Designing the first iteration of the modern Mini Cooper was no easy task, especially considering the Mini’s design remained relatively unchanged for over 40 years. When BMW acquired the Mini brand in 1994, it began a series of design studies with an effort on broadening the appeal of the iconic Mini Cooper. The resulting all-new Mini which debuted in 2000 needed to bring the classic Mini Cooper into the modern age without diluting its iconic design.
To take on the massive challenge, designer Frank Stephenson was brought to bear on this massive undertaking. Stephenson’s impressive resume includes the Maserati MC12, Ferrari F430, McLaren 12C, P1, 570S, and Fiat 500 shows his breadth of design experience to create and modernize iconic designs. The Mini Cooper design took place in the late 1990s and was a springboard for Stephenson’s career due to the resounding success of his redesign of this iconic hatchback.
When redesigning a classic car, several impactful factors control the ebb and flow of modern car design. Things like crash safety, manufacturing cost, and the tasteful inclusion of retro design elements are massive forces that control a designer's hand. Stephenson’s new Mini Cooper design is a perfect example of honoring the past when acknowledging the future.
The important elements of a classic Mini Cooper are still there. The round headlights, low wide stance, and front fender trimmings remain. But these classic elements are blended with more stylized body panels, a clever clamshell hood, and a reimagined three-tier design.
This blending of new and old created a special hatch that stands on its own as an iconic piece of design while remaining in the mini cooper family. Only time will tell if Stephenson’s new Mini Cooper will become a future classic, but the dedication of modern Mini owners indicates a strong possibility.