Italian Hatch: 1982 Innocenti Mini

The original Mini became a legend because it provided surprising performance in a small and efficient package. Like the humble VW Beetle, it was also a car that was the perfect foundation for all manner of custom and performance upgrades. One of the more practical upgrades was performed by the Italian company Innocenti. They introduced a re-bodied version that brought with it the practicality of a hatchback. This 1982 Innocenti is one of those cars, and it is one that I believe that we might have seen a few years ago here at Barn Finds. It is located in Flanders, New Jersey, and has been listed for sale here on eBay. It is a little car that has generated big interest because there have already been 33 bids submitted. This has pushed the price along to $7,100. With the reserve now met, a new home is beckoning this fantastic little car. I need to say a big thank you to Barn Finder Kyle K for referring the vehicle through to us.

One of the most challenging aspects of the original Mini ownership experience was accessing the trunk. Because it opened low at the back of the car, it required a lot of crouching and bending to access items stored there. This is okay if you happen to be young and fit. However, as you get older and lose a bit of flexibility, this can become a problem. The Innocenti went some way towards addressing this by introducing a hatchback design. You can be sure that there were plenty of potential owners who were pretty happy to see that. If you squint your eyes, you can still see that this is a car that is based on a Mini. However, the design is much sharper and more modern than the original. Whether it is better is a matter of personal taste. The body is in good condition, with no noticeable dings or dents. Rust is not an issue, with the supplied photos of the underside looking particularly clean. The paint shines well, and if this is a car that we’ve seen in the past, it has been treated to a repaint before 2016. The trim and glass are in good condition, while the Innocenti rolls on its original alloy wheels.

The listing throws some confusion over the year model for this car. While it is listed as a 1980 model, the owner assures us that it is a 1982. It is that confusion and this photo that has led me to believe that we saw this vehicle featured in this excellent article written by our own Jamie Palmer back in 2016. Back then, the car was also being offered as a 1980 model. That was my first clue, but in my mind, this photo seals the deal. Both cars wear a distinctive valve cover, and both feature some matching additional wiring in the engine bay. That makes me believe that they are the same car. If I am right, then this little classic has undergone a substantial amount of work in the past. Under the hood, we find the 1,275cc BMC A-Series engine that would pump out 76hp. In Mini tradition, these horses find their way to the front wheels via a 4-speed manual transmission. At 18.2 seconds, the journey down the ¼ mile is not that fast. However, it does compare favorably with many larger cars of the era. If this is a repeat performance for this car, then we know that it has received an engine rebuild in the past. A new clutch and shocks have been fitted, while the subframes have received a POR-15 treatment. With that in mind, it is no great surprise to learn that the vehicle runs and drives perfectly and that everything functions as it should.

The interior of the Mini presents well, and if this is the car that I believe it to be, it has received some restoration work in the past. This would explain why the seats look faultless because new covers were fitted in around 2016. The remaining upholstery and trim are in good order, while there are no issues with the carpet. By the 1970s, the original Mini dash was beginning to look dated, but the Innocenti version addressed these shortcomings. The appearance is more modern and square, with easy-to-read gauges directly in front of the driver. Aftermarket additions include a Moto-Lita steering wheel and a fire extinguisher. In keeping with its humble and somewhat austere roots, the car doesn’t come equipped with such niceties as air conditioning, power accessories, or a radio.

The fact that BLMC seriously considered replacing its original Mini with the Bertone-styled vehicle says a lot about the Innocenti. The original Mini was showing its age, and sales would have benefitted from an injection of more modern styling. However, at that time, the company was being torn apart by industrial strife and financial turmoil, and the money simply wasn’t available to follow through with their plan. Instead, the whole project was sold to De Tomaso. They scored the sales success that could so easily have been there for the taking for British Leyland. The original Mini managed to soldier on until the year 2000, so you have to wonder whether a more modern alternative might have lived for longer. Then again, life is always full of “ifs and buts.”

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Comments

  1. Paul

    These are great little cars, with a sharp appearance that could have helped British Leyland. It’s interesting to know the back story of how it evolved into an an Innocenti-only model. I’d love to have this one.

    Like 2
  2. Steve Clinton

    Good luck finding parts for this!

    Like 1
    • MikeH

      It has a 1275 A series engine it’s probably 95% Mini underneath, so parts should be no problem.

      Like 3
  3. Martin Horrocks

    Problem is that it is a mini underneath the now old-fashioned modern look. Without the charm of the original. One for the mini completists.

  4. Skorzeny

    This is an attractive little beast! Love it!

    Like 1
  5. JoeNYWF64

    Any OTHER car 1980 or newer with 12!! inch wheels?!
    The rear brake drums must look real cute.
    Mustang turbo TRX tires might be easier to find? lol
    Never seen a master cylinder mounted like this! …
    http://i.ebayimg.com/images/g/BL4AAOSwQktfzVH8/s-l1600.jpg
    I hope it has tilt wheel, else you might think u r driving a bus!

    Like 1
  6. Bones in AK

    Vtec Swap? Maybe with AWD?

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