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Mini Mini History
A piece to the puzzle of Mini identification is to learn about the Mini’s history and then get into more details of the various Marks.
One way to get a start at identifying Minis is to become familiar with the Mini’s history. Minis are well represented in the book world (at least the English built Minis), and the usual sources can provide more than enough reading material. Unfortunately, no one book could be called the definitive Mini book. Look for several. A few good places to start are Golding’s books (he wrote several with the last being Mini, Thirty-Five Years On, 1959 – 1994 – ISBN 1-85532-464-4), Ruppert’s book "Mini" (ISBN 1-886126-047-4), and Rees’ updated book, "Complete Classic Mini, 1959 – 2000" (ISBN 1-899870-60-1). If you want to narrow your reading down just to the Cooper and Cooper S versions of the Minis you have two excellent choices: Clausager’s, "Essential Mini Cooper" (ISBN 1-870979-86-9), and "Parnell’s Original Mini Cooper and Cooper S"(ISBN 1-870979-32-X)
Mini Mania has an abbreviated Mini Time Line on the web site. See under Articles & News/Technical Information/General.
This is a good way to find what happened when, and will give you an overview of the relationship between different model introductions. Combine the Time Line information with the section, “Identifying Minis By Mark,” to get a good Mini history overview.
Common Mini questions are often variations on, “I have an ‘em kay two’ Mini. What does that mean?” So, another take on Mini history is to deal with the various Marks.
A discussion of what a “Mark” is in relation to the world of Minis follows. If you want to jump right into Mini specific Mark listings, skip to, “Identifying Minis by Mark.”
The “Mk” you read about in the literature or see on your Mini is an abbreviation for Mark. Mark, in this case, refers to a particular design or model of a Mini, with, for instance, a Mk III being a later version than a Mk II. Don’t confuse this with Marque. That’s not a snobbish spelling for Mark, but really means a particular make of car. The Mini is a marque name. A Mk II is a mark of the marque called Mini. Confused? Just forget about marque.
The most common form for writing Marks with Minis is to abbreviate Mark as “Mk” (not “MK”) and to follow it with the number in Roman numerals; e.g., Mk II, not Mk2. There is no hard and fast rule so write it as you wish, but staying with the common standard is better. And remember, that there were valid Mk 3 Minis built (both Innocenti and South Africa built Minis used the Mk 3 designation) so staying with the convention avoids confusion.
Speaking of confusion, the factories didn’t use the Mark system very much. Technically, there is no such thing as a Mk I Mini, for example. The factory never called them that when the early cars were being sold.
This method of identifying variations on the Mini theme has grown from early, original factory designations so that it now covers all Mini models even though the Mini was never really built as a Mk IV or Mk V, for instance. The extended use of the Mark system has sprung up from use by enthusiasts, parts suppliers, after market sellers, and even those historians writing about Minis. Technically, it is incorrect, but it is convenient, if not entirely accurate.
The common Mark usage for Minis divides the cars (English built, at least) into seven or eight Marks with major changes identifying the different Marks. The seven Mark convention will be used here.
For the most part, Minis within the same Mark have very similar characteristics. Whether you are buying parts for a Mini you own, or are shopping for a Mini, knowing a car’s Mark can help. For instance, having a standard saloon (sedan) Mk III requires you to be looking for roll up window parts instead of sliding window parts. And if you are looking for a Mini and are only interested in a car with roll up windows you’ll know that you don’t need to be concerned about looking for English built Mk I and II standard saloon Minis. They only had sliding windows.
Note that the Mark system is a helpful way of identifying Minis, but it doesn’t cover all you need to know and there are many differences depending upon where the car was originally built. Even if built in England, there are variations for cars built for export vs. the home market. And, unfortunately, almost all of the books written on Minis are written in England and the wealth of differences in Minis built elsewhere is overlooked completely or dealt with only briefly.