Why you’d want one
The launch of the Metro – which was meant to replace the Mini – led to the 22-year old legend being reduced to just three 1000 models: the base City, the upgraded HL and the HL Estate, the last retaining the Clubman front end.
It gained the A+ engine and improved transmission of the Metro and, while it was out of date in many respects, Motor concluded: “Its combination of diminutive dimensions, panoramic visibility, eager engine, snappy gearchange and scampering manoeuvrability still make it a cheekily effective town car which is great fun to drive.”
Vans and pick-ups were still built for fleets, and Moke production carried on in Australia, then Portugal from 1984. The Mini continued to make profits during the dark BL days, and demand, especially in Japan, kept it alive.
Under the revamped Rover Group, the Mini finally got the attention it deserved and progressively became a bespoke car, with a multitude of special editions, some only for export: Sprite (1983); Mini 25 (’84); Ritz (’85); Chelsea and Piccadilly (’86); Park Lane and Advantage (’87); Designer, Red Hot, Jet Black, Belfast and Brighton (’88); Racing, Flame, Rose, Sky and 30 (’89); Cooper, Racing Green, Checkmate and Studio 2 (’90); Neon, Cabriolet, After Eight and Twinings (’91); British Open Classic, Italian Job and Woodbury (’92); Rio, Tahiti, Cosmopolitan and Silverstone (’93); Monte Carlo, Cooper Grand Prix and 35 (’94); Sidewalk, Tartan and Silver Bullet (’95); Equinox, Kensington and Blue Star (’96); Cooper S Touring and Sports 5 (’97); Paul Smith, Cooper Sports LE, Monza, Brooklands and Lapagayo (’98); 40, Cooper S Works and John Cooper (’99); Classic Se7en, Classic Cooper, Classic Cooper Sport, Knightsbridge and Cooper Sport 500 (2000).
John Cooper, then a Honda dealer, began selling Cooper upgrades to Japan in the late ’80s and making special-edition Coopers, prompting Rover to bring it back in 1990 first as a limited edition, then a production model. John’s tuned cars continued as the Cooper S.
Minis are still actively raced in series such as Mighty Minis, Mini 7 and Mini Miglia, and they have an enormous following with superb spares availability, clubs and forums.
Unfortunately, rot can be even worse than on early cars, so checking for this – and for the quality of past repairs – is the number-one priority when buying.
See image above for trouble spots
The stronger A+ engine was unleaded-compatible from ’89 (earlier engines will need hardened valve seats, c£300 exchange). Look for heavy breathing (remove the oil filler cap, also checking for emulsion indicating water contamination) and blue smoke; knocking from the bottom end indicates that a rebuild is needed.
The SU carb gave way to single-point fuel injection on Coopers in ’91, and multi-point on all models in ’96. They are reliable, but not readily tunable.
The remote gearchange that arrived in 1973 was much improved and allowed the fitment of Jack Knight’s five-speed conversion, a desirable option (standard on Cooper S Works models). All Minis had 12in wheels from 1984, which were considered to give the best handling, with 13in rims on late Sports Pack cars.
Suspension balljoints wear and subframe mounts go hard with age, but rot is the main priority: later cars were more rust-prone than early ones.
A vast range of trim options was offered; some materials are available, some aren’t, so check supply before you buy if originality is important.
The full-width dashboard was miles away from early Mini simplicity (only the ’80s City still had a central speedo); check for damp damage to the wood.
On the road
Additional equipment and soundproofing mean that late Minis are heavier than their predecessors, and modern emissions requirements made things worse – though fuel injection went some way to restoring the balance and John Cooper got useful performance out of his Cooper S models.
All Minis still have sharp handling and should feel like motorised rollerskates – this unique blend of superb steering feel and great cornering endeared them to a new generation of owners.
A car that doesn’t feel sharp definitely needs attention – though parts are inexpensive, so it shouldn’t be a deal-breaker: body condition is far more important. Brakes should be effective; if not, rebuilding is straightforward. Clicking on cornering is a worn CV joint (£31 to replace).
A thump on taking up/lifting off drive indicates worn engine stabiliser bushes: it’s easily sorted, but if neglected can cause costly damage to components being hit or twisted under the bonnet. Oil leaks are common, but are now an MoT fail if drips are present, so will need rectifying.
Many cars have been modified, so verify what you’re buying is what it claims to be, and check the engine number against the V5 and online: A+ 998s start ‘99H’, 1275s start ‘12A’.
