Back when I searched for my first Mini (see 2/11/2004 feature), I found it very confusing when it came to learning about the different models of Minis.
As a result, as part of the freebie “Minis 101” course mentioned above, we always took the time to point out – on Minis we had in our showroom – the different models and how to spot them. But that’s not what today’s feature is about…
After I got the bug to get a classic Mini, I turned to the Internet.
During my first searches, I stumbled on a message board for classic Minis. While “lurking” (sounds a little twisted, but it just means you are reading and not posting), I read a post where a guy said he had a “MK1.” When I read it, I didn’t know if he meant he had a classic Mini, or some other vehicle with that name. Searching that site – and using Google – for “MK1” didn’t help much. After a time, I discovered he was talking about the earliest models of Minis, built between the Mini’s initial 1959 launch up to about mid-’67.
He called his Mini a “MK1,” but it was a bit confusing when some called them a “mk1,” while others referred to them as “MKI,” “Mk1,” “mk1,” “mkI,” “Mk 1,” “Mark 1,” or “Mark I.” (On this site, the format we like is the most-commonly used “Mk1″style when designating various models).
So, in a nutshell, here is what a newbie should know, along with a spotter’s guide to the various models, including the Mk1, Mk2 and Mk3 types:
Mk1: (as pictured below; see white one)
Built between the Mini’s 1959 launch through about mid-1967. Has distinctive front “mustache” grille, so called because its shape looks a bit like a “handlebar-mustache” shape around the mouth-like grille, along with “whiskers” extending out under the front marker/turn signal lights. Mk1 doors have “external hinges” and “sliding” windows (although some countries such as Australia or Italy sometimes had “roll-up windows,” but here we’re going to go with the typical UK-built versions). The sliding windows have two pieces of glass that can be moved forward or back, or a combination of the two, to better control airflow. The bootlid (“trunk” for us Yanks) has unique license-plate holder that flips down when the bootlid is open while driving, such as when the (up-to-four, full-size) passengers and their luggage went traveling. Taillights are small and oval-shaped.
Here’s a link to one of the Mk1 Minis listed on our “Consignment-For Sale by Owner” pages: ID# 66YELLOWMK1.
Spotters Guide: For quick ID as it runs down road, look for moustache grille, external hinges, sliding windows and small oval taillights.
Mk2: (as pictured below; see “Saxon Green” Mini)
Generally, built between mid-’67 through the end of ’69. Still has external-hinge doors with sliding windows, but with taillights that are larger and rectangular-shaped, with two-color lenses (red and amber). Front grille is larger, with chrome “grille surrounds” that are fitted to the leading edge of bonnet (ie: what we call a “hood”), (versus no chrome on front of bonnet on Mk1 models), as well as to the sides, giving front end what looks like a larger “mouth.” There are no longer any whiskers extending under the front turn-signal lights. The rear window is also a bit wider, but not that you’d notice.
Here’s a link to a nice Mk2, but it’s already gone to its new home: ID# 69MK2CREME.
Spotters Guide: External-hinge doors with sliding windows, larger “mouth” for grille and larger, rectangular taillights.
Mk3: (as pictured at bottom; see the mustard – aka: “baby diaper yellow – Mini…)
Built starting in 1970. With minor changes, design stayed same for next 30 years, before production of classic Mini ended in year 2000. Big change was going to doors with rollup windows and internal hinges. Taillights (larger, rectangular) and grille (larger, mouth-like) remained same as Mk2 models.
Here’s a nice Mk3: ID# GREEN78MINI.
Spotters Guide: Rollup-window doors with internal hinges. Same grille and taillights as Mk2.
Mk3-plus: (not pictured)
Only minor changes in appearance over remaining years – all components that may be fitted to newer or older versions of the Mk3 and Mk3-plus. Basic body shell from ’70-2000, for the most part, is interchangeable. Taillights now three-color, with reverse light. At one point, side marker lights above front wheels. Wheel diameters changed from 10″ diameter to 12″; small, screw-on plastic “flares” (ie: wheel arches) added. Some Minis available with Minilite-style (8-spoke) alloy wheels. For some years, 13″ alloys available, along with wider wheel arches. As mentioned, Mk3-plus exterior mostly looked same as ’70 models.
The classic Mini is dubbed the “Mr. Potato Head” of cars, since pieces and parts from one model may be swapped with another. Mk1 grilles (and taillights, with a bit more work) may be fitted to Mk2-MK3-plus Minis, and vice versa. Flares may be added or removed. Wheel diameters/widths may be increased or decreased. Color schemes may be altered. Interiors and dashes may be swapped out, along with engines. I think you get the general idea…
Hope that helps… oh, and tell “Mark” that MiniGuy says hello…