Italian job: Rooted in the UK but made for Italy

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Pick of the Day

We think of the Mini as a very British car and, indeed, it was designed in the UK and first manufactured there. But Minis also were produced in Australia, Spain, Belgium, Chile, Malta, Portugal, South Africa, Uruguay, Venezuela, Yugoslavia and Italy (and, currently, the Mini brand is part of the Germany-based BMW Group). 

The Pick of the Day is a 1986 Austin Mini, apparently one of those not-made-in-England British cars.

“This Mini was manufactured for the Italian market but was eventually sold to a German importer in the mid-’90s,” notes the car’s private seller advertising the car on ClassicCars.com. 

“The Mini arrived on US soil through Georgia around 2002 and lived in Atlanta for a few years before moving to Pennsylvania. I purchased it from its second US owner and brought it to North Carolina in 2016.”

The seller notes that it took some time to get the car fully registered because, “it turns out that the ‘t’ in classic vehicles’ VINs are commonly misinterpreted as an ‘S’.”

Engine closeup

Italian-produced Minis were built under British Leyland license by Innocenti as early as 1961. Innocenti was founded in 1920 and was well-known for its Lambretta motor scooters. British Leyland took control of Innocenti in the early 1970s. 

Soon, however, British Leyland was being saved by the British government and Alejandro de Tomaso gained control of the Italian company, which eventually was enfolded into Fiat.

“This Mini is in excellent condition and almost rust-free aside from some minor cosmetic spots as shown in the photos,” the seller says. 

“It’s been kept in a cool garage for most of its US life and has recently had some major repairs done to the engine, suspension and brakes.”

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Those “repairs” include a Stage 2 head by Minisport that allows the 998cc 4-cylinder engine to run on unleaded fuel. 

“I’ve installed new pushrods, valves, springs, rocker assembly, engine studs, and a copper head gasket,” the seller adds. “Compression on all cylinders is good (nearly matching), so the cylinders, pistons, rings, etc. should be in good shape. 

“I flushed the cooling system and replaced the radiator since the original was slowly leaking.

“I upgraded the front brakes with 8.4″ calipers and rotors, replaced the rear slave cylinders, pads, and rotors, and swapped the rubber brake lines for stainless steel. I also serviced front wheel bearings, knuckle joints, rubber boots, and cones.

“The Mini shifts through gears smoothly, and the shifter has very little slop. There are no significant oil or water leaks, although a tiny drop of oil will drip from the shifter linkage every once in a while. I installed a fresh set of tires recently.”

The odometer shows 94,514 miles.

The seller reports the gray cloth interior to be in good condition and sporting “a very ’80s look.”

Rear view

“The dashboard is unique and made out of real wood, although I can’t explain why.”

The car is located in High Point, North Carolina, and is offered for sale for $15,000.

To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.

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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

1 COMMENT

  1. The original Mini (mainly locally assembled) was very popular here in New Zealand up until local production ceased in the early eighties.
    Although l had one myself for a while (a 1974 1000cc Clubman in bright YELLow), my abiding memory Mini memory is of having my attention taken by a very attractive young woman (with very long legs and very short shorts) while l was lunching in a roadside diner.
    I realised with a jolt that she was screwing her (rental) Mini’s oil filler cap back on with one hand while holding a watering can in the other.
    I shot out there and asked her if she’d just filled the engine with water (pointing at the oil filler).
    She admitted that she had and then told me that her father had showed her under the hood of his Valiant back home in Australia, exactly where to put the oil and water and the tank that ran across the engine bay in the Mini looked closest to the radiator in her dad’s Valiant.
    I told her that when my buddy got back from inspecting the plumbing we would push the Mini the hundred yards up the road to the garage where the engine oil would have to be changed.
    I went back to the diner to finish my lunch.
    Evidently l failed to impress the seriousness of the situation on her because when her (equally spectacular) friend arrived back from ‘powdering her nose’ they had a conference, hopped in the car and drove it to the garage.
    You just can’t give some people good advice.

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