Here was a car of diminutive size, which could actually carry four adults along with some light luggage. It was introduced into Australia in 1961 by BMC apparently with low expectations for its success. After all, here was a small car, ideal for urban areas, competing in a market where large was regarded as 'best', and where far greater travelling distances were the norm. The success of the Mini in Australia came as a surprise for BMC, despite the local market having been a bastion for British brands for several decades.
Upon launch the Mini for all its practical attributes still harboured numerous faults that were exasperated by the local market. To their credit BMCs Australian engineers were quicker to respond to customer complaints, especially as Austin Lancer and Morris Major sales rapidly declined in the face of the success of the Volkswagen Beetle.
Mini sales quickly exceeded 14,000 in Australia and BMC in a bid to further grow the market, and to keep existing customers happy, were prepared to allow local development of the Mini. Accordingly, Australian Mini buyers gained some of the best manufactured Minis in the world!
There followed an intense local development program that quickly resolved problems that were plaguing Mini in Britain, and delivering a higher spec, better built vehicle. The first Minis sold here were badged as the Morris 850 and were an amalgam of the basic and deluxe versions sold in England. Many issues were addressed in locally produced Mini's, including rusting painted grilles - replaced with a chrome grille - poor life of brass hinges - replaced with stronger Australian steel hinges - sagging seats, suspension collapse and even stone damage - all improved with local solutions.
Perhaps the crowning moment for Mini in Australia - certainly pre-BMW ownership - was the brilliantly conceived and executed 1965 Mini De Luxe. This was the first Mini that actually badged as a Mini and included the best of what was available in overseas markets. First up the De Luxe was equipped with the superior riding hydrolastic fluid suspension used on the Morris 1100, it was powered by the 998cc engine and borrowed remote gearshift from the Mini Cooper, a turn key starter switch replaced the starter button, and seats from the Wolseley 24/80 model were vastly superior, offering comfort and support. The De Luxe was also the first Mini in the world to boast wind-up windows, and using the Mini Cooper grille further enhanced its good looks. The Mini De Luxe was an instant success with sales exceeding 18,000 per annum. BMC assembled Wolseleys, Austin Freeways and MGBs in the same factory, so it was relatively easy to 'pick and choose' from these models superior trim and carpet for the Mini at the same time. The result being that the Australian built Mini De Luxe was perhaps the most civilised and certainly the most superior outfitted Mini available in the world.