World’s Oldest Unrestored 1959 Austin Mini Se7en

The interest in original unmolested vintage cars remains high, as shown by the offering of this 1959 Austin Mini Se7en at the Bonhams auction to be held on April 30th in London. This Mini is in poor condition and is undistinguished but for one fact: It is believed to be the oldest unrestored Mini in existence. It is the 8th Mini to come off the production line at Longbridge in May, 1959, which was three months before the Mini’s official launch.

This is one of several thousand cars that were produced prior to the Mini’s official launch date to provide cars for immediate sale upon launching. Official correspondence from the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust indicates that the Bonhams car was dispatched to a dealer in Colchester on July 31st, and presumably sold on or soon after the official launch date. Two early owners are known, and evidence indicates that the car is complete and original except for the driver’s door and a few small items. Even the interior and the Farina Grey paint are original, and the car retains its original license plates.

This Mini has 30,041 miles showing on the odometer, and this is thought to be the correct mileage covered to date. It has corrosion in many places including the floors, sills, and doors, but a high percentage of the body shell is said to be intact. The car has not been run in many years, so all of the systems will need to be gone through if the new owner intends to make it functional, but if any Mini deserves to have work and attention lavished on it, this one does.

The auction notes describe the car as an “amazing survivor, which represents a unique opportunity to own an astonishingly correct example of one of the 20th Century’s greatest cars in its earliest, purest form”. Those are strong words intended to promote the sale, but there is some truth to those claims. Although Sir Alex Issogonis’ minimalist design for the Mini was in large part a response to the fuel shortage that resulted from the 1956 Suez Crisis, the compact unit engine+drivetrain set crosswise at the front of the chassis established a design paradigm that continues to dominate car design to this day. Back in the Britain of the late 1950s the Mini was simply intended to provide affordable transportation for many of its citizens. And that’s exactly what it did, to the tune of millions produced, including special editions produced through the year 2000.

Any car that remains in production for more than 50 years deserves respect and has likely generated a strong following, and the original Mini certainly has that. The Mini Cooper probably shines brightest in the eyes of the Mini faithful, and so it should, with multiple race and rally wins in its history. But the earliest, most primitive versions also deserve respect and preservation, and we think the 8th Mini ever made will receive that after Bonhams’ sale. The biggest problem for the new owner will likely be deciding whether and how much restoration work is to be done on this special Mini. What would you do? Restore or preserve?

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Comments

  1. J. Pickett

    To restore, let it be, or just make it functional and safe? That’s a dilemma.

  2. Michael

    Definitely restore.

  3. Kraig

    It will always be the 8th Mini. What remains isn’t worth preserving, so a total restore is in order.

  4. Gavin

    Preserve. It’s the #1 oldest unrestored… not the 8th oldest in existence or whatnot. Maybe a small distinction, when there were millions produced, but still. Great article!

  5. gunningbar

    Just stop the corrosion and preserve….

  6. scot

    ~ how do you determine your maximum bid? i’d watch from the bleachers, thankful that it’s someone else’s decision.

  7. Tony

    Great story!

  8. EP.

    I sense a few F A R nicer early examples will surface due to heightened awareness from this auction offering. Is there some sort of problem with at least cleaning the glass on this car?

  9. fred

    I love the plain Jane models.

  10. Paddan

    Wow reminds me of Miss Belvedere – the new 57 Plymouth buried in a vault in Tulsa Ok – what to do with that thing, too?

  11. Hans Von Mehler

    It’s sad she is in this shape, but it good someone is going to restore her!

  12. Doug M Member

    Resisting the urge to restore it, If I owned it, I’d probably end up sleep walking over to my phone in the night and calling Les Schwab Tire and ordering a fix for the front left corner! …oh, and yes, maybe wash the windows, too….

  13. James Wilkas

    As notable as this Mini is, it would be a shame for it to just continue to rot away. I say restore, just keeping as many of the original parts as possible. She deserves to be beautiful again!

  14. karo

    The generator looks to be nearly the size of the engine block!

  15. Catfishphil

    The off-camera flash photography is an appreciable effort. It must have been dark in that “barn.”

  16. His Royal Flatulence

    From what I can see, it’s mostly dirty, not damaged. The rusty areas are fairly extensive but don’t look overwhelming. I think this is a car that would be worth doing a real high-end conservation effort on; cleaning up the surface rust, repairing the frilly sheet metal with as little loss of the original as possible, replacing only the smallest possible sections of upholstery and soft trim, etc. A while back I read an article about a rare all-aluminum E-type racer which had been given this kind of treatment, and the results were spectacular. New paint had been applied only to very specific areas which needed it, for example, and the whole car had been given the kind of conservation effort that one associates with works of art in a museum. That might be overkill for an old Mini, but something along those lines could work wonders.

  17. Santos Flaniken, Malibu

    Leave it as-is …. but, get it running with a set of new tires and some Mini-Lites.
    Remember … “the guy with the Mini gets the girl”.

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