A new Mini range is launched, the Mk III (although only the Cooper S will officially be known as ‘Mk III’). Through new British Leyland policy, Austin and Morris names are dropped, except from certain export markets. The Riley Elf and Wolseley Hornet are dropped altogether. Mini is now a marque in its own right.
The new line up features Mini 850, Mini 1000 and Mini Cooper S models in traditional Mini saloon form; all incorporate updated trim and wind-up window type doors. Three new Minis, featuring completely revised, contemporary front end styling are introduced: the Clubman saloon, a new ‘upmarket’ model with the 998cc engine; the Clubman Estate, replacing the Countryman and Traveller; lastly the 1275 GT, conceived as a successor to the Cooper but usually perceived as an inferior successor to the Cooper S. Vans and Pick Ups continue unaltered, with their Mk I style bodies (sliding door windows etc.), except for the dropping of Austin or Morris from the name.
The 850 and 1000 saloons join the Estate, Van and Pick Up by reverting to rubber cone suspension; Clubman, 1275 GT and Cooper S saloons retain Hydrolastic suspension until 1971 (when the Cooper S finishes production). The display of the two millionth Mini at the London Motor Show heralds the start of the most successful sales decade in the Mini’s production life.
The three millionth Mini is displayed to the public, only three years after the two million milestone is passed.
A new ‘rod change’ mechanism is introduced on the Mini manual gearbox. Phased in over the next few months on the different models, it necessitates a very noticeable change in the floor pan centre tunnel profile from semi-elliptical to rectangular. The last saloons to receive the new floor are the Mini automatics, which change over to save production costs several months later. It will however be another three years before the Mini Van and Pick Up finally abandon their ‘magic wand’ gearchange in favour of rod change and the revised floor pan, which will appear on all subsequent Minis until the end of production.
All Mini engines destined for the UK and mainland Europe receive a programme of tuning and carburation improvements, in the face of the first ‘serious’ (i.e. not very) European emissions regulations. Minis for other markets with stricter regulations – Canada and Sweden to name but two – have received progressively more emission control equipment on their engines since 1969.
The 1275 GT becomes the first production Mini to wear 12 inch wheels and tyres instead of the more traditional 10 inch. Denovo run-flat tyres are introduced as an option on the 1275 GT (necessitating unique wheels, not least because they are metric) and become standard fitment on that model (plus optional on the Clubman) from 1977. Quickly earning a bad handling reputation, Denovos are gone by 1980 leaving many owners searching for Hillman Imp wheels in scrap yards so that they can fit ‘normal’ 12 inch tyres to their cars.
The Clubman and Clubman Estate become the first UK built Minis to receive the 1098cc engine (manual gearbox versions only). In fact, the only other UK built Mini to use the 1098cc unit will be the Special in 1979, built to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Mini production. Overseas built Minis use the 1098cc engine far more frequently, examples being the Seneffe-built Special which ran for many years, plus 1970s built Australian Minis.
The unimpressively named Limited Edition 1000 is announced. It is probably the least known of all the special run Minis, but is notable for being the first in a line of probably sixty or more (50 in the UK market alone) limited edition Minis to be released over the next 25 years.
All Minis, including saloons, the estate and the Mk I style van and pick up, receive a new, rubber mounted front subframe, requiring the re-engineering of the front end substructure of the bodyshell. Several body and trim improvements are introduced at the same time. Unofficially, the post-May 1976 cars become known as ‘Mk IV’.
The four millionth Mini is built. Despite the trials and tribulations of its manufacturer, the little car continues to be surprisingly successful. British Leyland, by now a nationally owned company, is virtually crippled by over capacity, underinvestment in new products and industrial unrest. Over the next ten years, it will be drastically slimmed down, broken up and sold off. During this process, nearly all of the overseas manufacturing plants will be sold or closed, spelling the end of foreign Mini production except for the Moke and the short-lived Venezuelan MiniCord. The car manufacturing divisions Austin Morris and Jaguar Rover Triumph will be merged into Leyland Cars and ultimately, after the hive-off of Jaguar, will become Austin Rover and will be bought by British Aerospace.
The standard Mini 850 is replaced by the Mini City model. City will be the name associated with the entry level Mini for the next 13 years.