A Century of Cars: 44. Solido 2001 BMW New Mini
The Mini Hatch (US: Hardtop) was
designed by Frank Stephenson, and drew inspiration from the original
Mini. The name of the new car's brand, MINI, was all-capitalised to
distinguish it from its predecessor. Development of the car was
conducted between 1995 and 2001 by Rover Group in Gaydon, United
Kingdom and BMW AG in Munich, Germany.
During this development phase, there was continual contention between the two design groups, especially concerning the positioning of the car; Rover wanted a straight economy car, whilst BMW supported a small, sporting car. Ultimately, BMW prevailed, and in 1999, they assumed control over the entire project following the departure of BMW's CEO, Bernd Pischetsrieder. When BMW divested itself of Rover in 2000, BMW elected to retain the Mini project, and to move the planned production site of the car from Rover's Longbridge plant, to BMW's Oxford plant in Cowley, Oxford.
The team of designers working on the 2001 Mini had finished the full-sized clay mock-up of the Mini in plenty of time for a presentation to the board of directors. However, the chief designer, Frank Stephenson, realised that the model did not have an exhaust pipe. His short-term solution was to pick up an empty beer can, punch a hole in it, strip off the paint and push it into the clay at the back of the car, which took just a few minutes. The overall design for the mock-up was so good that the board members told him not to change a thing, resulting in the distinctive exhaust tip seen in production cars.