28 Jan 2013

The Rocketman is the only Mini we care about

When Mini first introduced the Frank Stephenson* designed MINI in 2001 we were all very excited.  Despite being something of an overweight pastiche the new Mini was the car we had talked about and looked forward to for years.

And it was good.  OK, the interior was tiny, the back seats ridiculously small and it's suspension could rattle the fillings out of your teeth.  But it could handle.  It could zoom and nip and swerve and it was good looking too.  And, despite it's German parent, it felt British, looked British and was built in Britain.

BMW saw that we liked the Mini because we bought them in our droves.  And we paid lots of money for them.  Basic Minis were quite cheap but customers ordering a basic one would see their delivery date continually pushed further and further into the future until they caved in and bought one with an expensive Chili pack, which miraculously turned up the next day.

So they brought out more models.  The Cabriolet, the Clubman, the Countryman, the Roadster, the Clubvan.  And the special editions rolled out with increasing regularity.  Today they issued a press release to tell us about the brand new Mini Clubman Bond Street.  Which, if you parked it in Bond Street where there is no parking except at the roadside, anyone in the rear would have to alight in the middle of the road because it only has a rear door on the passenger side.

We don't care about the Clubman, nor the Countryman or Roadster.  Boring, boring, boring.  The only Mini we care about is the one they don't make.

The Rocketman.

Revealed at the Geneva Motor Show in February 2011 the Rocketman was finally a Mini to get excited about.  Only 1 foot longer than the original Issigonis Mini, the Rocketman had special foldy-outy doors,  a slidy-outy boot, a see though roof, and carbon fibre components, and a tiny 3 cylinder engine which could sip fuel at just 94mpg - or so we were told.  The Rocketman was innovative, funky and desirable.

For once it was a Mini that wasn't retro, it was futuristic.  It looked fun and fab.  But, despite wheeling it out for the Olympics, Mini haven't bothered any further with the Rocketman.

Instead we (don't) look forward to the dreary, fat Paceman which is a retro looking coupe, SUV, crossover thing.  And it's huge.  It's more Maxi than Mini.

Mini were once an inventive, forward looking company which sold retro looking, but still innovative vehicles by the bucketload.  Now it is an unimaginative, backward looking company which sells a huge range of bloated variations on the same theme by the bucketload.

They could sell a lot more if they brought us the Rocketman.  They would look cool again.  Just as other companies have a range of halo cars above the normal range that buyers aspire to, the Rocketman could be the halo car at the bottom of the range.  It would work.

Please Mini.  Bring out the Rocketman.  But give it a proper name.  Like Riley, which you still own.

* Look him up.  He also designed the Ferrari F430, Fiat 500 and McLaren MP4-12C