It's fair to say that the 'Amalgamated Drawing Office project number 15' - better known as the MINI - has come along way since its inception in the late Fifties. A British icon and a rally driver's dream rolled into one, the MINI is one of the few cars to be driven by hippies and bowler-hatted gentlemen with equal measures of pride. A democratic, idiosyncratic slice of engineering genius that has charted its own path for over 40 years? Sure. A normal car? Not exactly.
The MINI grew not out of a desire to build a great car - but out of a desire to build a better miniature car than the Germans, whose economical 'bubble cars' had become hugely popular in the midst of the Suez fuel crisis. But when Britain's answer to the bubble car was launched in 1959, design snobs laughed at the MINI's trademark 'wheel at each corner' layout, while industry experts labelled its front-wheel drive engine (which left 80% of the Mini's floorpan for passangers and luggage) anachronistic. Those whose bought one, however, appreciated every bit of its creative design.
Besides, had the MINI have been designed like a 'normal' car it's unlikely anyone would remember it today - far less own one. Being 'Not Normal' is, it seems, what made the MINI a success. To celebrate this, you can watch the brilliantly art-directed 'MINI: Not Normal' video above. Oh and one last thing. The MINI isn't the only thing that has come a long way since late Fifties: the company is now owned and brilliantly-run by BMW. So well done, Germany... not a phrase you'd normally hear in Britain.