ADO 15 (for Austin Design Office model 15) was introduced to the public in August 1959 in standard saloon/sedan form under the Austin and Morris badges as the Austin Seven and Morris Mini Minor. The Seven name was dropped early during the Mk I run and the Minor name only lasted until the end of the Mk I Minis. The cars became simply the Austin Mini and Morris Mini. Some countries, like the U.S., received the cars badged as Austin 850 and Morris 850.
During the eight year run, there were many detailed changes up until October 1967 (when the Mk II took the Mk I’s place). New models were introduced. Interiors changed. Exterior paint schemes and trim changed. Seven different engines were offered. Two major suspensions. Five different braking systems. The list is lengthy.
Common to all the Mk I Minis were the exterior door hinges, sliding windows, smaller oval tail lights, and the rear, swinging license plate holder. There were more than half dozen grille variations but they all had the moustache and whiskers surrounding the half-oval grille attached to the body only.
Engines were originally only 848ccs, but 997 and 998cc Cooper, 998cc non Cooper, and 970, 1071 and 1275cc Cooper S engines were added. These engines were the A-series type as were all Mini engines up until roughly 1980 when the A+ version was introduced. (See “A versus A+” in “Identifying Minis by Engine/Power Unit.”)
The gearboxes had many internal variations and improvements, but were always four speeds with no synchromesh on first gear. The 848cc engines used the “magic wand” gear shift with the long lever coming out of the floor towards the front of the foot well. The Cooper and Cooper S used the remote shift mechanism with the lever back between the two front seats. An automatic gearbox was introduced as an option in May 1965.
All the saloons changed to the hydrolastic suspension starting in September 1964. This commonly called “wet” suspension was originally intended for the Mini right from the beginning, but that didn’t happen, and it was introduced on the ADO16 cars first (1100s).
Front brakes for cars with the 848cc engine went to dual leading shoes in September 1964; although, they remained a single line system. The Cooper introduced small, 7” disc brakes when the 997 was first marketed in 1961. The Cooper brakes changed slightly a couple of times including improved calipers for the 998 Cooper. The Cooper S from the start in March 1963, used the much better 7.5” front disc brakes (servo assisted ) with rear drums incorporating a spacer to match the front track increase of the discs.
The Van was the second version of the Mini to be introduced when it appeared in January of 1960. It had the same longer wheel base of the later Estates and Pick-ups, but had the fuel tank under the rear floor right from the beginning instead of like the early Estates with the tank inside the car. Power was through the basic 848cc engine and gearbox with the magic wand shifter.
The Van was a two-seater only, but for a while a rear seat conversion was available.
The Van, like the Pick-up introduced later, had a one piece front panel with the grille part of the stamping rather than being a removable item. This continued right through the entire production run; although, it was not uncommon for owners to cut the panel out and replace it with a standard grille – either for looks or engine access, or both.
Also, like the Pick-up and Estate, the Van retained the standard (“dry”) suspension, not converting to the hydrolastic (“wet”) suspension with the Saloons in September 1964.
The Estate Minis (Station Wagons in US-speak) in the form of the Austin Seven Countryman and Morris Mini Traveller were introduced in September 1960, as the third body style to be released. These longer wheel based (LWB) Minis came with wood trim on the exterior and are commonly known as Woodies.
Like the Saloons, the Seven name was dropped early during the Mk I run, and the Minor name was dropped at the end of the Mk I run.
The earliest Estates had the fuel tank located inside the cabin behind the left rear wheel well. This was soon moved to an under floor position behind the rear subframe – the same place as used for the other two LWB Minis, Van and Pick-up, right from their introduction.
By October 1962, the Estates could be purchased without the exterior wood trim making the cars cheaper, but they were still Countryman and Traveller depending upon whether Austin or Morris.
The Estates followed closely the changes to other 848cc Minis of the period with the major exception being that they stayed with the standard (“dry”) suspension not converting to the hydrolastic (“wet”) suspension with the Saloons in September 1964.
Following after the Estates, the Pick-ups were introduced in January 1961, as the fourth body style. They were the third long wheel based (LWB) Mini.
Like the Estate and Van, the Pick-up used the 848cc engine and gearbox with the magic wand shifter. And like the Van, the grille was part of the front stamping and was not a separate piece. This continued right through the entire production run.
Also, like the Estate and Van, the Pick-up retained the standard (“dry”) suspension, not converting to the hydrolastic (“wet”) suspension with the Saloons in September 1964.
The Moke was the sixth body style (the Riley Elf and Wolseley Hornet were fifth) and was the last of the body style variations (until the 1990s Cabriolets – unless one wants to count the Clubman). Introduced in 1964, this was the shortest of the factory Minis (by ¼”!) and looked much like a Jeep run through the clothes dryer under too hot a setting!
Under development almost from the very beginning of the Mini, it didn’t measure up to its designed task as a light military vehicle, but, once introduced to the public, it caught on as a cult car.
The wheel base was the same as the saloons and the engine and transmission were the standard 848cc, magic wand arrangement.
The Mokes were produced with the standard, dry suspension only. No conversion to hydrolastic was made.
Another great article by www.minimania.com