Mini was quick to offer customers practical everyday workhorses like the Van and Pick-up. But fans had to wait quite a lot longer to sample the unfettered pleasures of a convertible. That day finally arrived in 1992 at the British Motor Show in Birmingham, with deliveries commencing the following year. The “world’s smallest four-seat convertible” was solidly built – and a bit of a looker, you’d likely agree. The jaunty little car with the sunny disposition took to everyday life with the alacrity of any other Mini, but also offered owners the type of open-top appeal that could magically turn a frown upside down.
The classic Mini proved to be a master of transformation from an early age. Young families used the hatch and estate as economical everyday conveyances. For congestion-plagued city dwellers, the Mini was the ideal runabout. Tradesman found the Van and Pick-up to be canny little sidekicks with a mighty capacity for graft. Racing and rally drivers fattened their trophy collections in the sporting Mini and had a hoot at the wheel in the process. And let’s not forget the Riley Elf / Wolseley Hornet, they of cheeky notchback and interior bathed in traditional British luxury, in which one could scoot along nicely to one’s country residence. The missing piece in the jigsaw was a convertible, with only a folding fabric sunroof – albeit a very pretty one – available hitherto for the breaks between showers. That all changed in 1992.
Convertible bodies can be awkward customers.
You’re traditionally asking for trouble when you chop the roof off a monocoque body; the poor little mites go a little wobbly. Indeed, as you can see by opening a door, all that connects the front of a car with a self-supporting body with its rear is a floor panel – and one that, generally speaking, is lacking in muscle for the job at hand. Life was much easier for the previous construction-du-jour, with its burly old frame. But to transform a diminutive modern twinkle-toes like the Mini into a convertible required a degree of bolstering for the floorpan. Step forward German Rover dealer Lamm (based in the town of Kappelrodeck near Achern) in 1991 to develop a subframe that would jolly things along. Lamm built a 75-strong batch of these convertible Minis, which were put on sale by Rover in the UK – and promptly flew off the shelves. Appetites suitably whetted, the prototype convertibles provided the template for the one and only volume-production version of the soft-top classic Mini.
Karmann in Osnabrück: a tradition of convertible-building.
The Mini was unveiled at the 1992 British Motor Show in Birmingham as the world’s smallest four-seat convertible, 33 years after the birth of the core Mini model. The drop-top car was produced by Karmann in Osnabrück, a firm that could already look back on a long history of convertible-building. These, then, were the perfect people to turn the classic Mini into a car of even sunnier disposition.
Luxury in the latecomers.
The later Minis were undeniably the best. There was more technology, more tools and toys, and more luxury. The convertible Mini rode on stout 12-inch alloy wheels and low-profile tyres, which nestled under painted wheel-arch extensions and side skirt mouldings. The nose of the car escorted the airflow to where it wanted it via a spoiler with integrated auxiliary spots. And the whole shebang was powered down the road by a 1.3-litre four-cylinder engine with Single Point Injection and 63 hp, which was sufficient for any mountain passes or race circuits its owner might fancy a dabble over. The soft-top roof rested on the rear ledge, in textbook fashion, a cover protecting it from unseemly grime. It was a handsome thing to behold and a doddle to raise and retract. The Mini Cabriolet was available in two colour combinations: Nightfire Red with a red hood and Caribbean Blue including roof in grey. In 1995 Caribbean Blue was superseded by British Racing Green (also with a grey roof).
The interior appointments were the same in all cars, the cloth upholstery Granite Grey.
Priced at 28,900 marks in 1993, the open-top Mini was not exactly the budget option, but then neither were other small convertibles of the time. The sun-drenched pleasure lasted only three years, the plug pulled in 1996 with 1,081 examples built. Indeed, driving a classic Mini with the roof down today represents a rare and exclusive pleasure – a summer dream of sorts. Perhaps it really was too good (and too gorgeous) to be true.
The feel-good machine in Nightfire Red. The open-top Mini claimed the title of the world’s smallest convertible four-seater.
The roof was protected by a cover when folded down, giving the Mini some suitably classical cabriolet lines.
The frameless side windows sealed up very effectively, while the strengthened B-pillars – to which the seatbelts were attached – provided the requisite rigidity.
Open for sun-drenched pleasure. Here in British Racing Green, the open-top model captured the hearts and stirred the emotions of Mini fans with a flair none of its siblings could match.
Exquisite and luxurious. Inherent practicality aside, the interior of this particular Mini offered a whiff of British aristocracy, with its swathes of wood and leather.
Unmistakable as a Mini with the roof up as well. The form of the roof mimicked that of the standard model. If the body was specified in British Racing Green, it would always come in grey.
With the roof closed, the Mini Cabriolet provided all the protection from the elements of the hardtop car and could easily be used all year round. Not that many owners subjected it to the rigours of winter dirt and snow.