INVENTING AN AUSSIE MINI ICON.
When it comes to Australian cars, the ute usually comes out at the top of the list.
But despite the Mini’s popularity in Australia, the Mini ute never actually made it to the Australian production lines.
The Mini pick-up, as it was called, was released at the Geneva Motor Show in 1961 and went on sale in the UK that year at the same price as the Mini van, at £360.
It followed in some questionable footsteps – the Morris Minor pick-up had proved very successful, but Austin’s A35 pick-up was a complete failure.
The Mini had always been planned to include an estate version, which could easily be turned into a van and a pick-up model.
The van was released first, and the pick-up followed, with the same wheelbase and floorplan.
The van was incredibly popular and sold more than 500,000 models before it was discontinued.
The pick-up didn’t enjoy the same level of success but sold steadily enough to have its production run continued for 24 years.
According to Australian Mini expert Craig Watson, the Mini pick-up was never produced in Australia.
BMC considered there was still a market for the Mini van in Australia, but the pick-up was never considered viable in Australia, mainly due to the domination of the ute market by other car manufacturers.
Craig estimates that there are currently about a dozen Mini utes in Australia, either imported or modified vans.
“The most obvious difference is the rear panel is not completely vertical, as on the UK pick-up, but is slightly curved, because the van’s rear is angled,” Craig says.
Barry Luff’s ironically Australian Mini isn’t the product of design, but rather, pure chance.
Part of a family of motor mechanics in Gundagai, Barry’s father’s business was delivered a Mini Saloon that had been involved in an accident near the town in 1966.
The car went off the corner of a bridge and was in a state that was barely salvageable.
Rather than scrapping the car, the family cut the Mini off from behind the door hinges and put a flat tray onto the back, essentially turning it into a ute.
“Dad just said one day, we might cut the back off the Mini to use as a little runabout,” Barry says.
They then used it as a car for the business, and to carry children, who would jump out of the back to pick fruit and veggies around the town.
“Everyone who worked for us for lots of years drove that ute,” Barry says.
“It’s just been around forever.”