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Italian Italian Job: Rare 1974 Innocenti Mini 1000

The Mini wasn’t the first front wheel drive car, wasn’t the first city car…wasn’t the first anything, really. What the Mini did, the original 1959 Morris designed by Sir Alec Issigonis, was to turn the engine sideways and push everything out to the corners. Everything. Body seams, wheels, powertrain, suspension…everything that used to take up passenger space in a conventional car, for the first time in history…didn’t. It was revolutionary. Italy already had its own adorably bubbly little city car in the Fiat Nuova Cinquecento, but the Mini was just different. Morris, like Fiat did with the 500, licensed the design to be built by other companies around the world, and this is one of the Italian-built Innocenti models. You can find it here on eBay.

The seller knows their stuff. They provide an extensive list of everything rebuilt, repaired, or replaced on this Mini, and everything looks good. Innocentis came stock with the upgraded 998cc inline-four engine tuned by John Cooper and producing a staggering 56 horsepower. That’s not a lot by modern standards; my own Mini puts out 181 horsepower. Where this shines is that the Innocenti is indisputably and demonstrably tiny and lightweight, so those 56 horsepower give the car more than enough power to dart in and out of traffic like you’re in The Italian Job or your own version of Paddy Hopkirk. Minis beg to be driven like that.

Inside, the fit and finish look spectacular, and everything looks to be right where it should be, except for a small rip on the driver’s seat cushion. The seller says that the Italian Minis were rumored to have better interiors than their counterparts made in Oxford, and I suppose they wouldn’t truly be Italian if they skimped on the leather and ashtrays. You’ve got an aftermarket radio, which, in a classic Mini, looks especially out of place, because Sir Alec Issigonis never intended for there to be a radio in it at all. But, now you can plug in your Spotify, so that’s valuable convenience that should never be ignored.

They don’t provide any images of the undercarriage, but if the worst that’s seen in the pictures is a crack in the paint and a rip in the leather, I’m sure it’s relatively rust-free. They actually specify that there’s “no deep rust anywhere,” but that just makes me wonder 1) what they consider to be “deep” rust, and 2) where the shallow rust is. They also say it runs well but could benefit from an overhaul. And, I mean, who wouldn’t benefit from an overhaul? It’s not like it was when it rolled off the assembly line in 1974, but if you’re in the market for a fun Italian city car that isn’t a 500, this will scratch that itch.


  1. ClassicCarFan

    You’re write-up starts out a little contradictory? you state that it wasn’t the “first anything, really” – then go on to describe how it was the first mass-produced transverse-engined front-wheel-drive car. That in itself is a hugely important first because it set the pattern which pretty much every other manufacturer eventually adopted for their front-wheel-drive cars.

    Like 9
    • OddBallCars

      I’m not sure it was even that… The Mini came out in 1959. The Trabant P500 came out in 1957 – mass-produced, transverse-mount, front wheel drive engine. The first Saab had one in 1949. And The DKW Front in 1931.

      I don’t mean to knock the mini – it’s a great car, and arguably the most INFLUENTIAL mass-produced, transverse-mount, front wheel drive engined car. But as Ben says, it wasn’t the first anything, really.

      Like 10
  2. CarFanatic

    The SAAB 92 was a transverse-engined front-wheel-drive car. It was launched in 1950…..just saying.

  3. ClassicCarFan

    OddBallCars – OK, fair point.

    Like 1
  4. Bob C.

    “This is the self preservation society.”

    Like 1
  5. gaspumpchas

    Nice littel mini- I’m sure its a grey market import, hard to get in the US because of the safety standards and emissions. And I cant Image how ugly the govt mandated 5 mph bumper would look like. Good luck and check the underbelly!

    Like 1
  6. Willowen

    1974 was the last year for no-smogging-required in California, which I remember especially because an acquaintance somehow managed to register his first-year Alfetta GT as a ’74 model – probably having records showing a November ’74 build date – and got away with installing Webers to replace the SPICA injection! My GT had an 11/74 build date too, but was registered as a ’75, sticking me with around 75 hp and chronic backfiring.

    This is a very nice-looking Innocenti Mini, though the color does it no favors. These really need something that pops out gently, like a relatively quiet red or that semi-BRG green. However, if I were shopping for an Innocenti I’d look for one of the later Fiat-based cars, both for looks and performance. I do love the BMC A-block engines for their sturdy build and ease of working on (AFTER you get the thing out, that is!), but Fiats are lighter and got more “poo”.

  7. Pietro Bertollo

    Innocenti’ Lambrettas, the less popular than Vespa moped, were exported to the UK as a party of dues to Morris for Mini’s royalties.
    Lambrettas became very popular among some music clubs (remember Quadrophenia?)

  8. BobK

    “ee. no. CHEN tee”

  9. t-bone BOB

    Ended: Aug 21, 2021 , 7:00PM
    Winning bid:US $14,600.00
    [ 38 bids ]

    Located in:North Hollywood, California,

    Like 1
  10. t-bone BOB

    Ended: Aug 21, 2021 , 7:00PM
    Winning bid:US $14,600.00
    [ 38 bids ]
    Located in:North Hollywood, California

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