They may have only been meant to blow the doors off but the huge success of the 1969 film The Italian Job blew demand for the sporty little Mini completely out of park and beyond thanks to the incredible driving stunts and now legendary getaway scene.
At Dick Lovett MINI in Bristol, Bath, Swindon and Hungerford (near Andover and Newbury) our team knows exactly how much fun the new MINIs can be, but The Italian Job certainly gave the classic Mini it’s rightful place in the history books as a sporty and agile car.
Incredibly, the film’s star, Michael Caine, could not actually drive when the film was made. He is only seen as a passenger in the cars, so he missed out on the fun, go-kart handling of the original 1967 Mark 1 Austin Mini Cooper S!
Back then, the original Austin Mini Cooper S had four cylinders and a 1275cc engine, producing 75bhp and a top speed of 97mph. There was also hydrolastic suspension and a new combined ignition/starter switch to replace the original floor-mounted starter button of earlier models.
Cooper S models were also fitted with 120mph and later 130mph speedometers, while from 1966, the 1275cc Cooper S had its formerly optional twin fuel tanks fitted as standard.
By comparison, today’s MINI Cooper S comes in both 3 and 5-door options. The MINI Cooper S Classic 3dr comes with a 2-litres engine, does 0-60 in 6.8 seconds and has a top speed of 146mph.
There’s also ABS, electronic traction control, airbags, LED lights, air conditioning, cruise control, power steering and electric windows, all as standard.
But it can be argued that the fact the MINI Cooper and Cooper S are still bestselling cars today, some 60 years after the first Mini rolled off the production line, has a lot to do with the success of The Italian Job. The film itself will be celebrating its 50th anniversary this year just as MINI marks it’s own 60th anniversary.
A total of 16 classic Austin Minis were used to make the film - all in the red, white and blue colours of the Union Jack Flag. The film tells the story of a gang of cockney villains, led by small-time thief Charlie Croker, played by Michael Caine, who undertake a daring gold bullion robbery in the heart of Turin.
Legendary Police Chase in the Classic Austin Mini Cooper S
The movie’s lengthy police chase as the villains make their getaway is often voted as one of the best ever filmed - the three Minis were driven through a shopping mall, down pavements, down the steps of a cathedral, up on to the roof of a huge stadium, round a race track and across a river before thwarting the police by driving through a sewage pipe.
But despite a stellar cast and a soundtrack by Quincy Jones, the stars of The Italian Job were without doubt the three Mk1 Austin Mini Cooper S cars featuring unique 'Moustache' grill trim, sliding windows, external door hinges, early type boot locks, hinged number plates and hook-type door handles.
And in the hands of the film’s stunt drivers they became legends. Very few modifications were made to the cars for the stunts, largely due to their racing heritage. The only issue for the stunt team was the Minis’ low ground clearance - and algae.
The famous sewer scene, which sees the Minis evade police by driving through the sewer system, was filmed near Coventry where several miles of the Birmingham-Coventry sewer was being built. The drivers set out to complete a full 360 degree barrel roll inside the pipes but slippery algae meant three attempts ended with the cars rolling on to their roofs. A fourth attempt was ruled out.
The famous scene was recreated in 2001 using a new MINI Cooper to mark the completion of a new ten kilometre sewer in Hull.
So whether you choose a classic Mini from the 1960s or a new or an Approved Used MINI from more recent times, Dick Lovett MINI in Bristol, Bath, Swindon or Hungerford (near Andover and Newbury) can help you find the perfect car for your own MINI adventure.
We might not be able to offer a classic Italian Job Mini for sale or a stunt drive through the sewage system, but we do have a wide range of MINIs for sale, so get in touch today to discover more about the range and to book a leisurely test drive on more traditional highways.