“Mini” and Smaller Size Cars

by John Linhardt

Are “mini” and smaller size cars new to us? “mini” cars originally were introduced to save gas. The Nash “Metropolitan” produced in 1954 to 1955 and sister car #2 Metropolitan produced from 1954 to 1962, came in a hardtop and convertible. They had Nash Metropolitan labels, but were made by Austin in England with a body designed by “Pinin Farina” (Italian).

Other “minis” available at the time were a 3 wheeled “Messerschmitt” German car from the same company who built fighter planes. It was a 9.5 horsepower car built from 1955 to 1960 And seated two in tandem. BMW built an Isetta from 1955 to 1962 which was only 90 inches long. Other popular “mini” cars were the British Austin Minor and Austin Seven. Those were 120 inches long. They were only exported to the USA in 1960, but the 5 million sold were made 1959 to 2000.

Other smaller British cars I think of are MG TC-TD-TF from 1949 to 1955, then the MG “A” in 1956 and the “midget” MG starting in 1962. All “collector cars”, some roadsters fetching $30,000 at auctions, and even more.

My point is that smaller size cars, foreign and domestic were nothing new to America. We finally got on the smaller car bandwagon in the late 1950’s like the 1953 Corvette, starting slow, but today, America’s #1 selling sport car. Cars such as the 1960-1969 Corvair, American Austin Bantam started 1938-41 and were smaller, but failed, like the Hillman Minx from 1948—1966. GM’s Geo tried with a small “Metro” – “Prizm” and “Storm” from 1989 to 1997 produced in Japan, sold by Chevrolet to compete with Honda, Toyota and Nissan.

Nash tried again with a “Rambler” in 1954, a sporty Nash Healy from 1952-1953 (coupe and roadster) and others like AMC with the “Pacer”, “Spirit” & “Gremlin”. Plymouth tried it with “Valiant”. “Barracuda” and “Duster”/”Scamp”. Take a rare 1972 “Cuda” convertible or hardtop with the “top” engine and today’s collector market brings in starting figures of $500,000 and higher. Also any older “Corvettes with “big” motors or rare options bring in the “big” collector bucks.

One of the biggest failures of small cars was the 1986-1988 “Yugo”, an import with problems and locally dealers such as Mineola Ford, lost their shirts. Warranties tied up their Ford service areas and angered Ford Motor Company. These small cars were “bombs“!

Posted in Car Design.

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