The transmission was also strengthened for the Metro and even the auto (three-speed from 1992) can be fun to drive; check that both change gear cleanly. An exchange reconditioned manual gearbox is £600-722, while Hardy Engineering will rebuild an automatic for around £2000.
What to pay
- Show/rebuilt: £10,000
- Average: £4000
- Restoration: £1000
- Show/rebuilt: £18,000
- Average: £6500
- Restoration: £2500
- Show/rebuilt: £25,000
- Average: £14,000
- Restoration: £7000
1980 MkIV Mini: 1-litre A+ engine/’box, 7.5-gal tank, tartan trim; City, 1000HL and Estate
1982 Estate build ends; City E/1000HLE added, with high compression/final drive; HLE replaced by Mayfair in Sept, with headrests & tinted glass
1984 MkV: 12in rims, wide arches, front discs
1989 Engines become unleaded-compatible
1990 MkVI: 998cc engine discontinued, all Minis get 1275cc (52bhp); Cooper reintroduced first as special edition then production model, with 1275cc, 61bhp, Minilites; ERA Turbo with 96bhp
1991 John Cooper reintroduces Cooper S with 78bhp; single-point fuel injection for Cooper 1.3i (63bhp) and Si (77bhp, 10.2 secs 0-60mph)
1992 City becomes Sprite, with Metro-type seats; Mayfair Cabriolet added (c300 built)
1993 Mayfair gets wood dash & leather seats
1996 MkVII: all get 63bhp, multi-point injection, electronic management, airbag, pre-tensioners, side-impact beams, higher final drive, two-speed heater, optional 13in alloys; John Cooper offers S/S Works (90bhp, 102mph, 8.9 secs 0-60)
1997 Sports Pack and Chrome Pack options 2000 Mini production ends in October
The owner’s view
“I bought my 35th Anniversary Edition Mini in 2016,” says Aviv Screwvala. “I wanted right-hand drive with air-con and no rust – everything else on a Mini can be fixed.
“It’s a 1996 car that had only done 55,000 miles with one owner in Japan. Most Japanese Coopers were autos, but this is a manual and came with a full service history. It had been converted to soft coilovers but I put it back to original rubber suspension.
“I was curious about what it meant to drive the most iconic British car – I think it gives me street cred. My fiancée wasn’t keen before, but now she loves it. Driving the Mini in London instantly transforms you into a celebrity – I feel like a pseudo rock star!
“You form an emotional attachment – that’s the key; I’ve been offered double what I paid for it, but I can’t sell it.”
Giugiaro’s answer to the Mini was a beacon of rugged simplicity, with beam axle, leaf springs and 652-1108cc engines. Gaining popularity, led by the 4x4 (above left).
1980-2003 • c4,500,000 built • Price now £500-3000
Launched as a three-door with 1.0/1.1 carb engines, the 106 soon got fuel injection, a fivedoor option and bigger units. No-frills Rallye (above right) is a Cooper rival.
1991-2003 • 2,798,200 built • Price now £150-5000
Rover Mini: the Classic & Sports Car verdict
The Mini is a motoring icon worldwide: any model from a base 1980 1000 City to a last-of-the-line Cooper S is a ticket to fun motoring, a great fellowship of enthusiasts, smiles wherever you drive and terrific parts and repair back-up.
Buy a good one, or budget for restoration and beware of extreme rot: look after a Mini and it will go on appreciating in value while you enjoy it.
- The last of the ‘real’ Minis, with a fun factor that beat all period rivals
- Late cars have all mod cons
- Unparalleled parts and support
- Late cars are ‘too modern’ for some
- Rust can be horrendous
- Fuel injection adds complexity
Sold/number built 1980-2000 779,035
Construction steel monocoque
Engine all-iron, ohv 998/1275cc ‘four’, single/ twin SU carbs or single/multi-point injection
Max power 39bhp @ 4750rpm63bhp @ 5500rpm
Max torque 50lb ft @ 2500rpm-70lb ft @ 3000rpm
Transmission four-speed manual or four/threespeed automatic, FWD
Suspension rubber-cone springs, telescopic dampers, front transverse arms, tie rods; rear trailing arms
Steering rack and pinion
Brakes 7in drums (82/5in front discs from ’84)
Length 10ft-10ft 1in (3050-3068mm)
Width 4ft 71/2 in-5ft 1in (1410-1560mm)
Height 4ft 5in (1346mm)
Wheelbase 6ft 8in (2032mm)
Weight 1331-1606lb (605-730kg)
Top speed 81-90mph
Price new £5330/7150 (Sprite/Cooper, 1992)