Our last post was on one of the largest cars ever sold in America, or in the world for that matter, the 21 foot plus 1976 Cadillac Seventy Five Limousine. This post is on two cars so small, you can fit both of them in the same parking space as the Caddy limo. Small by American standards, but not tiny by even European standards. The original Austin Mini was 10 feet long from bumper to bumper. Sir Alec Issigonis’ clever engineering and packaging allowed him to fit four adults in a really small car. Part of the Mini’s success, though, was that it was a real car, unlike the many microcars on the market in Europe in the late 1950s. That’s why I was surprised to see that the show organizers at the Eyes On Design show, who are unquestionably knowledgeable about cars, positioned one of the two Minis at the show with the microcars, one of the featured classes.
To be honest, I thought that the original Fiat 500 ‘Topolino’ nearby was also a bit too large for the microcar class. The original Fiat 500 is actually 7 inches longer than the original Mini. So combined, they are 247 inches, 5 inches shorter than ’76 Caddy limo. Even with a 569cc engine, the Fiat Topo was much larger and more powerful car than the Vespa 400s and Isetta there. The Mini and the Topo dwarfed the Subaru 360 that they flanked, and to be honest even Kei cars are bigger than the ’50s vintage microcars like the Messerschmdt. The smallest engine available in the Mini was 848cc, a similar engine was in the MG Midget/Austin Healey Sprite, and you could get that same engine ultimately in 1275cc form in the Cooper and Cooper S versions. Now compared to a Hayabusa, that’s not much. Compared to true microcars it’s like having an LSx under the hood.