Presnell suggests that this may have been the first and only prototype, it is badged as an Austin which was common for most of the Mini prototypes developed at Longbridge. XOJ registration numbers were used in Birmingham between November 1958 and May 1959. At this stage the design is fairly complete. If you ignore the tacky aftermarket hubcaps the main differences are that it has squared off corners to the rear windows and one piece side windows. Photographs of it from the rear show that the doors are solidly framed all around - possibly made of sheet aluminium with a structural timber frame, like the Morris Minor Traveller.
BMC were of course a mongrel crossbreed of former competitors - primarily Austin and The Nuffield Group (Morris). At that time there was a large number of dealers who held either Morris or Austin concessions and the buying public still held faithfully to the model of car they'd always bought. As a result most BMC cars came in more than one flavour (six in the case of the 1100). The Mini estates escaped the worst of this badge engineering, being marketed as either a Morris Mini Traveller, or an Austin Se7en Countryman (later Austin Mini Countryman). Both names were drawn from previous estates in the Mini's ancestry, most obviously the Morris Minor Traveller and the Austin A30 Countryman.
|1955 Austin A30 Countryman|
|1955 Morris Minor Traveller|
For several years, Morris and Austin Mini sedans were built in separate plants, Cowley turned out Morrises while Longbridge turned out Austins. However most of the variant Mini models, including the coopers, pickups, vans and estates were assembled at Longbridge, regardless of marque. The bodies were built, painted and trimmed by Fisher and Ludlow at their factory in Castle Bromwich, then transported to Longbridge by rail to have the mechanicals installed. In other words my Morris was built by Austin.
|Theo Page's wonderful cut-away drawing |
illustrated the Motorsport road test.
|Traveller at Earls Court 1960 - Image courtesy www.photoarchives.co.uk|
|Countryman sans "Miss Austin" |
The Countryman was displayed less dramatically, but perhaps equally eye catchingly, draped in a young model "Miss Austin", AKA Mandy Rice-Davies who went on to become a showgirl and friend of Christine Keeler of Profumo Affair infamy. Sadly the only picture I can find appears to have been taken after Miss Austin had finished for the day, however I did find a quote in "An Affair of State":
"The Mini was the most photographed car that year and many of the photographs show a cheeky, open-faced young girl with bobbed hair, thick black eyebrows, a turned-up nose and an appealing smile. Mandy was also photographed at receptions, cocktail parties, dinners, and on the way to lunch with the Mini's brilliant designer, Alex Issigonis."