If you weren’t able to visit the BMW Museum to see “The MINI Story” exhibit before it closed last month, you can still read the companion book.
The MINI Story was edited by Andreas Braun, Curator of the BMW Museum, and published in cooperation with BMW and MINI. The book’s text is bilingual, each page’s left column written in German while the right column is in English. It’s a big and heavy book—it certainly can be classified as a coffeetable book—measuring in at 12.9″ wide by 10.9″ tall by 1.0″ thick. It contains 236 pages, many filled with full-page photographs taken by automobile photographer Erik Chmil. The “Words of Welcome” is by Peter Schwarzenbauer, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, and the Forward is by Gabriele Fink, Director of the BMW Museum in Munich.
From the inside cover description:
The MINI is a Legend. Its success story began in 1956 when the British Motor Corporation commissioned engineer Alec Issigonis to develop a revolutionary small car offering the maximum interior space on a minimum footprint. Three years later the task was realized brilliantly, and in 1959 the first Mini rolled off the production line. At just 3.05 metres long and 1.41 metres wide the car seated four passengers and had a boot capacity of 195 litres. It was the birth of the first small car that was not just tiny but that also fulfilled all the functions of a ‘grown-up’ automobile.
But the Mini was more than just a miracle of space. It was a car unlike all others that defied convention and created a lot of driving fun into the bargain. It embodied the spirit of the Swinging Sixties, becoming a cult object almost overnight. As a star of the rallying world the Mini claimed many legendary victories.
A new chapter in the history of this small car was opened in 1994 when BMW AG acquired the brand. With the launch of the first new MINI in 2001 the foundation stone of future MINI generations was laid. Alongside all the adjustments for modern technology and comfort, the essential characteristics of the original Mini were preserved. A timeless classic in the history of the car, after more than 50 years the MINI still represents an innovative concept of space, youthful design, unconventionality and its own MINI lifestyle.
The content of the book is divided into six broad chapters:
- Identity and Lifestyle
- Design and Technology
- The New MINI
Despite the book’s large size—and due to the book’s duel languages—it doesn’t go into too much depth in any of its topics. Again, consider that this is a picture book written as much to entertain as to inform. It’s also, of course, a bit of a marketing tool, often reading like a press release. There is fascinating information inside and the full-page drawings and photographs are excellent. The book would be worth buying for the images alone, you’ll be tempted to cut them out to hang on the wall.
Identity and Lifestyle is perhaps a strange subject to begin an automotive book, but this is Mini. “MINI in Advertising” is the very first topic with the first image being one of the newest ads, the “Spot the Difference” ad for the new MINI 5 Door. But that’s it for the MINI, the next few pages taken up by images of classic Mini ads. The chapter continues with “MINI at the Movies”, “MINI in Art”, “The Swinging Sixties”, and “Fashion”.
After covering MINI’s cultural impact, the book moves onto more traditional ground with a brief historical overview of the brand. After a two-page timeline, the chapter starts with a look at “The Logo” and “Brand Identity”. Again, a heavy marketing influence in the choice of topics. No MINI book would be complete without a biography of Sir Alec Issigonis and this one presents his life and achievements in yet another timeline. Further topics include “The First Mini”, A Miracle of Space”, “The Classic Models”, “Community”, and “Individuality” all broken into bite-size bits.
MINI enthusiasts know the brand has had a long success story in rallies and on the track. Chapter 3 covers Mini’s success in the 1960s highlighting the three Monte Carlo wins, of course. Intertwined are more modern racing topics including the MINI Challenge series and success at Dakar. Finally, there are mini bios of racing drivers Rauno Aaltonen, Paddy Hopkirk, Timo Mäkinen, Niki Lauda, and Stéphane Peterhansel.
Perhaps the best chapter in the book is the one covering Design and Technology. Focusing on the design of the new MINI, the book gives a fascinating look into exterior and interior design of the MINI and goes over the iconic design features and the overall philosophy. After “Design”, topics include “Growing up”, “Design Process”, and “Design Sketches”. At this point the glossy pages give way to an unnumbered section of matte pages with beautiful full-page design sketches from designers like Frank Stephenson, Tony Hunter, Marcus Syring, Henning Holstein, and others.
Back into the main text, the chapter continues with an overview on “Production” and a surprisingly brief run-through of “The Engine” of each MINI generation. More specifications here would have been appropriate and appreciated. Again, the choice of content is aimed at the casual reader and is not an in-depth study of the cars. Despite the chapter title, there was very little technology hightlighted here.
While much of the content so far is about the new MINI, Chapter 5 is explicitly titled “The New MINI”. It begins with another timeline covering the BMW era from 1994 to the present. Again, there are bite-sized sections on MINI concepts and models including: MINI ACV 30, Spiritual, the new MINI, MINI Convertible, MINI Concept Geneva (Clubman), MINI Clubman/Clubvan, MINI Coupé Concept, MINI Countryman, MINI Beachcomber Concept, MINI Rocketman Concept, MINI Roadster, MINI Pacemen, MINI XXL (stretch limousine), MINI Superleggera, and the new MINI Clubman Concept.
The rest of the book from page 156 on contains only photographs. Chapter 6 is exactly what its title implies: a “Gallery” of color and black & white photos. The only text is the model name and year at the bottom of some pages. Many of these pages are ones you want to cut out and put in a picture frame. There is a good mix of artistic and journalistic photographs.
If you want a thorough chronological history or detailed information about Mini and MINI models, this isn’t the book for you. But if you want an entertaining and visually-pleasing read, with official and authentic MINI inside information, you’ll want to add this book to your collection. While you can read The MINI Story cover-to-cover, this is a book best read in short bursts. Buy the book, put it on your livingroom table, and pick it up any time you need a dose of MINI reading.