From 1967 to 1979, Issigonis had been designing a replacement for the Mini in the form of an experimental model called the 9X. It was longer and more powerful than the Mini, but due to politicking inside British Leyland (which had now been formed by the merger of BMC’s parent company British Motor Holdings and the Leyland Motor Corporation), the car did not reach production. It was an intriguing “might-have-been”; the car was technologically advanced, and many believe it would have been competitive up until the 1980s.
A number of prototypes produced for vehicles based on the Mini but which never saw production are held and sometimes displayed at the British Heritage Motor Centre museum at Gaydon, Warwickshire. These included the Twini, a re-engineered four-wheel-drive Moke with two engines – one at the front and another at the back; the Austin Ant, a second attempt to produce a four-wheel-drive vehicle, this time using a transfer case; and a two-seater convertible MG edition of the Mini, cancelled due to it being perceived as competition for the MG Midget.
In 1992, a project considering possible improvements to the Mini was started. Codenamed Minki (“Mini” plus K-Series engine), it included a redesigned dashboard, a two-piece tailgate instead of a boot, fold down rear seats, Hydragas suspension and a 3-cylinder version of the K-Series engine with a 5-speed gearbox.
However, the project was cancelled by management within Rover, who decided that the cost of engineering the changes, and achieving compliance with modern crash testing standards, was too great for the production volumes that could be expected of an updated Mini.
In 1995 the idea to update the Mini again surfaced but this time with BMW management. As part of the process of deciding how to replace the Mini, a vehicle representing what the current Mini could have become, if it had been developed further over its production history, was commissioned. This resulted in the Minki-II, designed to house the 1.4L MPI K-Series engine with an extensive redesign inside, but without the original Minki’s tailgate. The car had to be widened by 50mm and lengthened by 50mm to accommodate the new engine and gearbox, with Hydragas suspension and dashboard from a Rover 100. The Minki-II was used for Hydragas development work, this suspension being considered at the time for the R59 project, later to become the BMW MINI.