One of the most delightful films in the British Pathé archive is a feature entitled The British Motor Corporation present “The Incredible Seven”. A Ladybird book style family are liberated from public transport as the velvet tones of David de Keyser extols how the purchase of a new Mini has ‘transformed their lives’.
The Mini debuted on the 26th August 1959, and, two days later, Autocar magazine thought it ‘an outstanding car, providing unusual body space for its size’. ‘Wizardry on Wheels’ claimed the British Motoring Corporation but ‘the cheapest form of transport today’ was initially greeted with suspicion by many a Ford Popular owner. The De Luxe, with a heater and windscreen washers as standard, may have cost just £537 but the apparent lack of a boot and the transverse engine was further proof that the country was going to the dogs.
By 1962, the Mini had overcome the objections of most conventional minded drivers along with such technical issues as rainwater seeping into the body. Unfortunately, it did not make a profit for the Corporation; when Ford costed the Mini’s components, they estimated the company was losing £30 per car. There was also the faintly bizarre marketing; the Morris Mini Minor and the Austin Seven had identical specifications but different radiator grills to satisfy BMC’s dealership chains. But when the sales copy promised ‘exciting new motoring for the masses’, this proved to be no mere hyperbole – even if Mini ownership apparently results in “Dad” in the Pathé film wearing rather unfortunate cravats.