Celebrity Classic Mini Owners
In April 1959, the British Motor Corporation unveiled the Mini to the international press. To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the world's most popular small car, we look at ten famous owners.
Actor Steve McQueen was a renown motoring enthusiast and racer. ‘The King of Cool’ owned cars including a Jaguar XKss as well as many classic motorcycles. In 1967, it is reported that McQueen purchased a Mini Cooper S from John Cooper. They had met on the set of the movie ‘The War Lover‘. McQueen was already familiar with the Mini having purchased a Cooper Formula Junior racer in 1961. The 1967 Mini had several special features requested by McQueen including a wooden dashboard (complete with with SMITHS instruments), a recessed, retractable antenna, and a single fog light. McQueen repainted the bodywork metallic brown with a beige top.
Actor Peter Sellers loved cars. His car ownership including Ferrari 500 Superfast, a 275 GTB and a 250 GT/E, as well as Bentleys and Rolls-Royces. Sellers had first found fame in The Goon Show and became a household name in the highly successful The Pink Panther series of films. In 1963, Sellers acquired a Morris Mini Cooper. However, this was a Morris Mini Cooper unlike any other having been converted by Hooper Motor Services Ltd. Sellers spent £2,600 on turning his Morris Mini Cooper into a luxury car.
The ultimate accolade for any car manufacturer is when another motoring giant is seen driving your car. Enzo Ferrari acquired a Mini Cooper in the early 1960s and sources claimed that the car was personally delivered by Alec Issigonis, the car designer who developed the Mini. Ferrari’s Mini had metallic paint and quarter lights on the doors. He is reported to have said that the Mini was one of his favourite cars and he is believed to have several.
The television comedy series Mr. Bean was first shown on 1st January 1990. The madcap antics of the lead character would prove to delight audiences across the world. Written by Rowan Atkinson and Richard Curtis, Mr. Bean was visual comedy at its best and a 1976 Mini 1000 played a major part. Atkinson is a renown motoring enthusiast and he used his excellent driving skills to deliver some fantastic car-based humour such as when he tried to exit a car park without paying.
American actor James Garner is famous for his many film roles including The Great Escape and the television series Maverick and The Rockford Files. Garner purchased his 1966 Mini Cooper ‘S’ whilst filming The Great Escape in Europe. His Mini was coach built by Harold Radford of London and had a stunning mid-blue to silver paint scheme. In an interview with Car & Driver magazine in May 2012, an interviewer asked Garner: “Of the cars you’ve owned over the years, is there any one you regret selling?” and Garner answered: “I wish I’d held onto my pale-blue 1966 Mini Cooper. After shooting The Great Escape in Germany, Steve McQueen and I both brought Minis home with us—they had to be among the first imported to the U.S. Steve was my next-door neighbor, and we’d race them up and down our street. I loved that little car and could do anything with it.”
Twiggy was a British cultural icon and a prominent teenage model in the swinging sixties. Whenever her name is mentioned, people think of mini skirts, brightly patterned dresses and a cropped short ‘mod-style- haircut. So is it very appropriate that she drove another sixties icon, the Mini Cooper ‘S’. Twiggy’s association with the Mini was reborn in a 2007 Marks & Spencer advert. In the promotion, Twiggy and several other models are filmed and photographed alongside a 1960 Morris Mini repainted in pink with large pale flowers.
In 1965, The Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein purchased four Mini Cooper ‘S’ cars for each of the band members. The cars were upfitted by Harold Radford with luxurious interiors including wooden dashboards (featuring SMITHS instruments).
George Harrison’s Mini went on to feature in the 1967 movie Magical Mystery Tour, although now sporting a psychedelic red and gold colour scheme. The Mini also had a full-length sunroof, Volkswagen tail lights and hood-mounted fog lamps. After the movie, Harrison gave the car to his friend Eric Clapton. The Mini was returned to Harrison who kept it until his death in 2001.
Paul McCartney’s Mini Cooper ‘S’ was finished in Aston Martin California Sage Metallic Green and had Aston Martin rear lights. There were halogen headlamps and built-in fog lamps that retracted into the grille. A comfortable black leather interior added to the luxury. McCartney’s Mini was sold at auction for $236,500 (£182,000) in 2018.
In 2017, the Mini owned by Ringo Starr by purchased, at auction, by Spice Girl Geri Halliwell for £102,000. Ringo’s Mini was truly unique as it had been converted to a hatchback so he could put his drum kit in the back. The Mini was finished in two-tone Rolls-Royce Regal Red/silver-grey.
John Lennon’s Mini Cooper ‘S’ was completely black, including the windows and bumpers. Of the four Beatles Minis, the whereabouts of Lennon’s car is unknown although it is rumoured that the car was exported to the USA and then given to his-then butler.
The present day BMW designed Mini has been exceptionally popular and is a common sight on roads all over the world. However, it is the original Mini car that holds a special affection for millions of enthusiasts. SMITHS is very proud to have been an integral part of the 60-year Mini story.
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