The Mini is one of the most successful and well loved cars ever built. The Mini Cooper is the fastest production version created by John Cooper, English auto racing legend and all round king of making stupidly small, stupidly fast cars.
The year is 1956, the Suez Fuel Crisis is in full swing, petrol is being rationed again in the UK and people are beginning to think that all these huge cars they've been driving around in really aren't as badass as originally intended.
The Germans have come up with this crazy new concept know as a bubble car, which had the amazing ability to not only be very fuel efficient but also to make you look like a complete dick whenever you stood too close. In steps Alec Issisonis, straight from designing the second most British car of all time (only behind the mini), the Morris Minor. He decided he didn't like this fashion for foolish looking cars and was going to bitch-slap the worldwide motoring community by creating a car that was not only small, efficient and comfortable, but able to look damned good in the process.
He wasn't alone in his dislike for these German imports, Leonard Lord, the head of BMC and owner of one of the most pimping names of the period was quoted as saying; 'God damn these bloody awful Bubble Cars. We must drive them off the road by designing a proper miniature car'. That was pretty much the design brief. Issigonis compiled a team of the most bitching mechanics and engineers 1950's Britain could muster and set about creating what would come to be one of the most influential cars of all time.
John Cooper started his career making cars with his dad. These cars were known as 'Specials', not because they were particularly less articulate than the other cars but because they were one-offs designed and built with whatever the fuck they could get their hands on. We're talking post-war Britain here, there isn't much in the way of quality car parts to fool around with.
1948 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow
The Coopers really came into their own when they created a special which blew the competition out of the water using a rear-engine/rear wheel drive setup, something that just wasn't done in those days. Instead of turning around and saying "I say chaps, that isn't exactly cricket is it?" everyone else promptly went home and re-evaluated their lives. They probably also hit their wives, because that was the done thing back then.
Cooper approached Issigonis and asked for a few of the Minis to play around with, Issigonis initially declined preferring the car to be kept in its unmolested utilitarian state, a car for the people, not some sports car to be sold at an inflated price. Cooper ignored his good friend and went to Leonard Lord who said "fuck yeah." . Cooper went off and built some bitchin' cars with which he promptly destroyed every other car manufacturer in whatever class he decided to race them. Due to their low cost many privateers also took to racing in minis and the first age of amateur racing was born.
Some say that wasn't the best thing
The Cooper minis gained acclaim by winning the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964, 1965 and 1967. In 1966 the came first second and third but the french judges disqualified them over the type of headlamp bulb they used. Instead they gave the first place trophy to Citroën driver Pauli Toivonen who was so disgusted at the decision he never drove for Citroën again. You may think all that sounds great, but someone had to win, right? It might as well have been the Mini, and you'd be right, if it weren't for the fact that the Mini was up against companies such as, Porsche, Ford, Saab, Mercedes, Lancia and Jaguar. These guys had been doing this rally since before the Mini was but a scrawl on the back of a napkin. Thats right, Issigonis designed the greatest car ever whilst eating his dinner. What the fuck have you done today?
Seriously, you bring nothing to the table. NOTHING.
Since its conception the Mini has generally kicked ass, balls, face and any other body part it so chose. Naturally then it didn't take long for it to make its debut on film. The most famous example of the Mini on the big screen is obviously The Italian Job (1969). Interestingly The Italian Job was initially a 'B' film to be shown alongside another film that was meant to be much more popular, but Michael Caines troupe of hapless criminals were destined for much more.
Because y'know, life was hard for poor old Michael Caine...
The story of a group of Cockneys robbing the Italians proved so successful in fact that it gained a cult following over the years and the famous line "You're only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!" was voted the best film one-liner of all time in a UK poll. Unfortunately with great success comes a shit remake and in 2003 Marlk Wahlberg and Edward Norton delivered in a raping reminiscent of Deliverance.
"SQUEAL PIGGY! SQUEAL!"
Minis lend themselves particularly well to car chases, as the ORIGINAL Italian Job proved so well, so when Jason Bourne needed to high tail it out of Zurich the only sensible choice was a Mini. He promptly goes on to drive the mini in such a way that classic car enthusiasts the world over could be heard whispering "Please God no!" louder than they had been in 2003. The Italian Job and Bourne Identity chases have been voted two of the top 10 car chases of all time. That's right, the mini makes up 20% of the top 10 best car chase cars. Think about that.
Also it can walk down stairs on its front bumper. Eat your heart out Bullit.