to Turkey. After studying engineering in London, he later became one of the most successful automotive engineers and designers in Great Britain.
Forty-seven years after the world debut of the first Mini, the car has become a huge success in nearly 80 countries the world over. And the creator of the car was indeed just as cosmopolitan as MINI is today: Alexander Arnold Constantine Issigonis was born on 18 November 1906 as the son of a Greek father and a German mother in a region which now be longs to Turkey. At the age of 16 Alex Issigonis moved to Britain, where he completed his schooling and studied engineering before becoming one of the most successful automotive engineers and designers ever to come out of Britain.
Not only the many technical innovations introduced in the first Mini clearly showed that the ingenious inventor of this car saw the subject of transport from a very different perspective – no, it was particularly Issigonis’ irresistible attitude in life that made the whole development so unique: “Mathematics is the enemy of every creative individual”, is how Alec Issigonis once summed up his creed.
Not surprisingly, therefore, Mini was a highly emotional car right from the start, chic and urban, but also perfect for winding roads and serpentine routes. Only a few months elapsed from the initial sketches to the first road-going prototypes, the Mini making its world debut in 1959. And at the same time Issigonis’ ingenious construction anticipated the principle of front-wheel drive with the engine fitted in transverse arrangement at the front destined to become the standard concept for compact cars as of the ’70s of the 20th century.
The first million Minis was sold by 1965 and this little high-performance car had already won the Monte Carlo Rally as well as the Thousand-Lake Rally in Finland. In consideration of this out standing success, Alec Issigonis was knighted by the Queen of England in 1969. Sir Alec, as he was now called, then retired step-by-step from his everyday work, dying in 1988 at the age of almost 82 – with production of the Mini by that time amounting to more than four million units.
Mini and the Monte Carlo Rally.
It was the great sensation of the 1963/64 rally winter: A small red David with a white roof left all the ultra-powerful Goliaths behind, clinching its first overall win in the Monte Carlo Rally. Virtually over night, this little “dwarf” had become a legend.
Wherever the Mini – either in standard trim, in the form of the Mini Cooper, or as a specially tuned performance car – entered a rally or any other motorsport event at the time, it was good for a great sur prise. Indeed, these were the years in which the Mini caused one sensation after the other in the world of rally racing, showing its tail lights to many a would-be winner on tracks and circuits everywhere. So it is quite appropriate to say that the ’60s were the decade of the Mini, far beyond official races and contests.
Just a bit more than six months after the Mini had made its debut in 1959, six Mini works cars entered the 1960 Monte Carlo Rally, with six more of these new young athletes being driven by private drivers. In 1962 Rauno Aaltonen, later to become world-famous as the “Flying Finn”, entered Monte Carlo for the first time at the wheel of a Mini Cooper, subsequently being forced to retire after a spectacular acci dent. Two other names in the lists of participants were also destined to hit the headlines in connection with the Mini in the years to come: Timo Mäkinen and Patrick “Paddy” Hopkirk. In 1963 various Minis already came close to the top places in the Rally, but a year was still to pass before the real breakthrough.
In 1964 Paddy Hopkirk and his two Scandinavian colleagues joined forces for the first time in the same team. Putting up a great performance on several stages of the race, Paddy Hopkirk battled it out successfully against his far more powerful competitors, moving right up to the top of the field and finally securing first place in the fiercely contested “Night of Long Knives”. Mini thus entered the history books, just like its three most famous drivers thrilling the spectators with their daredevil style of racing: Paddy Hopkirk, Timo Mäkinen, and Rauno Aaltonen.
A year later, in 1965, Finnish driver Timo Mäkinen and his co-pilot Paul Easter continued the Mini Cooper’s story of success once again, winning the Monte Carlo Rally in supreme style: Mäkinen was the only driver in the entire field to complete thousands of kilometres without one penalty point despite very difficult and challenging snow conditions in the French Alps. In all, only 35 out of 237 cars reached the finish line – three of them were Minis. For the first time Mäkinen drove a Mini Cooper with the new 1275-cc engine later to become a genuine synonym for this particular model.
In 1966 the Mini Armada went for the hat trick. The four Cooper teams were the great favourites right from the start and attracted utmost interest from the public and the competition alike. So it was no surprise that they lived up to their role right from the start: Mäkinen, Aaltonen and Hopkirk quickly left the field behind, ultimately finishing the Rally first, second, and third. But then came one of the most contested and dubious decisions in the long history of the Monte Carlo Rally: In an eight-hour technical inspection, the Race Commissioners found that the four additional headlights fitted on the Mini Cooper’s radiator grille were not fully commensurate with French homologation rules and disqualified the first three cars.
Notwithstanding this bitter decision, the Mini Cooper returned to the Monte Carlo Rally in 1967, the three musketeers Aaltonen, Hopkirk and Mäkinen being backed up by Simo Lampinen and Tony Fall. This time the “Flying Finn” Rauno Aaltonen won the race and all other Mini Coopers also saw the chequered flag, Hopkirk finishing sixth, Fall coming tenth, Lampinen reaching the finish line as No 15, and Mäkinen finishing in 41st place.
The armada of works Minis set out for Monaco for the last time in 1968. This time Aaltonen finished third in his Mini Cooper S, Fall coming fourth and Hopkirk fifth.
While this marked the end of an era, the legend remains to this day. Indeed, rally enthusiasts the world over know to this very day what “33 EJB” stands for – this was the numberplate on Paddy Hopkirk’s Mini Cooper S, the winner of the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally.
Forty years on, nothing has changed. What once helped the Mini Cooper win the race to Monaco is still one of the most significant ba sic elements of the MINI Cooper: With its compact exterior dimensions it whips around corners incredibly quickly, resting firmly on its wide track and long wheelbase.
Clearly, driving behaviour of this kind simply begs for racing activities – which is why the John Cooper Challenge, the MINI Brand Trophy, thrills an increasing number of amateur racing drivers particularly in Britain, the MINI’s home country. Several other countries have also followed this example and have established their own MINI challenges in the meantime. So just like they did 40 years ago, many young, up-and-coming drivers and talents are now gaining their initial experience and winning their first trophies at the wheel of a MINI.