Our Professional Car Designer Draws A Mini Truck Made By Mini

Adrian Minitruck Top

I arrived at The Autopian with a fresh pack of Copic markers and full of optimism. Remember those happy summer days when I asked you for your ideas of vehicles you wanted to see? Here we are six months later, David has fled to the other side of the world, Torch has declared himself ruler of his own country, and Mercedes thinks Chris Bangle was a good car designer. All this has left me a broken shell of a man but in a return to your normal programming this week I’ve designed another one of your suggestions.

Commenter Fuzzyweis wanted to see a return to a car-based mini truck. We are all agreed, are we not, that the trucks are too damn high? The Maverick and Santa Cruz have kinda sorta gotten back down to a more reasonable size, but only the Ford is really car based as it shares its platform with the Focus. But could we go smaller? A mini mini truck?

And what if that trucklet was built by MINI? Then it would be a MINI mini mini truck! Check out this little treasure I spotted at a local car show a few weeks ago:

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The original Mini pick up appeared in 1960, a year after the four seater first appeared. It had an extra 10 inches or so added to the wheelbase and shared much of its sheet metal below the waist with the van version. The bed was 47 inches long and 33 inches or so wide, and it could carry almost 700 pounds back there, although with only 34bhp from 850cc you weren’t hauling anything fast. But that wasn’t the idea – this was an economical no frills workhorse meant for local trades people.

When you’re designing a new car, you’re always thinking about what other versions can be done that seem logical. When I was interviewed for my first job and I saw the [redacted] for the first time, I said “if you guys don’t build a [redacted] version of that you’re out of goddamn minds.” Cue lots of awkward glances and knowing smiles all around the table.

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So for our Mini truck the first sketch shows a current Clubman that’s had a Sawzall taken to the rear passenger compartment. This might seem a bit minimum effort, but the more you can share between body styles the better, because it saves money and helps your business case to stack up.

I wasn’t really feeling this at all. The problem with the current range of MINI’s is they share their platform with the FWD BMW 1 and 2 series (that you guys don’t get) but also the BMW X1 and X2, all cars from the next class up. This leaves the poor MINIs looking a like an over inflated balloon, because their visual identity wasn’t designed around that size of vehicle.

For the second round of sketches, I looked at something MINI teased us with by putting the tip in, only to pull out at the last moment. The Rocketman Concept of 2011 was a promise of a return to a genuinely 10ft long MINI. It went nowhere, but showed they still knew how to make a small car. Maybe if we added say 12” into the wheel base and upped the chunk factor of the cladding, it might make a good basis for our MINI pick up?

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This one I really liked evidenced by the fact I did a few sketches of it. When you’re sketching and you hit upon something good, it’s really hard to avoid drawing it over and over again. It’s like your brain is saying that’s it! and won’t let your drawing hand do anything else. This is when it’s time for an espresso and half an hour surfing classic car ads on company time before picking up the pen again.

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So the third sketch is my attempt to bring a straighter, modern form to the classic MINI curved surfacing. I wanted something a bit more butch than the usual MINI cheeky appearance. It doesn’t look too bad from this front three quarter, but I utterly failed to make it work in a side view. Sometimes something that sounds good in your head don’t work on paper. This is the whole point of sketching – you can have all the ideas in the world but you need to find out if they actually translate visually. In this case, it really didn’t.

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So for the final design I’ve gone back to the second round of sketches, and simplified it a little by removing some of the cladding on the body side I was using for graphical break up. As I was rendering this up I realized it was looking a little busy and fussy with all that on the bodyside. As small cars are a reduced canvas, you don’t need as much going on.

So now we just have cladding around the wheel arches and along the bottom of the body, partly to hide the slightly raised ride height. Why the raised ride height? If the use case for this is independent trades in city centers, it makes most sense as an EV.

The current MINI Electric is doesn’t sit on a dedicated platform and its EV powertrain is taken from the BMW i3. The batteries are packaged under the floor and along the spine in a T shape. But instead of being RWD like the i3, the MINI bolts the motor and associated hardware under the hood using the existing engine mounts to drive the front wheels. This is how you get non-six figure EVs to the market – by using existing hardware. That’s what we’ll have to do for our pick up. Packaging in car design is everything. It’s like a 3D jigsaw puzzle where you’re given the wrong pieces and told to make them fit.

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Another problem with non-crew cab pick ups is the lack of storage space for things you don’t want to put in the bed, like your Sunday papers or expensive marker pens. We don’t have a frunk and EVs don’t need a traditional opening for cooling so I’ve taken the ‘grille’ shape and extended it forward a bit to create a small lockable compartment at the front.

[Editor’s Note: Hey, that’s clever! – JT]

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I’ve added two small triangular cutouts into the base of the roll bar at each side – these give a subtle Union Jack reference but serve a purpose somewhere to hook bungee cords or tie downs for stuff in the bed. As a great artist I’ve blatantly stolen the Rocketman’s taillamps, but I’ve added a little extra structure to back of them so they can be used as tie downs at the other end of the bed. Maybe on the good timeline the Rocketman actually did make production. In that case I’ve just saved a cool couple of million in tooling costs.

