Capturing Mini’s Big Impact On Film

A Mini mad student has photographed one of the original cars back at the plant where it was built 50 years ago – alongside an engineer who worked on the first prototype. For the last project for his University of Derby BA (Hons) Commercial Photography degree course Simon Thompson took his own 1960 model Mini – one of the first sold – back to the Longbridge Plant in Birmingham where it was built.

Issigonis MiniSimon photographed his car at the plant alongside Doug Adams, 91, who worked on the Mini prototype alongside its creator Sir Alec Issigonis, when the two men became friends. Doug still lives on the Longbridge Estate in Birmingham, established by the Austin motor company at the end of the First World War.

The photos by Simon will be on public display at the University’s Markeaton Street site in Derby as part of its annual Degree Shows, which began on Saturday (June 4) and runs until Saturday June 11. Hundreds of students’ work in crafts, fashion, textiles, fine art, film, design, theatre, visual communications, architecture, music technology, creative expressive therapies and art therapy will be on display for the public to come and see for free at the University’s Markeaton Street and Britannia Mill sites in Derby, and elsewhere.

Simon, 25, originally of Henllan in Wales, said: “I’ve always been interested in Minis. My dad used to race them and when I learned to drive I bought a 1960 model. “I learnt about the history of the Mini’s production. Two years ago I was at an event at the Heritage Motor Centre for British cars, in Gaydon, in Warwickshire, when I met Doug and heard all about the car’s early design. “We kept in touch and, when I was putting together my degree project, it seemed only natural to get Doug into the photos of where it all began.” Doug added: “It was interesting to see how the plant had changed. I remember being there with Sir Alec Issigonis, who was quite a character.” Simon was helped with his project by MG Motor UK Ltd. It is now based at the Longbridge site and gave him access to the original Mini factory site, much of which is still standing.

Ian Pogson, MG Motor UK Ltd’s Chief Engineer (After Sales Engineering), said: “MG Motor UK is well aware of its proud past associated with the Mini and Sir Alec Issigonis, and has preserved some original Minis in a small museum which also includes Lord Austin’s office.

“We were able to allow Simon very special access to these areas and for Doug Adams to once again walk into the old Mini Design Studio. Simon was able to photograph his Mini alongside the assembly line of the recently launched MG6, causing quite a stir amongst our assembly team.”

The University of Derby is also proud to be part of Universities UK-led Universities Week, which will run from June 13 to 19, 2011. It will be getting involved with national activities highlighting the surprising links and relationships that universities have with the people and businesses in their local communities, of which this story is just one example.