We offer an original Mini Cooper here, bookended by Amy and Scott who, we freely admit, are tall individuals but do provide some human scale as testimony as to just how tiny these are. They were built in mass numbers from 1959 until 2001 by British Motor Corporation, formed by a merger between Austin and Morris. The original Mini was just voted Britain’s Best Car of All Time by the readers of Autocar. So take that, Aston-Martin, Armstrong-Siddeley and other hyphenates (Rolls-Royce?) too numerous to mention! Today’s version is built by BMW, which insists that the brand be formatted as MINI. Isn’t the use of all upper case letters tantamount to shouting? Pipe down! It’s huge by comparison. The original weighs in at something like 1400 pounds and the new, ALL CAPS, edition weighs more than twice that amount.
FeralCars Field Scout Heather Crist captured this Mini variant, a 1969 Riley Elf, just the other day. It’s a more deluxe version with an extended trunk and luxury interior and never, officially, imported (note: steering wheel on the “wrong” side). We don’t think the Union Jack painted on the roof came standard but, hey, who are we to suggest not letting one’s freak flag fly?
We encountered a stunning ’65 3.8 litre Jaguar Mk 2, the other day and were, frankly, enthralled. The interior replicates the leather and wood look of a mens club and the curvy body lives up to its feline moniker.
Today the British motor industry is essentially, foreign owned. Of course there’s Ford and GM’s Vauxhall, which are American controlled and Jaguar and Land Rover which are, most improbably, part of Tata of India. Stifle those titters, will you please? MINI is under BMW control; Rolls Royce, too, is a vassal of BMW while Bentley is Volkswagen’s English trophy marque. Lotus is owned by a Malaysian conglomerate and Aston Martin is funded by a consortium of Italian, American and Kuwaiti investors and headed by Stuttgart-educated CEO Ulrich Bez who just made a deal with Mercedes’ AMG division to provide engines for these “British” supercars. It’s kind of sad that the only British-owned car makers today are niche players Bristol, Morgan, Caterham and McLaren.
MG was once had significant presence in the US market and is now, for better or worse, a Chinese brand. There are still lots of MG B roadsters in various states of repair to be found as these recent shots attest.
Triumph was MG’s big competitor in the US sports car market. Not sure if they actually offered them in fuchsia as seen on this “tasteful” TR-6
In the 1950s and ’60s, and into the ’70s British cars were a real presence in the American market but faded out, almost completely when such brands such as Hillman (that’s one below) Humber, Austin, Morris, MG, bit the dust. To be sure, there’s a resurgence going on with current sales successes enjoyed by MINI, Rolls, Bentley, Land Rover, Jaguar but, again, all of those brands are foreign owned. Dare we say it? The sun may very well have set on the British automotive empire.
We found a film clip shot at the 1961 Earls Court
car, ahem, motor show and there’s actually a Riley Elf featured! You simply must check it out!
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