[Editor’s Note: I love the hint at the Union Jack but with utility in the cutouts, and those taillights were the best part of the Rocketman concept, so I’m thrilled to see them here, ready to get stuff tied to them! – JT]

Anybody saying anything mean about the UK this week is likely to find themselves in the Tower of London, having their front door kicked in by the SAS or even worse find themselves on the end of a withering stare from me, so watch out down there in the comments.

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47 Responses

  1. I absolutely love those taillights! Question for you: in your experience, from a regulatory standpoint, do you see any issues with a design that encourages owners to use it in a way that might cover part of the lit area? And, thinking this through a typical automotive design development process, do you see a solution which might address any concerns about obstruction? For example: a reinforced, unlit portion of the loop that hooks or ropes could grab when being used as a tie-down point.

      1. Cool. So this needs to happen immediately. Also, my next thought was about all the ridiculous shit that would happen with these in the aftermarket – because people are awesome and also trash.

        1. Yeah. The trick is to offer the best aftermarket stuff yourself, like Jeep does with the Wrangler. It can be a massive money spinner if you’re willing to put the resources into it.

  2. This reminds me, some day I’d really like to try and own one of those Red Bull Minis, I’ve seen a few up close over the years, and the conversion work seems to be much better quality than it needed to be just for a novelty advertising vehicle

  3. I think it looks great! One issue…I believe Jasonia requires a front license plate. But, you could probably bribe Jason with a few damp UK BL car brochures from the seventies and he’ll give you a pass.

  4. “I saw the [redacted] for the first time, I said “if you guys don’t build a [redacted] version of that you’re out of goddamn minds.””

    It was you wasn’t it? You’re the one responsible for the Murano CrossCabriolet aren’t you?

    1. You might say that, I couldn’t possibly comment….

      (But you’re closer than you might think. To quote Richard Dreyfuss in ‘Stakeout’, I really got ya thinking now, don’t I?).

  5. There’s one really big problem with this – and the original classic Mini based truck – that vertical back window really limits how tall a driver can fit in it. My buddy has a Classic Mini Pup, and at 5’10” I don’t fit. He doesn’t fit either but likes it too much so he adopts what he calls his “praying mantis” driving position.

    The answer could be as simple as the reverse angle window like the old Anglias, or else you just have to lengthen the wheelbase so you can get more leg/headroom.

    1. I’m 6’2″ with size 11 feet so on more than one occasion when I was learning to drive I hit all three pedals at once and stood my Mini on it’s nose with the valves bouncing.

  6. “or even worse find themselves on the end of a withering stare from me”

    If one is *especially* naughty, Adrian might even unleash the dread Strongly Worded Letter.

    1. Miss Buggeringshaw, please take a letter.

      ‘Dear esteemed zeppelopod. I note with not a small amount of concern your behavior in the debate section of the august motoring publication, The Autopian on September 14th this year. I can only assume that at said time you may not have been in a state of total sobriety or perhaps were on day release from whichever institution you currently reside at.

      Please be aware that further instances of this sort will not be tolerated, lest your nether regions be infected by the fleas of a thousand camels, or may you forever be standing on small Lego bricks in bare feet.

      I remain, your humble servant etc. etc”

  7. But how can you make plastic rear lights that something can be tied to without them breaking?

    No modern mini owner is ever going to use it for anything practical, so it probably doesn’t matter.

    1. Plastic components can be made pretty tough, and remember we’re not talking super heavy loads here more about just making sure stuff doesn’t move around or fly out.

      1. Thanks. A nice funky concept car idea anyway 🙂

        So when you pull a rope through one and the plastic melts, is it covered by the warranty? 😉

        Over here (DK) we have some custom New Mini pickups driving around with a big Red Bull barrel in the load bed for advertising purposes. Don’t know if that’s a thing anywhere else?

  8. I very much like this. An actually small errand runner/commuter car would be super useful, and while the Sportwagen handles enough of our pickup truck jobs to entirely eliminate any actual truck on the market from consideration, there is the occasional load that could benefit from the additional height available in an open bed.

  9. It would be pretty nifty if the top did a Targa style removal trick and the bed had jump seats with built in seat belts so this could be a 4 seater in the breeze like a Jeep.

  10. I would not hate on a 2023 Panda with a bed, and Dodge(y) front end design. Maybe call it a rampage. sell it with the French Hybrid and all BEV drivetrain for 23to30K. that would be a solid hand in this new Mullet wagon craze.

  11. Re: tie-down taillights —
    How ’bout a core light element, covered/protected by a “roll bar” arch (looking much as you’ve imaged the lights themselves) that serves as the tie-down. I don’t see the usual polycarbonate auto lighting lens standing up to a trucker’s hitch in 1/2″ nylon three-strand.

