60 years of the Mini

20 Jun 2019
Richard Lofthouse

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Replica Minis, almost identical to the ones used in the 1969 The Italian Job were displayed at the film screening on June 19th.

The owner of MINI, German car maker BMW, marked the fiftieth anniversary of much-loved comedy caper film The Italian Job by screening it inside the Oxford MINI plant to a large audience of workforce, invited guests and original cast members.

The same occasion marked sixty years of the Mini, meaning both the original classic design of Sir Alec Issigonis launched by the British Motor Corporation in 1959, and BMW’s remake launched in 2001.  

UK Head of Corporate Communications Graham Biggs said that the wide appeal of the classic Mini rested partly on the immense success of the film, which starred Sir Michael Caine but also brought in comedic side parts for household names such as Benny Hill, who plays an eccentric professor tasked with bringing Turin to a standstill so as to aid a gold heist.

At the centre of the caper were three Minis, white, blue and red, driven by stunt drivers in a memorable series of chase sequences across Turin while transporting the stolen gold.

BMW will shortly commence production in Oxford of the first mass-produced electric MINI.

Around the film screening BMW displayed three replica Minis, the originals believed to have been scrapped by BMC when returned, damaged, by the film crew.

More remarkably, BMW have tracked down the three ‘fast cars’ that were brought in by film producer Michael Deeley and memorably destroyed by the Italian mafia on a mountain road in the film.

As well as an Aston Martin DB4 and a Jaguar e-Type, the most remarkable survivor is the orange Lamborghini Miura which begins the film racing down an alp before the driver is unceremoniously slaughtered by the mafia. Biggs explained, ‘this car vanished completely into a garage somewhere, for years…and now its surfaced again just as it is being restored.’

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The E-Type, DB 4 and Miura were re-assembled in Oxford for the very first time since the 1969 film 

Oscar-winning producer Michael Deeley, 86, was the guest of honour, joined by actor Robert Powell; Hazel Collinson, wife of the director Peter Collinson and David Salamone, who was responsible for sourcing the cars for the film and also ended up on camera as Sir Michael Caine’s driver.

A post-film discussion was chaired by author Matthew Field, who was launching his meticulously-assembled, behind-the-scenes book about the film, titled The Self Preservation Society: 50 Years of The Italian Job, with a foreword by Sir Michael Caine.

Listing image courtesy of University of Oxford/Richard Lofthouse. It shows a classic MINI converted into an electric car by a BMW employee, and displayed at Oxford's first EV Summit, held in June 2018.

Other images by University of Oxford/Richard Lofthouse, 2019.

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