The original Mini survived for 41 years. But not even that icon of the British motor industry could last for ever and in the end its demise was dictated by modern standards.
So, how would they tackle the job of creating an heir?

Among the designs presented for the new model in 1995, BMW’s then R&D Supremo Wolfgang Reitzle and its Chairman Bernd Pischetsrieder selected Frank Stephenson’s proposal for development. Inside and out the New Mini hovers between past and present, retaining a great many styling cues from the original model. And however much BMW insists that the New Mini is not retro, some things are as strongly tied up with the past as the flower vase on the New Beetle.

Over a six-year period, numerous teams got involved in the project and towards the end Gert Hildebrand, formerly chief designer at both Mitsubishi and Volkswagen, took on the task of improving the quality of materials and trim. Hildebrand is enthusiastic about the Mini brand’s prospects and acknowledges Stephenson’s contribution to the project. “The design of a new Mini must have been his life-long dream and Frank has done a superb job. The new car blends the three archetypical shapes of the human body: male sturdiness, sensual female curves and even a hint of infant plumpness”.

Though the actual design of the Mini was a wholly British operation, Hildebrand insists that the Anglo-Bavarian compact’s DNA is not exclusively so, but rather New European. And it’s not retro, though it possesses all the potential to become a new cult object”.

The article continues in Auto & Design no. 128

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