    1. Yeah this is the sort of thing that would get worked out as the design moves forward. I would imagine a production version might be the whole thing in grey polypropylene with just a rear facing red lens surface.

  12. I have to say, I don’t totally hate it. (Except the black wheels. Stop with black wheels. Just stop. Everyone.)

    Personally though, I think I would have gone a very different route with the taillights to save more on tooling and parts and give it more of a truck feel. Instead of tucking in at the rear, flaring it out and squaring off like the Clubman and Countryman and using the Cooper S tail lights. Maybe take it a step further and instead of a traditional tailgate, a split barndoor tailgate using the Clubman hinges. I honestly think aside from the tail lights, both of those designs have aged pretty damn well.

    And since this is an FWD setup and BMW at least has the idea of battery modules? Scrap the T-spine and use modules starting under the pedals to about the bed midpoint, and give it a Honda Ridgeline-like locking bed compartment or possibly a Lincoln Blackwood treatment.

      1. They’re Rocketman wheels Photoshopped. It’s quicker and easier, and helps me keep them right sized. Drawing and designing wheels from scratch is actually pretty time consuming so most of the time when doing images like this in studio we use one that already exists.

    1. If you have a split barn door tailgate you lose the ability to lower the tailgate to extend the bed, and with such a short vehicle that’s arguably more important. Also your suggestion would at least double the part count.
      If you use the Cooper S taillights you then can’t use them as tie downs, which is why I stole them from the Rocketman. If you start putting batteries under the floor, you’re pushing the H point up and raising the whole car and part of the thinking here was to keep it as compact as possible using existing components.

      1. Yeah, that’s the big tradeoff. However, I think that one might come down to focus groups (oh yay!) to figure out how buyers would actually use it. There’s a strong argument for both options, so possibly… optional split tailgate?
        But that’s also why I went to the Clubman – it’s a trick single-hinge barndoor, with the hinge at the bottom. So while you’ve got two pieces instead of one, engineering definitely gets to reuse the Clubman drawings and off the shelf hinges. (Remember, BMW doesn’t have any appropriate tailgate hinges on the shelf. So those would be all new parts.)
        It’s definitely a big functionality tradeoff, but it’s definitely very significant cost savings even with the higher component count. Hell, they probably could reuse the Clubman outer skin dies as-is. And in theory they could always offer an additional cost accessory or subscription (since this is BMW after all) for a bed-extender.

        And 110% concur; they can’t function as tiedowns; you’d need to add some sort of accessory or the like, which would obviously tend to ruin the lines. But I also fundamentally agree with your argument that it needs tiedowns. You’re 100% correct. It does.
        I’m kind of on the fence about that. Pop-up tie-downs would be needlessly complex and trouble-prone, the most BMW thing there is, but also cost money to develop, the least BMW thing there is. However, those tail lights would be really, really expensive to make. And being used as tie-downs, extremely likely to end up broken frequently.
        So I’d definitely worry about the warranty costs associated with that, since it’d be kind of hard to say “that’s abuse, where you tied a mattress down with them and the housing cracked.” Plus, with the Rocketman being over 10 years old now, I fear even most Mini aficionados won’t get the callback.
        Maybe some sort of middle ground, using the plastic Cooper S tail lights but in a steel “Rocketman” housing very near the top of the bed? With a black trim line at the top of the bed, would give a nice callback to Mini’s two-tone scheme. Plus having the lights function as tie-downs would probably fall foul of EU lighting regulations. It’s not necessarily that I don’t want them to work (will admit I’m not a huge fan of the shape, but I’m not Joe Average Consumer,) but the engineering challenges there are definitely significant.

        I don’t think the H point would move significantly though; I’m specifically thinking of the BMW i3 modules. The 60Ah pack is made up of 8 distinct modules, which take up the entire floor between the axles. Not great, that. But those are old 48V units. The Mini SE’s battery layout is… uh…
        … look, it’s absolutely frigging terrible. If there was anything else they could have gotten wrong, they’ll introduce it in the next revision. I mean seriously, the coolant attachment points (which are a leak source) are on top of the spine meaning you have to drop the whole pack just to inspect. It’s awful. (That’s based on their own cutaway photos, BTW. That thing is going to be an absolute nightmare to service. Which, yeah, that’s definitely peak BMW.)
        But if we use more modern pouch-style batteries and packaging, and assume the truck has an inch higher ride height than the Mini Cooper? We can do a single thickness stack under the cabin floor, then two or even three-high stacks under the bed. Which not only keeps our COG low, but actually improves the car by adding weight where it’s most needed! And we haven’t altered any of the unibody. We’re bolting packs to flat floor inside existing rails within load limits, and the bulk of the weight sits in the area we already have to modify.
        Think a shape kind of like the Nissan Leaf’s pack, where it’s got a low front and then a tall rear hump. The stacking should enable getting the capacity within goal fully forward of the rear suspension, and would result in a Mini Truckman that handles like a Mini. (And also is a lot easier to service. Because this is BMW we’re talking about. It’s gonna need it.)

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